"Learning happens in all kinds of areas where we're at, whether it's a professional organization, or at the coffee shop, or at the library studying and talking to friends and working collaboratively together, learning is happening." -Baird Whelan, Instructional Designer, UF College of Education
Learn More:

Marcia Conner & Learning Types : different types of informal learning.

Stuart Brown & Vital Play : TED talk that discusses how play is essential to life.

Jay Cross & Informal Learning : author talks about informal learning and its importance in business and everyday life.

Informal and Formal Learning

Purlieu is the online system that the College of Education at the University of Florida created to span the informal education and formal education gap that exists for online classes.

"Learning is an isolated and solitary experience, " Ben Campbell, instructional systems architect for the College of Education said. "Learning on campus is working with other people. You can meet up, go have a beer, talk about lecture and class outside of the bounds of the regular classroom."

What an LMS Lacks

Ben noticed that this type of informal learning was missing in online education.

"What the normal learning management system tries to do is recreate the formal classroom experience in an online environment," Ben said. "It attempts to recreate the sage on the stage."

But what makes online courses even more formal, Ben said, is that there is no informal way to ask questions of the professor. He used the example of asking a professor when an assignment was due. In order to ask this simple question of a professor in an online class, a student would have to phrase their question in an extremely formal way through email.

"There's not the normal before- and after-class interaction where a student could approach a professor with this and they could give a simple answer."

The Informal Addition

What Purlileu offers in addition to the traditional course management system is a suite of social networking tools including blogs, a personal profile, instant messaging, and a way to start small groups.

"The combination of all of these things gives students the chance to interact in an informal fashion," Ben said. "That way, they get to experience that level of informality with each other and with the professor that they could experience in a face-to-face classroom."