The Power of Informal Learning

I’m Faith Kellermeyer, EMDD’s Project Manager. In addition to being the behind-the-scenes girl keeping things running smoothly in the labs, I also put together our informal learning calendar each semester. Informal learning events offer our students the chance to share their skills with one another, spend extra time exploring concepts and ideas outside of the classroom, and connect with professionals in their field.

These events are always fun, usually thought provoking, and every so often they also inspire the work of our project teams. The four students behind the Blue Roots Project shared some of their favorite informal learning memories with me and explained how each of these learning opportunities influenced their design process.

DORIS Research

Our first informal learning event of the academic year was a trip to DORIS Research in Indianapolis. DORIS uses design thinking to solve complex workplace challenges and focuses on empowering employees of all levels to contribute to designing office spaces that work for them. When our students visited DORIS last fall, we toured their lab, listened to founder Sam Julka explain how their team uses research to gather valuable insights and create better plans for work spaces, and took part in a hands-on rapid prototyping activity to design a better EMDD lab space. Following this experience, the Blue Roots Project team adapted DORIS’s brainstorming process to establish their own co-creation protocol.

Community Engagement

Striking a little closer to home (geographically anyway), our students met with Erin Moore, the Communications Coordinator for Ball State’s Office of Community Engagement. Erin shared a presentation about the Muncie community and the different avenues that exist for students interested in becoming engaged members of their neighborhoods. Erin shared her own strategies for community outreach, which the Blue Roots Project drew upon as they developed their own plan for engaging different audiences in the global freshwater resource crisis.

Student Aiste Manfredini explained, “Erin’s informal learning session provided me with insight into the Muncie community and helped me better understand my role as a communication strategist for the Blue Roots Project.”

Know No Stranger

On the very creative, colorful end of the spectrum, we made a trip to see Know No Stranger’s studio as they prepared to perform their first full-length musical at the Toby Theater. We watched their dress rehearsal, snagged some of their transmedia advertising materials, and got up close and personal with under-construction puppets. Although the connection between a puppet-fueled musical extravaganza and the scarcity of water resources might not be an obvious one, this informal learning event helped our students stretch their “think-outside-the-box” muscles. The Know No Stranger crew, who were the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s performing artist in residence in 2015-16, shared tips on how to make creative work with limited resources. This studio visit helped fuel the Blue Roots Project’s research and understanding of how to reach artists to get them to contribute content to their #MyWaterStory campaign.

The students who are in EMDD provide direction for the informal learning events that I schedule. I try to keep their interests and career goals in mind while curating a calendar of unique, informal educational experiences. If you’re interested in learning more about the formal curriculum that these experiences complement, check out our Masters program resources.