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Unter E-Learning (auch eLearning, englisch electronic learning – elektronisch unterstütztes Lernen), auch E-Lernen genannt, werden – nach einer Definition von Michael Kerres – alle Formen von Lernen verstanden, bei denen digitale Medien für die Präsentation und Distribution von Lernmaterialien und/oder zur Unterstützung zwischenmenschlicher Kommunikation zum Einsatz kommen. Für E-Learning finden sich als Synonyme auch Begriffe wie Online-Lernen, Telelernen, Computer Based Training, multimediales Lernen, Open and Distance Learning, computergestütztes Lernen u. a.

Forms of learning and their definitions

Definition of formal, non-formal and informal


• Formal learning takes place in education and training institutions, leading to recognised diplomas and qualifications.

• Non-formal learning takes place alongside the mainstream systems of education and training and does not typically lead to formalised certificates. Non-formal learning may be provided in the workplace and through the activities of civil society organisations and groups (such as in youth organisations, trades unions and political parties). lt can also be provided through organisations or services that have been set up to complement formal systems (such as arts, music and sports classes or private tutoring to prepare for examinations).

• Informal learning is a natural accompaniment to everyday life. Unlike formal and non­-formal learning, informal learning is not necessarily intentional learning, and so may well not be recognised even by individuals themselves as contributing to their knowledge and skills.

Until now, formal learning has dominated policy thinking, shaping the ways in which education and training are provided and colouring people‘s understandings of what counts as learning. The continuum of lifelong learning brings non-formal and informal learning more fully into the picture. Non-formal learning, by definition, stands outside schools, colleges, training centres and universities. lt is not usually seen as ‘real‘ learning, and nor do its outcomes have much currency value on the labour market. Non-formal learning is therefore typically undervalued.

But informal learning is likely to be missed out of the picture altogether, although it is the oldest form of learning and remains the mainstay of early childhood learning. The fact that microcomputer technology has established itself in homes before it has done so in schools underlines the importance of informal learning. Informal contexts provide an enormous learning reservoir and could be an important source of innovation for teaching and learning methods.

(Source: A Memorandum on Lifelong Learning, European Commission, Unit E-3, http://www.irlgov.ie/educ/new/LifeLongLearninghtm.htm


Informal learning

Informal learning

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Informal learning is unorganized and not formally defined learning at home, work, and throughout society. For many learners this includes speech acquisition, cultural norms and manners. Informal learning for young people may happen during out of school time, as well as in youth programs and at community centers.



[edit] Characterizations

Informal learning can be characterized as follows:

[edit] International perspectives

In international discussions, the concept of informal learning, already used by John Dewey at an early stage and later on by Malcolm Knowles, experienced a renaissance, especially in the context of development policy. At first, informal learning was only delimited from formal school learning and non formal learning in courses (Coombs/Achmed 1974). Marsick and Watkins take up this approach and go one step further in their definition. They, too, begin with the organizational form of learning and call those learning processes informal which are non-formal or not formally organized and are not financed by institutions (Watkins/Marsick, p. 12 et sec.). An example for a wider approach is Livingstone’s definition which is oriented towards auto didactic and self-directed learning and places special emphasis on the self-definition of the learning process by the learner (Livingstone 1999, p. 68 et seq.).

At least eighty percent of how people learn their jobs is informal. . Workers learn much more from watching others, trial and error, asking colleagues, calling the help desk, and happenstance than from formal training.

This section is written like a personal reflection or essay and may require cleanup.
Please help improve it by rewriting it in an encyclopedic style. (December 2007)

To fully understand informal learning it’s useful to define the terms “formal” and “informal”. Formal learning happens when knowledge is captured and shared by people other than the original expert or owner of that knowledge. The knowledge can be captured in any format—written, video, audio—as long as it can be accessed anytime and anywhere, independent from the person who originally had it. Examples of such formal knowledge transfer include live virtual-classroom courses with prepared slides, self-paced off-the-shelf instructional CBT courses, books, video- and audiotapes, team rooms in which documents are stored, digital libraries and repositories, a real-time seminar on the Web (or webinar), electronic performance-support tools, programs accessed during a job or task, instructor- led courses that follow an outline, repeatable lecture labs, a recorded Web-based meeting, or even e-mails that can be forwarded. Formal learning often requires prerequisites, pre-and post-assessments, tests, and grades, and it sometimes results in certification. It is often presented by an instructor, and attendance and outcomes are tracked.

Informal learning is what happens when knowledge has not been externalized or captured and exists only inside someone’s head. To get at the knowledge, you must locate and talk to that person. Examples of such informal knowledge transfer include instant messaging, a spontaneous meeting on the Internet, a phone call to someone who has information you need, a live one-time-only sales meeting introducing a new product, a chat-room in real time, a chance meeting by the water cooler, a scheduled Web-based meeting with a real-time agenda, a tech walking you through a repair process, or a meeting with your assigned mentor or manager.

Experience indicates that almost all real learning for performance is informal (The Institute for Research on Learning, 2000, Menlo Park), and the people from whom we learn informally are usually present in real time. We all need that kind of access to an expert who can answer our questions and with whom we can play with the learning, practice, make mistakes, and practice some more. It can take place over the telephone or through the Internet, as well as in person. But if informal access is not built into the formal learning process, the chances of getting past knowing to doing will be difficult at best.

A study of time-to-performance done by Sally Anne Moore at Digital Equipment Corporation in the early 1990s, (Moore, Sally-Ann, “Time-to-Learning”, Digital Equipment Corporation, 1998) and repeated by universities[citation needed], other corporations[citation needed], and even the Department of Health and Human Services[citation needed], graphically shows this disparity between formal and informal learning.

Ttp samoore.gif

To illustrate the difference between formal and informal learning, consider the game of golf. If you want to learn to play golf, you can go to a seminar, read a book about the history and etiquette of golf, watch a videotape of great golfing moments, and then you can say you know something about golf. But have you really learned to play golf? You can then buy and enjoy a great e-golf game, find a golf pro, take lessons, take a simulated swing on a simulated golf course, practice putting, slice and dice balls at the driving range all weekend. After all this, you think you can do it, but have you really learned to play golf?

From your first tee shot on your first hole, it takes hours of adopting and adapting, alone and in a foursome, in all sorts of weather and conditions. You discover what you know and can do, swing all the clubs, ask all sorts of questions, fail and succeed, practice and practice some more, before you have really learned to play golf. Real learning, then, is the state of being able to adopt and adapt what you know and can do—what you have acquired through formal learning—under a varying set of informal circumstances. It accounts for about 75 percent of the learning curve.

This has come to be widely known as the 75/25 Rule of Learning. Learners get only about 25 percent or less of what is used at work through formal learning. The majority of companies that provide training are currently involved only with the formal side of the continuum. Most of today’s investments are on the formal side. The net result is that companies spend the most money on the smallest part – 25% – of the learning equation. The other 75 percent of learning happens as the learner creatively adopts and adapts to ever changing circumstances. The informal piece of the equation is not only larger, it’s crucial to learning how to do anything.

In terms of learning in the workplace, where everything is focused on performance and performance is everything, the informal element of learning needs to be factored into the equation for any real learning to take place. Companies need to add those accidental, informal intersections of learning and performance into the process. They need to understand that the informal side of the equation requires real people in real time: mentors, coaches, masters, guides, power users, subject-matter experts, communities of practice. What needs to happen is that companies – and schools as well – need to foster informal moments of knowledge transfer. One way to accomplish this is to create collaborative learning environments, where the formal and informal learning are seamlessly knit together . Technology can also be used to facilitate the informal as well as the formal transfer of knowledge by including expert locator’s, e-mail connections with instructors, real-time Internet meeting places, virtual-learning support groups, instant messaging, expert networks, mentor and coaching networks, personal e-learning portals, moderated chats, and more. The goal would be to create the 100 percent learning solution, in which the proscribed formal learning events and the serendipitous learning moments are given equal value.

[edit] See also

[edit] Additional reading

  • Coombs, Ph.; Ahmed, H. (1974): Attacking rural Poverty. How nonformal education can help. Baltimore
  • Cross, Jay. (2006) : Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways that Inspire Innovation and Performance. San Francisco: Pfeiffer.
  • Grebow, David. (2002): From the Watercooler of Learning. The Darden School Foundation, Batten Institute. Reprinted here with permission of the Author.
  • LIVINGSTONE, D. W. (2001): Adults’ Informal Learning: Definitions, findings, Gaps and Future Research. Toronto: NALL Working Paper 21/2001. Auch: http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/depts/sese/csew/nall/res/21adultsifnormallearning.htm (30.8.03).
  • LIVINGSTONE, D. W. (2002): Mapping the Iceberg. NALL Working Paper # 54 – 2002.
  • Marsick, V. J./Watkins, K. E. (2001): Informal and Incidental Learning. In: New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education Nr. 89, S. 25-34
  • Overwien, Bernd: Informal Learning and the Role of Social Movements. In: International Review of Education, Vol. 46, 6, November 2000, S. 621-640
  • SCHUGURENSKY, D. (2000): The Forms of Informal Learning: Towards a Concep-tualization of the Field. Draft Working Paper October, NALL Working Paper 19/2000. http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/depts/sese/csew/nall/res/ (August 2003).
  • SOMMERLAD, E. & STERN, E. (1999): Workplace Learning, Culture and Performance. London.
  • Watkins, K./Marsick, V. (1990): Informal and Incidental Learning in the Workplace. London

Formal learning

Formal learning

core definition

Formal learning is planned learning that derives from activities within a structured learning setting.

explanatory context

Formal learning is enrolling on a programme of study, attending lectures, preparing coursework, engaging in seminar/tutorial discussions.

Formal learning should not be confused with ‘formal learning theory’, which, as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy reminds us, is:

is the mathematical embodiment of a normative epistemology. It deals with the question of how an agent should use observations about her environment to arrive at correct and informative conclusions. … Terminology. Cognitive science and related fields typically use the term “learning” for the process of gaining information through observation — hence the name “learning theory”. To most cognitive scientists, the term “learning theory” suggests the empirical study of human and animal learning stemming from the behaviourist paradigm in psychology. The epithet “formal” distinguishes the subject of this entry from behaviourist learning theory. Because many developments in, and applications of, formal learning theory come from computer science, the term “computational learning theory” is also common. Philosophical terms for learning-theoretic epistemology include “logical reliability” (Kelly, 1996; Glymour, 1991) and “means-ends epistemology” (Schulte, 1999).

analytical review

AEC (2004) defines formal learning as:

Learning typically provided by education or training institutions. It is structured in terms of learning objectives, duration, content, method and assessment and leads to certification.

associated issues

related terms


Association europeenne des conservatoires [Academies de musique et musikhochschulen] (AEC), 2004, Glossary of terms used in relation to the Bologna Declaration http://www.aecinfo.org/glossary%20and%20faq%20english.pdf, undated, accessed September 2004.

Glymour, C., 1991, ‘The hierarchies of knowledge and the mathematics of discovery’, Minds and Machines 1, pp. 75–95.

Kelly, K., 1996, The Logic of Reliable Inquiry (Oxford, Oxford University Press).

Schulte, O., 1999, ‘Means-Ends Epistemology’, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 50, 1–31

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2002, Formal Learning Theory, entry by Oliver Schulte, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/learning-formal/index.html#Sup, accessed, November 2004.

Some information about learning in general

Basic Forms of Learning

Learning – a relatively enduring change in behavior as a result of previous experience

The most basic forms of learning occur automatically, subconsciously – without any particular effort on our part.

forms of basic learning or “conditioning” involve learning associations between environmental events or stimuli and our behavioral responses.

Classical Conditioning

We automatically learn what stimuli are usually associated with situations that demand a reflexive bodily response. Those stimuli come to trigger the body’s response.

n Classical conditioning is useful because learning to predict what’s coming allows the body to get ready ahead of time.

Ivan Pavlov

Pavlov’s Lab Setup

Evidence of Learning

n After repeated pairings, Bell Ringing (on its own) produced salivation.

n That response (e.g. salivating when you hear a bell ring) would never occur if learning had not taken place. It is a “conditioned (learned) response” (CR).

Acquisition, Extinction & Recovery

Example: Emotional & Sexaul Responses


Classical conditioning always begins with a stimulus (UCS) that triggers an unavoidable reflexive response of the body (UCR)

Other neutral stimuli that regularly precede or accompany the UCS register in memory.

Then those stimuli become CS for a learned response (CR) similar to original UCR.

Classical conditioning is not just about drooling dogs – it’s the basis for all sorts of learned (conditioned) emotional responses as well. Our body has many natural emotional reflexes.

John B. Watson

And the tale of Little Albert

Learning to Associate:

n Stimuli that occur just before a reflex (“classical conditioning” or “Pavlovian conditioning”)

Classical Conditioning of Bees

Presenting a smell with sucroseàlearned extension of proboscis to smell alone

Classical Conditioning of Worms

Presenting neutral smell along with noxious chemical à learned retraction

Learning to Associate:

Stimuli that occur just before a reflex (“classical conditioning” or “Pavlovian conditioning”)

Behavior with the consequences that follow that behavior

Edward Thorndike-first to call attention to the importance of consequences, but then B.F. Skinner spent years revealing the principles of “operant conditioning”

Operant Conditioning

Skinner Box or Operant Chamber

2 Types of Consequences:

Reinforcement: a consequence that increases the likelihood of the behavior it follows

Punishment: a consequence that decreases the likelihood of the behavior it follows

Positive Reinforcement

Modifying Behavior of Animals

Inadvertent Reinforcement

Learning Terms

Same terms we encountered with classical conditioning can be applied to the operant conditioning situation:

Acquisition (behavior which is reinforced gradually increases because of learning)

Generalization (behavior reinforced in one situation may be shown in other situations)

Extinction – disappearance of the behavior if we fail to reinforce it for too long

Spontaneous Recovery- return of a previously extinguished response

2 Kinds of Reinforcement

In addition to there being different types of consequences (+ rf, – rf, + pun, – pun), there are different contingencies for presenting the consequence – that is, what are the requirements before the consequence is delivered?

One Possibility:

Continuous Reinforcement

Every correct response is followed by the reinforcing consequence

Partial or Intermittent Reinforcement

Every correct response is NOT followed by the reinforcing consequence; reinforcement occurs only some of the time, according to some “schedule” or “contingency”

Different schedules of reinforcement generate different patterns of behavior.

Behaviors reinforced on a schedule of partial reinforcement are more resistant to extinction.

Common Schedules of Rf

Skinner did not focus on consequences alone. He pointed out we also learn what situational stimuli typically indicate when certain consequences are likely.

Stimuli in Operant Situations

Although stimuli do not automatically “trigger” operant responses the way an UCSàUCR, stimuli that are part of the situation in which a behavior has been reinforced are learned. These stimuli allow us to predict when reinforcement may be available.

These are “discriminative stimuli” or the “antecedents” that set the stage for the operant behavior.

Cognitive Learning

Learning based on observation and mental processing of what we’ve observed

Does not require reinforcement

Does not always require direct experience

3 Examples

Edward Tolman – “latent” learning of a cognitive map

Albert Bandura- observational learning, modeling, vicarious conditioning or “social learning”

Wolfgang Kohler – insight learning in chimps

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