Managing Informal Learning in Workplaces: The Practice of China

Managing Informal Learning in Workplaces: The Practice of China

Jingyuan Zhao (University of Québec at Montréal, Canada), Patricia Ordóñez de Pablos (Universidad de Oviedo, Spain) and Robert D. Tennyson (University of Minnesota, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3655-2.ch001
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There has been increasing interest in informal learning in recent years and interest in managing informal learning, especially in workplaces. This study selects sample companies and surveys in informal learning in work environments and presents the current situation and problems of informal learning in workplaces. The study establishes the mode of informal learning in the work environment and develops the conceptual framework of managing informal learning. This is done based on the theories of knowledge management and social constructionism.
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Informal learning is a kind of kind occurring in a random context. It can be seen everywhere in the workplace where learners can obtain work-related resources at any time. In an organization, employees rarely have the time to participate in formal learning; even if it is e-learning, informal learning usually takes a very short time. It is not expensive because it does not need to hire teachers, provide catering and employees do not need to leave their post. Moreover, the information facilities in an organization provide technical support for the implementation of informal learning in fact, communities of practice, e-Coaching, BBS based on the organizational network facility informal learning.

From the perspective of the individual learner, informal learning essentially emphasizes a personalized, random learning philosophy. Learning is no longer a single, fixed form of organizational behavior but the growth process of self-realization and self-pursuit of learners (Yuan & Xu, 2009). This learning concept deviates from the traditional worship of scientific knowledge. Instead, it emphasizes the effectiveness value of knowledge. It has a practical significance for individuals in a particular social context, especially in the actual work situation of problem-solving orientation. Therefore, there has been increasing interest in informal learning in recent years as well as interest in managing informal learning in workplaces. Boud and Middleton (2003) claim that an informal information exchange between peers in the workplace is the main learning mode. Relatively speaking, the role of formal training activities is relatively weak. To pay attention to informal learning, integrate learning resources in an organization, and manage informal learning in the work environment would be of great significance.

In an era of ongoing change, workplace learning has taken on an increasingly popular role as a vehicle through which organizations can achieve not only their short-term goals but also their long-term, strategic visions (Cofer, 2000). In recent years, the research on social networks has opened a new vision for informal learning in workplaces. A growing number of scholars have found that a network in an organization can affect the emergence and development of informal learning because in the interaction among people, a lot of information and resources are exchanged and transferred. Web 2.0 technologies provide the tools for the establishment of interpersonal networks and the expansion of exchanges among people. This study focuses on informal learning in workplaces and develops a framework to manage informal learning in workplaces so that individuals can learn faster and more effectively in their daily work.

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