Category — Mod10: Informal Learning Environments

Module 10 – Summary of Informal Learning Presentation


Informal Learning technologies are a valuable market segment within the e-learning venture environment.  As apart of the ETEC 522 course, an online discussion took place during the week of Nov10th to November 16th.  The discussion was hosted and moderated by Group 10 members Alexandra (Alex) Marsh, Cheryl Milner, Michael Peterson and Jagpal (Jag) Uppal.


The purpose of this summary is to provide a qualitative assessment of the success of this hosting and moderation experience.  What follows are a description of the experience and an analysis of the entire process from set-up and design to findings and reflections.


Set-up & Approach

Our group decided on using Freewebs as a platform for our presentation.  We decided on Freewebs for a variety of factors, including a simple and friendly user interface.  On our homepage we have clearly stated objectives of what we wanted our classmates to walk away with by the end of the week.  Links are clearly visible on the side of the page, and under the “Getting Started” page we provided information on the definition, history, motivation and value proposition of informal learning.  These resources provided a knowledge base for our classmates as a foundation and further resources and readings were provided under the “Resources” section.  Under the “Territory” section, we provide a visual mindmap of our interpretation of Informal Learning and than we provide a series of examples and case studies of where Informal Learning occurs.  From the case studies, students are invited to share their comments and experiences with a few guiding questions.


Collaboration Tools

Our group used a variety of software applications to facilitate collaboration.  Google Groups was used to upload files and common documents that we could all access.  We also used Google Talk and telephone to facilitate discussions.  Some of the challenges we experienced for trouble logging in and for all members to connect into a teleconference.  On some frustrating occasions, we spent considerable time on technical components and trying to get everyone together in the chat.  We missed one of our group members for the first chat, as there was some confusion in terms of meeting times and time zones.


While we were able to perform online meetings using Google Talk, we often had trouble staying focused and articulating ideas.  While we had many excellent ideas and brainstorms, the function of instant messaging was not as productive as an actual phone call.  We held a group teleconference and found that this was more productive than any of the previous online chats.  Two of our group members met face to face outside the group discussions.


Presentation Platform

Our group spent a considerable amount of time and effort in discussing the pros and cons of various presentation platforms.  While any platform could have been used, the process of discussing and evaluating these platforms was a great informal learning opportunity.


Originally our group created a PB wiki shell and we discussed some of the pros and cons related to PB wiki.  In particular we discussed the idea of surveys, discussion posts, and the difference between a paid licensed version and the free version.  In terms of discussion forums, we considered the option of referring back to the course website for discussions, as we felt that students would participate more on the course website, than if required to sign in and register on a different domain.


Other than PB wiki, the group tried using WordPress, but was not prepared to develop neither the wiki nor the blog collaboratively.  The group then decided to move on to creating web pages appointing one of the members to be responsible for uploading and formatting information on the website.


Ultimately, after analyzing other group’s presentation and discussing layouts, we decided on using Freewebs. Including Zoho wiki which was created at the very start, we developed 5 websites, 3 forum sites and 2 chat sites.


Discussion FORMS

There were many interesting and lively discussions.  Here is a short summary:


WEB 2.0

 1 original post with 14 replies and a total of 82 views.


Informal learning is a process that is highly individual and unique.  As Carolann wrote, “As soon as you structure learning, it is not informal any more….Motivation is the key.”  These sentiments were echoed by most participants, and the issue became differentiating formal versus informal learning.  Is it still possible to have formal aspects within informal learning?  One of the keys in identifying informal versus formal learning is evaluation and instructions.  From his perspective, DavidP articulates, “the difference is between instruction and learning, not necessarily the formal and informal aspects.”  In terms of evaluation, MikeA wrote, “informal learning is highly constructivist and leads to unique experiences and understandings.  You cannot evaluate this type of learning as it is, by its very nature, going to be different in every individual.”




 sub topics of e-portfolios,

2 posts with 22 replies, and 117 views


From no e-portfolios to facebook and flicker pages, this was a very insightful discussion into the development and purpose of an e-portfolio.  Many students are creating e-portfolios due to the MET course requirements; others are still contemplating their portfolios and the various platforms and hosting sites to use.  Motivation continues to be a factor as Marc writes, “I have an e-Portfolio in accordance with a MET course requirement however am finding that having to create one is not as useful and wanting to create one…”  In this case, the e-portfolio is apart of a formal learning process.  Outside of motivation, other issues regarding the creation of e-portfolios are privacy and time.  While it is possible to restrict who can view your portfolio, db asks, “How many people are willing to click on a ‘mailto’ link and then wait to gain access to a portfolio? Some won’t and opportunities for contact and new connections will be lost.”



Resources for professional development,

3 posts with  45 replies, and 215 views.


While formal learning opportunities offer students the ability to learn in a credited environment and add to their personal resumes.  Formal opportunities are excellent for one’s resume, however informal learning is often more useful to our students.  Informal learning involves using the Internet and peers as resources.  Mary mentions “an instructional design community of practice. Those of us who work in the field get together once a month to talk about tools, articles we’ve read, specific problems we need to solve in a course or with an instructor. It’s a great way to share knowledge in a relatively informal setting.”  Thus, your network can be a valuable resource.


While informal learning is extremely valuable it doesn’t fit on a resume and pay grades are not adjusted for informal learning.  Often a motivation for formal learning is professional and career development.  Carolann articulates the views of many in her post, “I am taking part in MET only because the education system will not recognize any kind of informal learning, including years of industry experience, not for jobs and not for pay.  It is an archaic system in which we work.” 


Using informal learning ICT technologies at the workplace

1 post with 13 replies, and 54 views. 


We live in a digital world and are constantly multi-tasking.  Everyone in the discussion agreed that Information Communication Technologies can be used for informal purposes at the workplace, provided it does not interfere with the user’s work obligations.  Many point out that they perform work related activities at home, and this could potentially stop if their employer would restrict them from checking the odd personal email, or interests during work hours.  



Games – your experiences

2 posts with 3 replies, and 54 views


One can get a sense of learning from some games but not from all  computer games. The kinds of games which can be educational are: simulators and text adventures. The educational values one can develop by playing  computer games include: reading skills and mapping skills. 


We found that Freewebs have difficulties handling widgets unlike many other platforms and the Games page, which was made for a WordPress was dysfunctional in some browsers most of the time.


3 topics, 37 posts, and 78 views


Learning about nature by being directly in contact with it is an emotional experience, whereas reading/watching a video about nature is intellectual. Experiences in nature initiate an interest in finding more information, but learning through experience is time consuming and unpractical, and many of us prefer to obtain information indirectly. In light of learning giving perspectives and adding dimensions to one’s understanding, direct observation/experience adds a unique layer of learning. Though there is undeniable merit in informal learning, formal learning is required to cover the wider and deeper aspects of education. Informal learning and formal learning complement each other for deepening knowledge and interests. Reading and researching before coming into contact with nature can make the experience more productive and memorable. We have to note that there are definite dangers and safety issues associated with nature: This is a serious limiting factor of informal learning in this area. It is always difficult to decide to what degree one needs to explore nature without endangering oneself, yet while still maximizing valuable contact. Through social networking with children who live in the country, we can provide city kids with extra informal learning opportunities.




3 topics, 20 posts, and 92 views


Visiting museums provides connections between the past and the present: going over artifacts has much greater emotional and intellectual impact than learning at a distance or by reading about them. Museums play a major role in raising awareness, fostering interest in a particular field, or simply providing intellectual stimulation.  What one learns in museums informally can make subsequent learning – formal or informal- more meaningful and productive.

Museums can increase their popularity by providing competitive and current appeal of the contexts. If museums maintain the delivery/presentation method and keep their content attractive, they can increase the number of visitors and become competitive/profitable. We must also consider the success of museums in terms of their quality. Even the most unprofitable museums may have deeply inspired or affected a significant population. They are part of the informal/formal learning system; they are part of “learning and discovery”, and hence, are part of everybody’s life.




 1 topic, 4 posts, and 33 views


 The discussion for Sports & Entertainment was limited.  While there were many viewers, there was little discussion.  This may have been the result of poor questions that were unclear and unrelated to professional development.    Sports Franchises are using web2.0 applications to allow their fans to network and post questions, videos and support their favourite team.  Perhaps a better question could have been, “do you learn to play a sport formally or informally?”  As a coach, I notice a major difference between players that have played the sport on a formal team versus pick-up play.  Those with formal training have a better understanding of the game in terms of positioning.



1 topic, 2 posts, and 9 views


The media can be a valuable resource in informal learning.  Stations such as PBS, BBC, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic’s offer many interesting documentaries that provide “edutainment”. Early education programs such as Sesame Street and Mr.DressUp are also prime examples of informal learning.



 3 topics,  27 replies, and 136 views


 This lively discussion was user-based and delved into the topics of parenting, pets, and dealing with tragedy.  All three topics provide an opportunity to learn informally and all can be considered “apart of life”. While it might be helpful to have a parenting manual or a formal course for parents, Gillian points out, “There really isn’t any way to learn everything, whether it be about becoming a dentist or teacher or CEO.  Formal only goes so far and then the rest gets “filled in” with informal.”  In terms of informal learning for parents, support groups and networks are important resources.  Having a pet or considering having a pet also provides for valuable informal learning experiences.  Children learn responsibility, provide affection, and often grow as a person from having a pet.  Experiencing the loss of a pet or loved one is a tragedy that reminds us that we are all human.  Often in times of tragedy we learn and grow the most…yet this is entirely an informal learning process.  It is not possible to replicate a ‘real’ tragedy within a formal learning environment and achieve the same level of personal reflection and growth.  Db points out, ” students pass away (for real) because of (avoidable) accidents/incidents or illness. Those closest to the victim may mourn and learn, but in big schools (1500+)… the air of normalcy on account most students not knowing the victim can also be quite disconcerting.”  Informal learning is life learning.


Reflections & Thoughts on Moderating Process

Informal learning is integrated with life long learning.  As facilitators of the discussion, all group members tried to respond to peer comments and provide interesting resources and questions to further the discussions. Upon reflection, it is evident that not all posts were of interest to the class.  This may have been due to a variety of factors: poor questions, a lack of correlation to the learning objectives and possibly redundancy in topics.  Many users including the group members had occasional difficulties in uploading their posts, and this unforeseen frustration may have prevented more posts from being posted.  As our group contemplated many different presentation platforms, some of the resources that were posted on some of the shells, did not appear on our final presentation.  In the future it would be nice to include some videos that help visual and auditory learners understand key concepts in addition to readings. It would also be helpful to include some surveys and polls to encourage participation and gauge the class on issues regarding informal learning. Overall, this was an enjoyable experience and Group 10 thanks all participants for their contributions and efforts! 


November 16, 2008   3 Comments

Mod10: Informal Learning Environments

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November 9, 2008   2 Comments