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Informal Learning Offers Interactivity and Flexibility for Continuing Education

By Jean Feroldi, Assoc. AIA
Specialist, Continuing Education Review

The way people work and interact in an office setting is an ever-evolving process with the emergence of new technologies and managing styles. Recognizing and embracing change in the workplace is essential to harnessing the motivations and talents of employees to increase performance. In the same way, as an AIA CES Provider, evaluating and adapting continuing education methods to current practices is important to the success of your programs as well as AIA member satisfaction. Determining the learning needs of both the adult learner and architectural professional can be a balancing act and innovative approaches to education must be implemented to ensure courses are useful and enriching.

In the first article of this series, the benefits of formal learning were discussed in relation to continuing education for architects. The most traditional method of education, formal learning, is a top-down approach which maps out learning objectives and course material ahead of class time. Designing courses which are structured can be a very successful way to gauge adult learner progress, yet, learning sometimes occurs more spontaneously.

As children, we are first taught to interact with others and our surroundings by investigation and experimentation. This informal method of learning is engaged even after we progress to traditional education methods and allows learning to be an organic and flexible process. Jay Cross, author of Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways that Inspire Innovation and Performance defines informal learning as “the way people have learned for eons: through observation, trial and error, listening to grandma’s stories.”

Informal learning recognizes that training can happen at any moment in a casual manner, as it usually arises in the workplace individually and between coworkers. Cross explains, “All learning is also shared. It’s co-creation. Knowledge is born in the interplay of what’s in our heads and belief systems with everything else that’s out there.” In an office setting, training can be more effective when two or more colleagues interact and assist one another in furthering their professional development. Employees are inspired by and supportive of the prospect of achievement for themselves and others.

When considering how to incorporate informal learning into conventional continuing education practices, it is helpful to think of how you can use various informal training techniques in conjunction with standard face-to-face or lecture-style instruction. Cross suggests that “moving away from a complete dependence on classroom instruction and integrating standard informal learning tools, such as blogging and podcasting, help situate learning and make it more contextual.” Continuing education is more useful and compelling when it is interactive and “engaging with greater use of informal learning tools such as simulations and games, virtual labs, Flash applications, and rich interactive graphics.” As an AIA CES Provider, informal learning is a way to connect with architectural professional on a level which is most natural, as visuals and hands-on applications are part of their everyday work projects.

Learning formats are evolving to meet the increased demands of adult learners and innovative approaches to learning must be implemented to easily allow adult learners to keep up with emerging trends. When thinking about how to structure a course for adult learners, it is important to remember that informal instructional techniques can play a crucial role in how an adult learner decides to pursue training. Please note, that while informal learning can be a useful tool to follow-up or continue the conversation about a specific course topic, informal learning methods do not carry continuing education credits for AIA CES.

More information on Informal Learning and Jay Cross, author of Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways that Inspire Innovation and Performance


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