Informal Online Education: Is It Effective?

mother and daughter in the playgroundGetting an online education is becoming the norm today. After all, we are living in the digital age. It is so easy to access information online that formal learning has taken a foothold in this platform.

While formal learning is the most recognized and possibly most credited method, there is one that is highly undermined – informal learning. This is the type of learning that you do outside of the classroom. We all know that we learn something that is beyond the classroom or traditional way of learning, but we hardly recognize that.

An article published on revealed some interesting truths about informal learning. We can get a lot of insight especially in determining how it can be translated into online education.

The article written by author Jay Cross said that informal learning should be credited for 80% of the education of everyone. Basically, it is saying that people do not recognize the importance of informal learning and that leads organizations to fail in investing in it. The paper that Mr. Cross wrote intends to shed light on the importance of this method of learning so organizations can benefit from it.

The great thing about informal learning, according to Mr. Cross, is that it is personal. Nobody is telling the learners what they have to absorb. They get to choose what they will learn.

Since informal learning is something that happens outside the classroom, your teachers would be the people you encounter every day. It can be your family, colleagues and even your neighbors. These are the people who teach you values, manners, and various behaviors and practices that will improve your life.

The paper written by Mr. Cross emphasized that learning is social.

“At work, we learn more in the break room than in the classroom. We discover how to do our jobs through informal learning – observing others, asking the person in the next cubicle, calling the help desk, trial-and-error, and simply working with people in the know.”

Basically, informal learning becomes more effective as you become social. The more people you connect with, the more you can learn.

This is where informal learning can become more effective when you do it online. Social media is a very powerful tool. You may not see people physically, but you get access to their thoughts, opinions and their perceptions in life. Online education may not be the same as the informal learning in the real life, but it is effective in its own way. In fact, Mr. Cross said that “linking me to a chat session is the equivalent of showing me the way to the library.”

Apparently, where there is a social connection, there is a platform for learning to happen. This is where your online education can benefit from any form of social media. It may be social networks, chat room, community boards – any platform that will help connect the user to the rest of the world.

The best part about learning online is that you get to connect to more people than you would ever dream of in your community. You do not have to confine informal learning to the people you live with every day. You can go online and connect to someone from across the globe. It significantly increases the chances of learning because your reach widens exponentially.

Online education may be both formal and informal but it is safe to say that the learning is still better when done informally. To say that it is an effective way of learning is probably an understatement.

Image courtesy of radnatt for

Leave a Reply