Q. If you were going to help an instructional designer create a terrific informal learning experience today, what would you advise that designer to differently than for a formal learning experience?
My first piece of advice for anyone designing formal or informal experiences is to simply be aware of the potential for informal learning. Not all learning occurs during the structured portions of the experience. But more specifically for designers of informal environments, I would encourage a high focus on learner autonomy and meeting intrinsic motivation. Recognizing and reinforcing individual interests by providing opportunities to share and connect with others would also be key. Some of the recent changes within the Virtual Choir were largely regarded as positive by most participants. They enjoyed having guide tracks to assist them with learning the voice part. However, some participants lamented the fact that more guidance was given about wearing a dark shirt with a plain background in the final video. One participant spoke of really enjoying seeing the backgrounds of the individual videos on the first projects almost as if it let you into their homes. On this recent one, he felt that he had lost that connection with others and it became a bit sterile, therefore not as exciting.
It is a difficult balancing act of having enough structure and support to encourage learning, yet still allows each individual to feel as though they are contributing something significant. Even simple instructional design techniques such as rapid prototyping can be employed as they encourage iteration and flexibility, which would be appropriate in an informal learning environment. Other instructional design models such as van Merrienboer’s 4C-ID model for complex learning would also be useful as it draws attention to four components of Instructional Design:
- Learning tasks
- Supportive Information
- JIT Information
- Part-task Practice
While the approach and the structure would be different, these Instructional Design techniques and models can be used to inform informal learning environments.