Now that you know you can get credit for informal learning, you might be wondering what exactly counts as informal learning. The basic definition is any type of learning that occurs outside a classroom. But since many people don't realize they are learning when they assist their parents or teachers, we thought we would outline some of the more common informal learning types here so you can see how much you've already learned.
One of the most common types of informal learning is mentorship. Though many formal programs make use of mentorships most of us don't realize we're being mentored. Following mom or dad around and learning at their elbow as they fix a car, milk a cow, or balance a chequebook is a type of mentorship, especially if they encourage you to help out. We learn a lot from our elders as we're growing up, and most of it can fall under the umbrella of an informal mentorship. Mentoring also happens on a more organized basis in many organizations; for example, Student Works Window Cleaning selects its summer employees for their desire and perceived ability to become entrepreneurs (not on their window-cleaning skills) and teaches them to manage a business (as well as to wash windows). Read Forbes Magazine's advice on how to start a mentorship.
On the Job Training
Most small businesses cannot afford to hire only pre-trained employees or to pay to send their new employees on official training courses. Instead, they hire newbies and offer them on the job training, teaching as they work. This is a type of informal learning, because although you don't end up with an official certificate, you do end up with the skills needed to be successful in the profession you were hired for.
Perhaps one day you decided you wanted to know more about mutual funds. You looked them up on Wikipedia, browsed a few financial sites, and took some books on investing out of the library. As you learned, you opened a practice account with an online trading company and began experimenting, learning through trial and error. This is a type of informal learning, because even though you didn't follow a prescribed lesson plan, you learned the skill.
Some career skills start out as hobbies. Maybe you wanted to learn to install flooring so your loft would look nicer. You took a few workshops at the home store, maybe joined a community centre class or a carpentry and woodworking club. Though interacting with other enthusiasts and trial and error, you become a skilled (but unofficial) carpenter. This is informal learning too, because you have the skills if not the paper.
Please feel free to browse our other article titled "Formal Training".