Informal learning recognition – From theory to practice
Knowledge management is a key factor to improve organizations. It implies the exchange of information between the individuals that participate in the organizations and the people in charge of them. An important knowledge to exchange is the information about individuals’ skills and capabilities and how they have been acquired. When these capabilities are achieved in formal contexts (organizations, universities, etc.) it is easy to communicate them to the organization. However, individuals can also learn to do something outside of the organizational context and sometimes unconsciously, in which is known as informal learning.
Reflecting about the importance of the recognition and acknowledgement of this informal competences and skills, the dialogue between the stakeholders involved in the organizations, managers and decision-makers on one hand and employees on the other side, and finally the last analysis of this discovered hidden knowledge to make decisions and evolve the knowledge management processes inside the organization.
This task should be easy taking into account that the technological and organizational innovations, and the affordances of the Internet, are facilitating increased access to knowledge and training for individuals that range from formal courses to informal ad hoc learning. However, the greater part of the informal learning that takes place, both within and outside institutional and organizational contexts, remains unacknowledged.
Technological basis for the informal learning competences recognition and tagging and the methodological workflows to create a dialogue layer between organization and employees has been studied inside TRAILER project. It aims to articulate the activity flow involved in the integration of informal learning as part of an individual’s development. The project involves partners from six different countries in which has been studied how informal learning was considered by organizations and individuals. After this first exploration a methodology was defined and a technological platform to support it. From this experience and several pilots it is possible conclude that informal learning recognition and acknowledge it is not, in practice, an easy task, mainly because there are several barriers:
•Organizational. Informal learning is not always appreciated by the organizations; they do not understand what it is and how this knowledge can be exploited.
•Technical. It is very complex to facilitate a simple, transparent and friendly system to make possible the recognition, management and publication of informal learning.
•Personal. The individuals understand different things about what they learn, the capabilities they achieve, what to communicate to the institution and what do not, etc.