Academic journal article International Journal of Training Research

Learning for Work and Professional Development: The Significance of Informal Learning Networks of Digital Media Industry Professionals

Academic journal article International Journal of Training Research

Learning for Work and Professional Development: The Significance of Informal Learning Networks of Digital Media Industry Professionals

Article excerpt

Introduction

The area of informal learning is not a new topic; it has been researched and discussed over a number of years. What has not been investigated is the link between professionals working in a micro-business setting in Australia's digital media industry and how informal learning through accessing their social and business relationships can contribute to their skill and professional development.

The reasons for considering informal learning in the micro-business setting are that professionals working in this environment need to adopt an informal learning approach by utilising their social and business relationships for their skill and professional development, coupled with the fact that micro-businesses do not have human resources or learning and development sections that could typically assist in the planning and management of a learning pathway

Businesses within the digital media industry face growing challenges in coping with competing demands and a rapidly changing technological environment (AIMIA, 2005). With these demands and changes comes the need for those within the digital media industry to be adequately skilled to meet the challenges both now and in the future. As a result, individual jobs have become more complex (CIE, 2005). Workers in Australia's digital media industry typically have two choices for learning: formal learning and gaining a qualification, or informal learning which typically occurs in a semi-structured manner and in a variety of settings. The key, then, for these businesses and for the industry in general is the need for an adequately skilled workforce which can turn ideas into real applications and products, and as such, skills and professional development are crucial for micro-businesses. These issues go to the heart of why this study was undertaken as these professionals must maintain their professional currency given the challenges and pressures faced by micro-businesses and the industry in general.

Learning for work

Informal learning

Informal learning is an approach which professionals working in micro-businesses in the digital media industry need to exploit by accessing their social and business relationships to promote their skill and professional development, because they do not necessarily have access to managed formal learning pathways through either a human resources or learning and development section.

Not all adult learning takes place in the formal classroom setting; considerable learning takes place outside the confines of the formal education arena (Brookfield, 1986). It can include selfdirected learning, networking, social interaction, and conversations and teamwork (Marsick & Watkins, 1990). Eraut (2004) identifies three levels on which informal learning is based: deliberative learning (projected learning), reactive learning (spontaneous, in which the level of intentionality varies according to situation and context), and implicit learning (in which there is no intention and awareness to learn). Therefore, informal learning can occur in a variety of places, such as the workplace, through daily interactions and shared relationships.

Writers such as Billett (2001, 2002, 2007), Dale & Bell (1999), Eraut (2000) and Marsick and Watkins (1990) have considered the relationship between the learner and the environment and acknowledged that much of the learning occurring in the workplace takes place through interaction with others.

Informal learning has been defined by many authors in a number of ways, however, it is most frequently used to describe learning via experience, guidance, coaching, modelling or mentoring as opposed to involvement in a specific facilitated program of learning or development. Bell (1977, p. 280) defines informal learning as 'planned learning which occurs in a setting or situation without a formal workshop, lesson plan, instructor, or examiner'. According to Marsick and Watkins (1990), informal learning may include self-directed learning, networking, and trial and error which can occur at any time. …

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