Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Quality in informal learning

As I've written several times here the missing link in terms of online learning is quality. Without credible quality assurance the formal education sector will remain skeptical to net-based learning/informal learning or whatever you want to call it. The current growth in informal peer-learning and self-directed learning show the enormous potential that the net has enable education for all but the fact remains that whatever you may learn this way you still have to prove it to future employers. The criteria for quality assurance in formal education are often based on resources, staff, academic reputation and financing and these are often missing in more informal environments.

In answer to this the Commonwealth of Knowledge has released a free book, Quality Assurance Toolkit for Open and Distance Non-formal Education, that outlines guidelines on how to assess quality in this area. The aims of this welcome publication are to:
  • Examine the differences between informal and self-directed learning, NFE and formal education. 
  • Provide examples of NFE programmes using a variety of face-to-face, distance education and technology-based teaching and learning methods. 
  • Examine the approaches to QA that are required in NFE. 
  • Consider the outputs, outcomes and impacts that can be achieved in NFE programmes. 
  • Propose the adoption of a rigorous but simple-to-use QA framework which is based on outputs, outcomes and impacts.

Non-formal education operates under the radar of government funding, often reliant on enthusiasts and pioneers devoting years of work without financial reward. In many cases the quality is high and the commitment levels of both students and facilitators is impressive but because there is no formal academic body behind the initiative it is viewed with extreme suspicion by authorities and employers. By providing these guidelines the Commonwealth of Learning hopes to change this deadlock and show that the non-formal sector can indeed lead to quality learning, albeit on different terms to the formal system.

You can read the book by clicking on the preview box below.


  1. I am very surprised to see the title: quality in informal learning. How can you control the process?

  2. This publication offers some guidelines but there are many other initiatives in progress to provide some kind of quality assurance in the informal sector, such as the open badges initiative in the USA.