#ASTD2012 Session Notes: The Yin and Yang of Formal and Informal Learning

The second afternoon session I attended The Yin and Yang of Formal and Informal Learning by Allison Rossett and Frank Nguygen. They started their session by explaining that formal training was the primary training method used by the enterprise; however, personal preference is informal learning. Rossetti cited Bozarth when reporting that 83% of companies saw value in informal learning, but only 36% employed it.

In the enterprise, courses are not dead and very much alive, but there is an interest in employing informal learning strategies. Individual informal learning makes great sense, but for the enterprise, there are more concerns. One of the challenges is that informal learning lacks certification, thus does not meet the promise of the enterprise. Enterprise or companies have a promise of service they must meet.

Here are some important questions to ask.

  • Is success defined?
  • Who chooses ends and means?
  • Must we prove that we can do what we say we do?
  • Are we in a position to go towards more choice and freedom? Is the culture forgiving?

Rossetti and Nguygen created a study to examine the disparity between what is wanted (informal learning) and what actually happens (formal learning). Their study resulted in a tool of 15 questions and two table of strategies. This tool is called the YinYang Tool, and it can be found at Http://yinyang.frankn.net. This tool helps to determine if a program or company is a good fit for informal learning strategies.

The Coast Guard used the YinYang tool to see if informal learning was good for them and new boat program. They stuck with a formal approach because of dangers of getting it wrong.

When you are talking about informal learning, you are talking about choice. The tool helps you determine the choices you have for delivering training. It will help you identify opportunities how to present training. Use the tool as a conversation starter to discuss training options and possibilities. Remember, you can evaluate a whole program or just sections of a program with the tool.

The goal is not to be informal or formal. The goal is to be better at what we do.