Informal and Inexpensive: Learning's New Territory

By Mark Vickers

Pssst. Over here. We hear you're looking for a good deal these days. The word is that you want to rev up your organizational performance without spending a lot of extra cash. Turns out, we might have just the thing for you: informal learning, aka social learning.

Sure, you might already know a thing or two about social learning, but the research on this subject is just heating up, and most companies haven't leveraged it nearly as well as they might, according to Tapping the Potential of Informal Learning, a major study commissioned by the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) and conducted by i4cp.

This kind of learning tends to take place without a conventional instructor, with employees in charge of everything from the timing of the learning to how deep they want to go into a given subject. Examples include online social networking, accessing "fingertip" knowledge through the Internet, and peer-to-peer coaching.

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