Non-formal learning in LN

Why non-formal learning

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Francis Brouns
18 November 2009

In our definition we state that Learning Networks are particularly suitable for non-formal learning.

  • What is non-formal learning?
  • How is it different from formal learning or even informal learning?
  • Why is it important for LN that we define the type of learning involved?
  • ...

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"Non-formal learning is, thus, "any activity involving the pursuit of understanding, knowledge or skill which occurs outside the curricula of educational institutions, or the courses or workshops offered by educational or social agencies ...[and] undertaken on one's own, either individually or collectively, without either externally imposed criteria or the prsence of an institutionally authorized instructor." (p.3)" Livingstone, 1999, p3 as cited by van Merriënboer et al, 2009


Several aspects are mentioned in our articles:

non-formal learning is

  • intentional, like formal learning, but from learner's point of view
  • does not necessarily rely on fixed curricula, classroom instruction, cohort-based pacing
  • takes the desires of learners as starting point (pull-based rather than push)
  • the scope or context for non-formal learning often are the individual's employability concerns or personal competence development needs
  • not restricted to subscription to a single educational institution or service provider
  • does not typically lead to formal certification
  • consists of learning embedded in planned activities that are not explicitly designated as learning
  • structured in terms of personal learning objectives, learnig tiem or learning support


Sloep, P. (2009). Social interaction in Learning Networks. In R. Koper (Ed.), Learning Network Services for Professional Development (pp. 17-25). Berlin, Germany: Springer Verlag.

Sloep, P. B. (2008, 2009). Fostering Sociability in Learning Networks through Ad-Hoc Transient Communities. Paper presented at the Computer-Mediated Social Networking. First International Conference on Computer Mediated Social Networking, ICCMSN 2008, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Van Merriënboer, J. J. G., Kirschner, P. A., Paas, F., Sloep, P. B., Caniëls, M. C. J. (2009). Towards an integrated approach for research on lifelong learning. Educational Technology Magazine, 49(3), 3-15.

Livingstone, D. W. (1999). Exploring the icebergs of adult learning: Findings of the first
Canadian survey of informal learning practices. The Canadian Journal for the Study of
Adult Education, 13, 49-72.


Francis Brouns
15:09 on 25 November 2009

To me the main characteristics are:

- intentional

- self-organised

Peter formulates it like this

"Second, I still like the distinction between informal, formal and non-formal, although I do realise it doesn't capture everyting. For me, there are two dimensions to look at, the intentional vs non-intentional, and the organised, structured versus the self-organised."

This still does not make a statement about the form of the actual learning object or learning material. Can that be formal?

Francis Brouns
12:15 on 30 November 2009

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