Formal vs. Informal Learning: What’s the Difference?
When you think about learning, what comes to mind? Do you picture someone sitting in a classroom, listening to a teacher lecture? Or maybe you think of someone reading a book or exploring the internet on their own? In reality, there are many different types of learning.
And while formal learning is undoubtedly essential, informal learning can be just as valuable – if not more so.
In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at each type of learning and what they involve.
By understanding the differences between formal and informal learning, you can make more informed decisions about your education and career paths.
What is Formal Learning?
Formal learning refers to the type of education that takes place in a structured setting, such as a school, college, or university. Formal learning is typically led by instructors who use predetermined curriculum and assessment methods to evaluate students’ progress.
Formal learning can also occur online, though the structure is often less defined than in a traditional classroom setting. In some cases, online courses may be self-paced, while others may have set deadlines for assignments and exams.
In most cases, formal education is graded, and students must pass certain milestones – such as exams or assignments – in order to earn a high school diploma, degree, or certification.
What is Informal Learning?
Informal learning, on the other hand, takes place outside of a formal educational setting. It is often unstructured and self-directed and doesn’t usually lead to certification or degree. Instead, informal learning is designed to help people acquire new knowledge or skills for personal or professional development.
Informal learning can take many different forms. For example, you might learn informally by reading blogs or articles, watching video tutorials, listening to podcasts, attending workshops or conferences, participating in online forums or discussion groups, or experimenting on your own.
Informal learning is often more flexible than formal learning, as it’s not constrained by things such as curriculum, assessment methods, or deadlines. This means that learners can set their own goals and tailor their education to their specific needs and interests.
What Are the Key Differences Between Formal and Informal Learning?
There are many differences between formal and informal education, but we’ve narrowed it down to 12 of the most important ones:
Formal education often focuses on academic knowledge and theoretical concepts. This can make it seem dry and irrelevant to some people. Additionally, the education system determines the resources and books students will use, limiting the scope of what is learned.
Informal education can be much more interesting and engaging, as it often focuses on real-world examples and practical applications of knowledge. This can make it more relevant and useful for some people. Additionally, informal education is not limited by a curriculum, so learners have the freedom to explore a wide range of topics.
Formal education has always been seen as the route to gainful employment. It is a necessity in order to progress onto the next level in many careers.
Informal education has no such aims. It can be used for personal development, social interaction, and fun. The beauty of it is that there are no rules restricting what you can learn. You can pick up any skills or knowledge you want without worrying about whether it will help you get a job.
Formal education tends to follow a more traditional approach, with teachers standing at the front of the classroom and lecturing students who take notes and complete assignments. There is usually very little room for discussion or debate in this setting.
Informal education, on the other hand, relies heavily on group discussion and debate to get points across. This is because the aim is not simply to impart knowledge but also to encourage people to think about and critically assess the information they are receiving.
Formal education is very structured, with lessons planned out in advance and students working their way through a set curriculum. There is usually little room for deviation from this plan.
Informal education has no such structure. It is flexible and can be adapted to suit the needs of those participating. This means that it can be much more responsive to current affairs and societal changes than formal education.
Formal education takes place in specific locations such as schools, colleges, and universities. These places are dedicated to teaching and learning.
Informal education can take place anywhere – at home, at work, community, or even on the internet. This flexibility makes it much more accessible to people than formal education.
Formal education is typically delivered by qualified teachers who have undergone extensive training in their subject area. They are experts in their field and are responsible for imparting knowledge to their students.
Informal education is often delivered by people who are not formally trained educators. This includes parents, community leaders, friends, and peers. While they may not be experts in the field, they often have personal experiences that they can share with those they are educating.
Formal education tends to move at a set pace, with students working their way through the curriculum simultaneously. This can be frustrating for some students who find the pace too slow or too fast.
Informal education is flexible and can be adapted to suit the individual needs of those taking part in it. This means that people can learn at their own pace, which can be much more comfortable and enjoyable for some learners.
Formal education is not always accessible to everyone. It can be expensive and often requires people to travel to specific locations in order to take part in it. This can make it difficult for some people to access formal education.
Informal education is much more accessible, as it can take place anywhere and does not require expensive materials or equipment. This makes it easier for people from all backgrounds to participate in informal education.
Formal education is typically assessed through exams and other forms of testing. This can be stressful for some students and can lead to a feeling of pressure and anxiety.
Informal education is usually not formally assessed. This means there is no pressure to perform well and no consequences for not understanding the material. This can make learning more enjoyable and relaxed for some people.
Formal education often has strict deadlines that must be met in order to progress to the next stage of education. This can be stressful for some students and can lead to a feeling of pressure and anxiety.
Informal education does not usually have strict deadlines. This means there is no pressure to perform well and no consequences for not understanding the material. This can make learning more enjoyable and relaxed for some people.
11. Barriers to entry
Formal education often has barriers to entry, such as entrance exams and interviews. This can make it difficult for some people to access formal education.
Informal education does not usually have barriers to entry. This means that anyone can participate in informal education, regardless of background or qualifications. This makes it much more accessible to people from all walks of life.
Last but not least, formal education is typically graded. This means that students are given a grade based on their performance. This can be stressful for some students and can lead to a feeling of pressure and anxiety.
Informal education is usually not graded. This means that there is no pressure to perform well and no consequences for not understanding the material. This can make learning more enjoyable and relaxed for some people.
Now that we’ve looked at the key differences between formal and informal learning; let’s take a closer look at the benefits of each type of learning.
The Benefits of Formal Learning
Formal learning has a number of benefits, such as:
- Formal learning can provide structure and discipline.
- Formal learning can help you to develop new knowledge and skills.
- Formal learning can give you a qualification that employers recognize.
- Formal learning can help you to develop useful study habits and skills.
- Formal learning can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
The Benefits of Informal Learning
Informal learning has a number of benefits, such as:
- Informal learning is flexible and can be adapted to suit your individual needs.
- Informal learning is often more relaxed and enjoyable than formal learning.
- Informal learning does not usually have strict deadlines or assessments.
- Informal learning is more accessible than formal learning, as it does not require expensive materials or equipment.
- Informal learning can help you to develop useful life skills and knowledge.
Formal and informal learning environments differ in many ways, but both are important for the development of a person’s education. It is important to understand the benefits of formal learning so that you can make the most of your educational opportunities. Likewise, it is valuable to be aware of the benefits of informal learning so that you can continue learning throughout your life.
If you are looking for an alternative to traditional schooling options or want to supplement your current education with some formal learning, High School of America can help.
We offer accredited online high school diploma programs that allow you to learn at your own pace and get the education you need without having to leave home.
Contact us today to learn more!