E-learning Debate 2010: Arguments Against

Informal learning has been around as long as humankind. Has the influence of technology added or reduced the value of shared experience and collaboration? It has certainly had a significant impact. We would do better to integrate its effects and influence than try to separate and measure it.

Professor William H. Dutton
Professor William H. Dutton contends that the internet has already changed the way we do things. With more than 90% of users checking facts on the internet over any other source, it has become the first place people go for information. The internet is changing outcomes; it offers new sources of information, holds existing sources accountable, influences who we know and with whom we collaborate. Individual workers are empowered by technology; they can direct themselves and enable their own productivity. Dutton says institutions need to learn how to harness this, not penalise networked individuals.

Jay Cross
Jay Cross asserts that informal learning doesn’t exist as a discrete category, but co-exists with formal learning within a continuum. The only time this formal and informal separation applies is to differentiate school learning. Outside of academia, we learn and use our knowledge in practical applications. We should not confuse style and substance and throw out the technology. Individual applications may disappear, but our activities will remain. Twitter may be bought, but real time feedback will continue. Google may struggle with privacy laws, but search technology will stay. Style is short lived; time will show which technologies have substance.

David Wilson
David Wilson reminds us that the motion does not ask if technology-based informal learning has value. Only L&D ask the question of style versus substance, not the workers. If you use a PC, you use technology to support you in your job and help you to work better. The real difference in performance and capability comes from applying formal learning to the workplace, from experience. Informal learning happens and technology enables this. Why do we need to label it? Just because it isn’t measured does not mean it has no value. Informal learning is not separate; it is and needs to be part of work.

Informal learning is not trivial; it is in every corner of institutions. People in the room are using technology to check facts as we speak. Technology-based informal learning enhances information and reach. It makes experts more accountable and raises the bar. And for parts of the developing world it is the only learning available. Therefore, we urge you to vote against the motion.