E-learning

by Geoff Allan

Sources of informal e-learning

A significant proportion of informal learning these days is done using electronic devices, and a lot of this involves the internet, which is becoming a first port of call for people who need some information.

Informal e-learning could simply be defined as accessing information via a computer, or indeed any electronic device, in an ad hoc fashion, as and when the need arises. If you remember the information, or even remember where to find it for next time, then you can say you have learnt it and therefore that was informal e-learning.

Informal sources

Most of your people will regularly and increasingly be using all these sources, so it is worth considering how to help them to get the best out of such sources and avoid the pitfalls. Organisation blogs or podcasts, for example, may attract more attention and be more useful for learning than the organisation’s published literature.

The internet

Surfing the internet can bring a wide range of information, some of it reliable and some not. A Google search will always find something about a subject and it is then a matter of deciding how valid the information is.

There are specialist sites that provide a much better quality of information in specific areas. Very often this is a paid-for service as there is a cost overhead in keeping the material relevant and accurate, and presenting it in a useful way. Alchemy for Managers is one such site.

Wikipedia

This is a web-based encyclopaedia produced by anyone who wants to add information. It has a very wide range of topics. It is fairly reliable and although people can bias articles with their own unsubstantiated views, it is often a good starting place.

Blogs or weBlogs

These can be set up on the web itself or on an intranet. Your blog could be used as a focus for discussion on any topic you think relevant. A brief log item (about 250 words or so) is enough to start it, after which people could be encouraged to add their comments. Add a new topic at regular intervals and encourage others to blog as well.

Podcasts

These are short recordings that can be downloaded and played on a computer, an iPod or equivalent. Usually audio, they are easily produced and could include any topic that is appropriate.

Wikis

These are simple websites that can be easily edited and extended, and can be used in a similar fashion to blogs.

Information on how to set up blogs, wikis or podcasts is widely available on the internet, so is not included here.