Use of Technology-Enabled Informal Learning in a Learning Organization

Use of Technology-Enabled Informal Learning in a Learning Organization

Lori Miller-Rososhansky (Children's Services Council of Palm Beach County, USA) and Valerie C. Bryan (Florida Atlantic University, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2838-8.ch002


This chapter explores how an organization created to inform members became an online learning organization. Using technology, the organization continued to support the professionals as they evolved in their individual careers and within the organization. Best practices arose to better inform the members and to expand communities of practice (CoPs). Members meaningfully engaged in the learning organization, in their avocations, and their vocations. This mix-method study, with over a 118 Association for Talent Development (ATD) professionals, addressed how the ATD could continue to support professionals in our evolving technological society. The study allowed the ATD professionals themselves to identify how they could help the organization and its' members to advance the organization by using technology, informal learning and research-based learning to improve the membership organization roles. The study highlighted how important informal learning, professional development, modeling, and identifying best practices, are to an organization's growth and the professionals' growth.
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As information continues to expand, it is essential that all organizations find means to assist their members to remain current and informed in order for the members to remain current and to expand their competencies. This engagement is especially true for member organizations where the members are at great distances from the host organization. In these situations, the travel necessary to share the information needed to advance may not be possible due to costs, distance involved, or varied schedules of the individuals involved. The Association of Talent Development, formerly known as the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), is a professional membership organization that helps its members develop skills and knowledge needed to lead organizations throughout the world in both face-to-face and using technology-enabled formats. As of 2013, ATD has over 41,000 members from over 126 countries. The ATD also has local chapters to enhance involvement and increase the level of presence.

The purpose of ATD is to “create a world that works better” (Association for Talent Development, 2017, p. 1) and its mission is to “empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace” (Association for Talent Development, 2017, p. 1). To do this the Association provides research, books, webcasts, events and educational programs. For those that can attend the association it also offers international events where its membership can view the “latest trends and best practices for designing, delivering, implementing and measuring learning programs” (Association for Talent Development, 2017a, p. 1).

The members are professionals that may become part of the “Communities of Practice” (Association for Talent Development, 2017b, p.1) under a host of titles: career development, global human resources development, government, healthcare, human capital, learning and development, learning technologies, management, sales enablement, science of learning or senior leaders and executives (Association for Talent Development, 2017b, p.1-4). There is a competency model where members may become credentialed through a competency-based model and become a Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) by demonstrated competencies in 10 areas:

change management, performance improvement, instructional design, training delivery, learning technologies, evaluating learning impact, managing learning programs, integrated talent management, coaching, and knowledge management (Miller, 2015), p. 27)

These communities of practice (CoPs) exist across the USA and many countries who are actively involved in ATD. One such community is in the southern part of the USA and was the location for the study that will follow.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Informal Learning: Learning which is unstructured and self-directed.

Non-Formal Learning: Learning which may or may not be intentional. It is organized but not necessarily structured. No formal credits are earned by attendance.

Technology-based or Online Informal Learning: Unstructured learning offered through some means of technology.

Association for Talent Development (ATD): Professional membership organization dedicated to individuals in the field of workplace learning and development, formerly known as the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD). ATD provides learning opportunities, set standards, identify best practices, and allows members to network with other professionals who share their interests.

Transformative Learning Process: “Learning based on reflection and on the interpretation of the experiences, ideas, and assumptions gained through prior learning … rooted in the meaning-making process that is central to constructivism … a major feature of the online classroom” ( Palloff & Pratt, 1999 , p. 129).

Self-Directed Learning: “In its broadest meaning, ‘self-directed learning’ describes a process by which individuals take the initiative, with our without the assistance of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identify human and material resources for learning, choosing and implement appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes.” ( Knowles, 1975 , p. 18)

Learning Organization: An organization where “people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together” ( Senge, 1990 , p. 3).

Formal Learning: Learning that is intentional, organized, and structured. Most often formal learning occurs within an institution and includes learning objectives, expected outcomes, and credits leading to a degree or certification.

Membership Organization: Any organization that you apply to or sign up to join or subscribe to. As a member, you may have to pay a membership fee.

Community of Practice (CoP): “Groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis” ( Wenger, 1998 , p. 4).

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