April 2012
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TD Magazine

Formal or Informal? or Both?

Monday, April 9, 2012
Formal or Informal Or Both

While it is true that 70 percent to 90 percent of the learning that takes place in the workplace is informal, formal learning is still valued by workplace learning professionals. In fact, most feel that a blended approach of formal and informal learning is critical in designing an effective learning initiative.


Nick van Dam, in his feature article on page 48, explains, "The magic is in the blend. Learning design excellence requires a deliberate and explicit choice of the right modality for the level of learning required."

Van Dam presents a model that is designed to guide intentional choices on the use of different learning modalities to produce effective learning experiences. "The most important factor in the retention of knowledge is the quality of the learning design rather than the delivery method."

The Internet search engines and vast amount of social media tools are changing the role of the learning professional. Access to rich content 24/7 can cause information overload and is making it difficult for learners to find relevant content quickly. As Clive Shepherd writes in his feature article on page 66, "Trainers now must learn to wade through the continuous stream of information to present the most relevant content to learners."

After a formal classroom training session, do you provide a preferred reading list or websites to visit for more information? If so, you are blending informal learning with the formal classroom instruction. Most of the day-to-day learning comes from discussions with colleagues or searches on the Internet because people are constantly looking for knowledge and information that will help them perform effectively and efficiently in their jobs.

What kinds of tools and job aids have you prepared to help workers find success in their jobs?


The 21st century workforce is all about globalization, competition, uncertainty, emerging technologies, different generations in the workforce, and learning on-demand 24/7. Workplace learning professionals must play a key role in building the capabilities of their employees through formal learning, informal learning, or a combination of both. The pace of change in today's world is too fast to wait.

Paula Ketter
Editor, T+D
[email protected]

About the Author

Paula Ketter is ATD's content strategist. Previously, she served as editor of ATD's periodicals.

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