Informal learning and how we can assist it

With every instruction we provide to our users we help them understand a process or achieve a practical goal. Informal learning is learning by doing and exploring– with technical communication in the role of the mentor.

Text by Saul Carliner


Image: Kiselev Andrey Valerevich/

Technical communicators often say that our content contributes to learning. In some cases, the link is direct, such as when instructors integrate user assistance and other documentation into formal training programs. In other cases, the link is not direct, such as when learners find a way to troubleshoot a complex software problem by reading the documentation, or when a user figures out how to engage a particular type of animation on a slide by following the user assistance. This second type of learning is an example of informal learning: unplanned, unexpected, yet capable of enhancing the knowledge and skills of the user. Let’s take a closer look at what informal learning is, how technical content contributes to it, and the types of challenges that can arise when users rely on technical content for learning purposes.


What is informal learning?

Learning refers to a long-term change ...