Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Real metrics on Informal Learning

I was talking with Jay Cross at HRD last week, and I was asking him about real research into the investment and efficacy of formal versus informal learning. I am particularly interested in pulling apart the 20% of 20% argument that Jay (and now a lot of followers) are advocating about formal learning. I.e. is 20% of corporate learning really formal? And is the impact of this only 20% effective?

Does anyone have specific research (i.e. not anecdotal) on this?

I am not trying to decry the value of informal learning story, but I would, like Jay, like to see some substance underpinning it that can be interpreted and impact corporate strategies. At the moment it is in danger of becoming the latest fad that gets lots of powerpoint airplay, and then disappears into obscurity with the arrival of the next one. I want to make sure we are still holding the baby, long after the bath water has long since disappeared!


Norman Lamont said...

You probably have this info but I asked Donald Clark the same question and he gave me this:

One of the most famous pieces of research in informal learning was produced by the Education Development Center (EDC) in 1997. This was a comprehensive 2-year study funded by the US Department of Labor and the Pew Charitable Trusts. It included companies such as Boeing, Siemens, Data Instruments, Ford and Motorola. This showed a 4:1 ratio.

For further discussion see Jay Cross's book Informal Learning - Appedix B has a full list of this and other sources.

Conner 2005, Infromal learning: Ageless learner 1997-2005
Raybould 2000, Performance Improvement Quarterly, 8(1), 7-22.
Dobbs 2000 pp52 (above report)
Lloyd 2000, Knowledge Management
Vade 1998 also did a survey of its members confriming the figure.

Organisational spend - 80% on LMSs, ID, tuition reimbursement, instructor salaries, classrooms, courseware.

Barry Sampson said...

Hi David,

I've responded to this here.


Donald Clark said...

The 4:1 ratio used actually means something quite different. When observing operations at the Motorola company they calculated that each hour of formal learning spills over to four-hours of informal learning. Thus Bell used the metaphor of brick and motar to describe the relationship of formal and informal learning. Formal learning acts as bricks fused into the emerging bridge of personal growth. Informal learning acts as the motar, facilitating the acceptance and development of the formal learning. Thus he said that informal learning should NOT replace formal learning activites as it is this syneragy that produces effective growth.

Donald Clark said...
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Donald Clark said...

Sorry for the extra posts -- I was having trouble with my Blogger account.

Donald Clark said...

The reason people quote the statistic that only 10 to 20% of formal learning tranfers to the learner's job is because they do NOT bother to check the references. If you trace the references that they cite, it almost alwyas leads back to an article that Georgenson wrote, "The Problem of Transfer Calls for Partnership" - Training & Development Journal; Oct 82, Vol. 36 Issue 10, p75, 3p.

In the article, Georgenson writes:

"How many times have you heard training directors say: "I need to find a way to assure that what I teach in the classroom is effectively used on the job"?

"I would estimate that only 10 percent of content which is presented in the classroom is reflected in behavioral change on the job. With increse demand from my management to demonstrate the effectiveness of training, I got to find a way to deal with the issue of transfer."

Note that he actually uses quotation marks for the above two statements that he wrote. And the reason why is that he is asking a rhetorical question. Thus this 10 to 20% transfer myth is NOT based on any studies or research, it is based on a rhetorical question asked by an author! There are no studies or research cited in Georgenson's paper. In fact, Georgenson is not even a learning/training researcher, for the bio in the article reads, "David L. Georgenson is manager, product development, Xerox learning Systems, Stamford, Conn."

Anyone reading Georgenson article can clearly see he is simply asking a rhetorical question to lead off his story. Thus the blame resides on researchers who either do not bother to read the article they are citing or are misleading readers like us. No wonder no ones really knows what is happening in our field because we cannot even trust the researchers!

For more information, see:

David Wilson said...

Donald - thanks for the detective work and the article reference. I already had the Georgenson reference but not the SIOP paper so that's helpful.

I agree completely about the lack of validation of references in many of the articles (a point in the SIOP paper), and had similar conclusions about the actually validity of the Georgenson quote, which is just that, a quote not research.

... will keep digging elsewhere ...

Marc said...

Hi guys - since when has lack of credible validation ever bothered the elearning community in the past! ;-)

Donald Clark said...

I just posted some new information, charts, and references about informal/formal learning to: Knowledge Jump.