Informal learning – how to satisfy your thirst for more knowledge

Building skillsLast week, I had an amazingly powerful informal learning week. In short, I have been working on a Web project that uses a database to query data. When planning the project, the group I was working with wanted to present this information on a Google map. Well, I finally got to that part of the project, and I was not as smart on the subject as I should have been. After spending a number of hours on this learning project, and a lot of time on Google and Youtube, I was able to sort out my problems. The greatest majority of learning projects start with a problem to solve.

In 1968, Allen Tough conducted research on learning projects. What was a learning project? Why did people take on learning projects? I like many other people take on a learning project because we need to learn and apply a new skill (Tough, 1968). As Tough explains, a learning project lasts at least seven hours and can be made up of one or more learning episodes typically 10 minutes to 4 hours in length. In one-third of the cases, people wanted to learn so they could help others. The greatest majority of participants indicated they had prior skill with a task, they but they wanted to improve and become more efficient. Tough also noted that learners tend to focus on the practical aspects for learning rather than academic needs. As I reflect on my recent learning project, I would have to concur with his findings.

Earlier this week, I was working on a learning guide for learning objectives. During the class I am taking, we learned about learning objectives; however, the session only skimmed over the material and lasted about 15 minutes. Because I was not totally satisfied with the amount of information I received in class, I started a self-directed learning project. In this project, I explored resources I had on hand such as Mager’s book, Preparing Instructional Objectives: A Critical Tool in the Development of Effective Instruction and the Air Force Manual 36-2236, Guidebook for Air Force Instructors. I also conducted a solid search on Google and Youtube for useful resources relating to learning objectives and Bloom’s Taxonomy. Finally, I revisited resources I had squirreled away in Diigo on learning objectives and Bloom’s Taxonomy. Although, a formal learning class reminded me of the importance of learning objectives, my self-exploration helped my understanding of the topic. The results of my learning resulted in not only a new learning guide but also a lesson on learning objectives.

Also this week, on LinkedIn‘s The eLearning Guild discussion group, Ed Lines asked the question “Have you ever used YouTube to teach yourself something?” While writing this post, I had a moment to reflect on that question. I have to be honest, I often use Youtube to help move my learning forward. I use it for ideas for my martial arts training, when I am stuck on SPSS problems, learning how to use RPGMaker, getting inspired by others who have broken the code, and most recently, I used Youtube to learn more about Google maps, learning objectives, and Bloom’s Taxonomy.

A 1996 report from the US Department of Labor indicates 70% of all learning is informal (Gilmore, 2008). Examining my learning behavior, I would have to concur with this finding. I therefore believe it is important to learn how to learn well. I believe my strategies are pretty solid, I am curious how you go about satisfying your thirst for more knowledge?


Gilmore, A. (2008). Hands off: Facilitating informal learning. Certification Magazine, 10(10), 46 – 49. Retrieved from

Tough, A. M. (1968). Why adults learn: A study of the major reasons for beginning and continuing a learning project. Toronto: Ontario Inst. for Studies in Education. Retrieved from