Informal learning — learning that takes place outside of the formally designed classes and e-learning curriculum that traditionally makes up formal learning methods — no longer needs to exist outside of the influence of learning & development. With today's technology, particularly those with Web 2.0 features, it is possible for learning professionals to create an environment in which people can move their informal learning from the break room to the chat room. And, in so doing, the learning organization can observe, track, and measure informal learning activities as never before. Having received industry recognition for creating such an environment, CA Technologies has a particularly insightful view of informal learning in the 21st century.
Common understanding is that formal learning — that which is "pushed" from the company to employees — makes up a much smaller percentage of learning in the workplace as compared to informal learning. Traditionally, CLOs know that they can influence formal learning and thus feel responsible for that, but many may not consider informal learning within their purvue. However, that is not the mindset that has launched CA into the next generation of learning. The perspective of these and other cutting edge learning leaders is that the learning organization is responsible for ALL learning — formal, informal, and every possible mix in between.
Every act that provides information, direction, solutions, etc., is an act of learning. With his recent, successful venture into social learning, Brad Samargya, Senior VP and CLO at CA Technologies, has a new appreciation for the scope of the CLO's mission. With current technology, he now has the capacity to have a hand in all learning taking place across the organization, and because he has the ability to do so, he has the responsibility to do so. This means that ALL CLOs have the potential within their reach to take on the opportunity — the responsibility — to influence ALL learning. However, the missing piece for most companies is a "sandbox" where people can acquire information when needed and/or find and get answers from those who know the answers without having to through the learning organization.
In the traditional company, informal learning happens on an ad-hoc basis when employees reach out to more experienced peers in moments of need to ask questions and request information necessary to do their jobs. In those companies experimenting with Web 2.0 technology, informal learning is taking place in virtual environments in which employees can talk with one another via discussion forums, collaborate on projects and develop the corporate knowledge base using wikis, share ideas through blogs and microblogs, acquire new skills and concepts by viewing shared video clips, and/or increase personal networks in communities of practice. In fact, this technology based approach to informal learning is even being adopted for corporate knowledge management purposes by some.
Some companies are testing just one or two of these tools at a time, often for specific learning initiatives, while others have taken the dive with both feet, purchasing fully loaded platforms that offer all these features and more across the entire organization. What meets companies' needs and budgets vary, but all are providing an informal learning sandbox for employees. In addition, many companies are able to use the technology to track the level of engagement in informal learning, including surveying users, following page views, recognizing highly rated postings, etc. Of course, measuring the level of informal learning activity in these environments does not necessarily result in data that would indicate the impact of that learning on the company, which is a practice that remains elusive but is being tested in these early adopting companies.
CA was founded in 1976 under the name Computer Associates International, Inc., and for the last 30 years, CA has been known for being on the cutting edge of technology products and services. So when, in the early 2000’s, CA was experiencing difficulty keeping their widely dispersed and extremely large team of engineers up-to-date and certified in the programming and technical skills necessary for them to produce cutting-edge and innovative products successfully, they knew something had to change. Training on the basics, such as C++, Java, J2EE and Assembler, as well as the newest in emerging technologies, now needed to be delivered to a globally dispersed audience on demand and while development projects were already in flight. CA Education handled the challenge with the same innovative energy that they put into their client solutions.
They knew they needed a new approach to increase the speed to competency among their engineers in order to remain competitive in a field that hurtles forward at a breakneck pace. Ultimately, they decided to incorporate virtual “social learning” into a traditional online course design in order to maximize the informal learning support system. In so doing, they ended up designing a new course structure model known as CA Technical Collaborative Learning. Although part of a formal course structure, they included informal learning opportunities through mentors, discussion boards, accessing fellow students, and self-study. During the 2010 Corporate University Xchange Global Leadership Congress, Brad Samargya discussed their approach in an interview with CorpU (see below).
In October of 2009, CA won the CLO Magazine Global Learning Award, Division 1, Silver for their CA Technical Collaborative Learning program.
This article supports the CorpU 12 Dimensions of Learning Excellence - Organize (Technology & Infrastructure) and Execute (Program Design & Delivery).
Want to know more about the 2011 CorpU Global Leadership Congress? Click HERE for more information and to register!
“I’m grateful to be in this network. The calls I had with other members gave me the information I needed to move my project forward.”Annette RollsLeadership Development Program Designer, Boeing
“We were able to realize almost immediate value—in terms of definitively quantifiable savings—by implementing the concepts introduced during this [Art of Negotiation] program.”Ken MurphyEVP of Sales and Operations, Mattress Firm
“In my particular case, I certainly care about the HR functions, but that’s not why I wake up every day. I care about advancing the ball down the field with our people’s professional development skills and knowledge. You guys focus 100% on the learning piece, and that’s what I like.”Jim StewartCLO, Teradata