More people learning to learn more
By Wes Brown
The next time you complain about the amount of time you spend inside the classroom, think about the amount of time the average Canadian spends learning outside the classroom.
This was the basis of a study done by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.
Reuben Roth, senior research coordinator of the National Research Network on New Approaches to Lifelong Learning based at the OISE, said Canadians are spending an average of 15 hours a week on some form of informal learning, compared to three hours time spent learning in a classroom or formal setting.
"Out of those surveyed, 75 per cent were educating themselves either to retain their current position or to move up in their job. Many feared rapid changes in the market and did not wish to fall behind, especially in computer technology representing 65 per cent of informal learning done by those surveyed," Roth said.
He added, part of the reason for the increase in informal learning is a lack of time and money being contributed to post secondary education.
"There was a willingness to participate in post secondary education but 30 per cent said courses were too expensive and over 40 per cent had no time to enrol," Roth explained. "People are working several part-time jobs, in a lengthened work week, just to make ends meet."
Judith Maxwell, president of the Canadian Policy Research Networks, said informal and formal learning are very closely related and are looked upon as complements to one another.
While today's workforce now more than ever is looking for more skills, problem solving experience and autonomous learning, Canadians are aware of these changes, Maxwell said. She added this is one explanation as to why informal and formal learning are increasing.
Maxwell said the informal learning involved in mentoring, sharing of information and experiential learning is fascinating because there is no real way to measure it.
"Informal learning is much more equally distributed, indicating the desire for more learning is there. Those that do not have the economic backing required for formal training can still educate themselves informally. An individual only needs to give their time to volunteer or their time to go to the library and get a book on a topic," Maxwell said.
Brent Scott, an employee at the Western's Student Development Center, said depending on their career and life goals, individuals will have to decide where they want to go with education.
He added fellow employees and friends can be a great source of informal education the institutional way is not for everyone.
"Continued education, however, is the current trend and I think that the skills [the workforce] is looking for can really be found within formal learning. I also think that university gives a great base for life skills," Scott added.