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Informal Learning and Regulatory Training

by Sharon Newton

June 11, 2010

Sharon Wolf Newton, hyperCision Inc. 

Before I started to write today’s blog entry, I googled ‘Regulatory Training and informal learning’ - with little to no success.  I found mention of a presentation Bryan Chapman did last year, on Regulated Training, that I wish I had seen, and I downloaded an interesting book for my next Kindle break: Mashup Corporations: The End of Business as Usual.  While it was an informational way to spend an hour or so, neither of these references was related to my selected subject.

Per the blogs, informal learning is the wave of the future.  There are so many blogs discussing the end of eLearning 1.0 (formal training) and the 70:20:10 rule – 70% of learning is informal/experiential, 20% comes from mentoring/feedback, and only 10% comes from formal learning – that it’s amazing anyone invests in formal learning anymore.  In fact, some variation on the theme ‘the death of the traditional LMS because of the rise of informal learning’ is the topic of choice for many eLearning bloggers.  According to a lot of these bloggers, social networking and social learning are taking over corporations and the LMS is fading fast. 

I will admit, I found a few blogs talking about blending informal and formal learning and the success organizations have with this.  We see this happening with SAP’s Learning Solution.  SAP is exploring web services to integrate the Learning Solution with informal learning tools and ha s supported integration to the Collaboration functions in SAP Netweaver for many years.  The integration to Adobe Connect, with Enterprise Learning, also supports informal learning.  One customer presentation at ASUG/Sapphire discussed integrating the Learning Solution with Confluence to provide an interactive interface to the Learning Solution – cool stuff.

I found no blogs addressing the organization that has regulated training requirements and informal learning. 

Maybe my key words were off. 

Maybe I was distracted by a few too many hyperlinks. 

Maybe it’s really not worth discussing. 

But it should at least be acknowledged.  For some organizations, informal learning is not a feasible solution.

Off the top of my head, I can think of two organizations I’ve worked with for many years who are FDA regulated.  One has a ‘no post-it note’ rule simply because knowledge that is not gained from an approved SOP is knowledge that should not be used.  If the FDA came in and saw process information on a post-it-note, they could be fined. The other has a directive from their legal department that disallows any form of informal collaboration whatsoever.   Informal learning is not a viable option for these organizations, even as a separate solution from their corporate LMS.

As we read about recalls in the consumer products arena, salmonella scares and remember last year’s lead paint scare in children’s toys, how can anyone believe that role-specific, regulated training, training that outlines a company’s policies, procedures, and processes in a formal manner, is going away?  Think about it: How could an energy company justify someone who operates a boiler at a coal plant learning ‘informally’?  How could a drug manufacturer explain to an FDA inspector Jane Doe didn’t follow documented SOPs, but instead relied on the company Wiki, when doing her research? How can a food manufacturer explain that Joe Smith decided to read the discussion board process for washing his hands rather than aligning with formal company training in the face of a salmonella scare? These companies can’t.  And while informal learning is a wonderful thing, it’s not going to wipe out the LMS in most organizations.

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