The Ultimate Guide to Structured and Unstructured Learning

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The Ultimate Guide to Structured and Unstructured Learning

In a world where technology is constantly changing and new skills are becoming necessary almost every day, it can be tricky to figure out the best way to learn new things. Learning doesn’t come in one form, but rather many different forms. There are multiple ways you can learn something, and they all have different pros and cons. Structured learning (also known as formal or instructional learning) occurs when you take a course or training that is planned out by an instructor with specific goals in mind. Unstructured learning (also known as informal or experiential learning) occurs when you learn something as a result of performing actions outside of the classroom setting. This blog post will explore both structured and unstructured learning, helping you understand which methods might be best for your personal situation.

What is Structured Learning?

Structured learning refers to a learning experience that is planned and organised by a teacher or instructor. This means that structured learning usually happens in a classroom setting or through online materials that have a set order and progression of topics. Structured learning also often includes a grading system and an instructor who can answer any questions you may have. Structured learning is typically necessary when learning a new skill or gaining new knowledge in a formal setting, such as a degree program at a university. Most degree programs require you to take classes in order to progress and earn a degree. These classes provide the necessary structure to learn the necessary skills required to succeed in your degree program.

What is Unstructured Learning?

Unstructured learning refers to a learning experience that is not planned and does not have an organised progression. An unstructured learning environment may include online forums or chat rooms, as well as conversations with people in your field of study. Unstructured learning is common in hands-on professions that require a lot of experimentation to learn new skills. Engineers, for example, often learn about new ways to solve problems by experimenting with their current methods and finding out what doesn’t work. Engineers will often try different solutions to problems and then talk about their findings with other engineers to see if the same issues arise. Many people choose to learn through an unstructured learning environment because it gives them some control over their own learning. In an unstructured learning environment, you’re able to choose what you want to learn, when you want to learn it, and how you want to learn it.

Benefits of Structured Learning

A structured learning program consists of a defined path, clearly defined objectives, a formal hierarchy, and a highly visualised learning environment. This environment facilitates an understanding of schedules, time frames, and expectations.

Achieving Specific Learning Goals – If you have specific learning goals you want to achieve, structured learning can help you hit those goals. You can find structured courses that are designed to help you achieve your specific goals, such as improving your communication skills or learning a new programming language.

Efficiency in Learning – In a structured learning environment, you will often have a clear path towards learning each skill. This can help you maximise your efficiency in learning, providing you with the necessary tools to learn quickly and effectively.

Having a Support System – Many structured learning programs have an instructor or mentor who can support you through your learning process. This can be helpful for learners who need help staying motivated or prioritising their time.

Disadvantages of Structured Learning

Rigid Path Towards Your Goals – Some learners prefer to choose their own path towards their goals, and structured learning can sometimes be too strict to allow for this. While there are some structured courses that allow students to choose their own path, many are very strict with a specific progression.

Expensive – Some structured learning programs come with a high price tag. This can make it difficult for learners on a budget to achieve their goals, even if they have a structured method of learning.

Benefits of Unstructured Learning

The flexibility of unstructured learning allows students to interact with the content at their own pace and level.

Be Your Own Guide – With unstructured learning, you get to choose your own path towards your goals. You can choose the topics you want to learn and the order in which you want to learn them. This can help you feel more in control of your own learning process.

Wide Availability – While structured learning can be found in multiple environments, there are many more unstructured learning environments available. This means that you can learn just about anything you want, regardless of whether it is offered in a structured format.

No Need for Money – Many unstructured learning environments are completely free, so you don’t have to worry about needing a lot of money to learn the things you want to learn.

Disadvantages of Unstructured Learning

Lack of Direction – While unstructured learning does give you control over your learning, it can sometimes be difficult to know which topics to learn and how to tie them together. Without a clear progression of topics, it can be tough to understand how everything fits together.

Lack of Accountability – With unstructured learning, there are no clear rules or grading systems to hold you accountable to your progress towards your goals. This can make it easier to procrastinate or put off important tasks.


While it might seem like structured and unstructured learning would be completely different, they have more in common than you might think. Both structured and unstructured learning are important ways to learn new skills, and they go hand in hand with each other. These two learning methods are not opposites, but rather two different ways to approach the same learning process. There are many different situations and contexts in which structured and unstructured learning can be used. Structured learning is helpful when you want to learn something quickly and efficiently, while unstructured learning can be helpful when you want to learn at your own pace.

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