Evaluating the impact of informal learning

Whether you agree that 70:20:10 has a factual basis or not (Demystifying 70:20:10) it can not be doubted that a substantial amount of learning occurs outside ofclass room and traditional channels of learning. One only has to consider ones own life to realise the truth of the argument, this information is however in organisational term blatantly uninteresting. What is far more interesting particularly from an organisational perspective is whether we can evaluate the impact of this informal learning.

The problem is that the very nature of informal learning seems to defy our standard methods of evaluation. We can ask participants to fill out a post course questionnaire because there wasn’t a course. We can ask them if they applied their learnings as what those learnings were supposed to be are not clear.

Some people have suggested that participation rates in organisational communities of practice, social media and chat provide us with some form of measure. I am troubled by this because I am not certain participation leads by necessity to learning, although it would seem reasonable to assume that as participation rates go up the number of staff who learn from it must increase. To me this is deeply unsatisfying however.

The other end of the scale seems to be testing the competency of staff on a regular basis across some standardised areas and comparing this to staff member participation in informal learning opportunities and look for correlation’s or ask staff members what they think they have learnt over a period of time and test and evaluate their perceived learning.
The problem for me is that all of these ideas seem either erratic, vague or fraught with a host of other issues.

If anyone has any other ideas I would love to hear them.


About pauldrasmussen
Paul Rasmussen is one of Australia’s most widely read Vocational Education and Training Commentators. He provides deep, unbiased analysis and insights not only on topical issues, but also on the underlying structure and policy which supports the industry. His writing and analysis has been praised for its uncompromising and thought provoking style and its ability to focus on the issues of real importance to the sector. He has advised various government departments and ministers, training providers, public and private organisations, not for profits and small to medium enterprises on the VET sector and the issues and opportunities facing it. He is one of Australia’s most awarded learning professionals and a regular speaker at a range of conventions and forums. His extensive experience in vocational education, and learning and development coupled with formal qualifications in philosophy, ethics, business and education management allow Paul to provide a unique view of the road ahead and how to navigate it.

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