There are all kinds of words for this and I'd like to find one that is non-commital. The OU calls it 'recreational learning' for those doing it, what, 'for a bit of a laugh', and if as an indulgence, so what - it's their money. There are many shades of 'indulgence' which has to include at one end of the spectrum 'inspired' - the person who learns with such passion and obsession that it may appear to some as indulgent but because the person is motivated serendipty may take this indulgence into a career (or at least a life-style). In any case, what's wrong with learning? Surely watching TV passively is more indulgent, or learning to become an expert at a game?
Here the person aspires to be (dangerous), or to do (better) something and requires (professions) or understands it would be useful to have and to demonstrate a skill or knowledge. The motivation may be extrinsic, but he desire to get on, to secure work you feel informed about or even enjoy is a healthy aspiration.
Perhaps this follows on from these first two - if you turn professional or get them job then further learning on the subject that is your work has the benefit of being applied, it develops your confidence, raises your skills, allows you to take on new challenges.
Not necessarily the worst form, I have to look at elements of military training in time of war or conflict and whether compulsory or not they serve a practical purpose - kill or be killed (or in current parlance, 'keep the peace'). For a student at school to feel the subject they are studying is compulsory the motivation is slight, no love for it, that intrinsic fire has been put out. The extrinsic motivation - the cane or class prize may work for some.
I only came up with a set of descriptors of my own as I read 'Preparing for blended learning' Pegler (2009) for the third time in a wholy different setting than when I read it first as a returning student of e-learning two years ago unsure if I'd find my way into an e-learning role, a year ago when I found myself at the hub of distance and e-learning, The OU, (though not in an e-learning role) and now two and half years on, where I started this journey over a decade ago - in Brighton in one of the many leading, international e-learning companies where modules are created for multinationals, blue chips, Fortune 100, FTSE 100 and Governmente Departments.
I feel like a child who has spent years learning a foreign language and this week went to a country where the language is the mother tongue (I'm getting this from a daughter who has done three years of Spanish and finally made it to Madrid last week and overnight wants to make it an A' Level choice). I know the language of e-learning. I can, understandably, 'talk the talk.
Now I get to see how to do it effectively, winning the trust of clients, collaborating with an array of skilled colleagues to take an idea, or problem or objective, and create something that works and can be scrutinised in a way that is rarely done at academic levels for effectiveness - a pass isn't good enough, for some 'modules' 100% compliance is required. Do you want people running nuclear power stations, our trains ... or banks (ahem) to get it wrong?
Turning back to the books then I am going to spend the rest of the week looking out for some of the following. I imagine the practised learning designers have the outcomes in the back of their mind rather than the descriptors given here. Across the projects I am working on I want to see how many of the following I can spot. And like learning a language (I eventually cracked French and recall this phenonmenon) the fog will slowly clear and it will come fluently.
Laurillard's Conversational Model (2001).
1. Assimilative: mapping, Brainstorming, Buzzwords, Crosswords, Defining, Mind maps, Web search Adaptive. Process narrative information (reading books, e–books, attending talks, lectures and classroom teaching, watching a video or TV, including YouTube listening to the radio or a podcast). Then manage this information by taking notes (which may be blogged or managed in an e–portfolio or any old-fashioned exercise book or arch–level file).
2. Adaptive: Modelling. Where the learning environment changes based in the learner's actions, such as simulations or computer games.
3. Communicative: reasoning, Arguing, Coaching, Debate, Discussion, Fishbowl, lce-breaker, Interview, Negotiation, On-the-spot questioning, Pair dialogues, Panel discussion, Peer exchange, Performance, Question and answer, Rounds, Scaffolding, Socratic instruction, Short answer, Snowball, Structured debate, discussion, ice–breaker, debate face–to–face or online (and therefore synchronous and asynchronous)
4. Productive: Assignment, Book report, Dissertation/thesis, Drill and practice, Essay, Exercise, Journaling, Presentation, Literature review, Multi-choice questions, Puzzles, Portfolio, Product, Report/paper, Test, Voting, creating something, from an essay to a blog, a written paper in an exam and sundry diagrams, drawings, video, sculptures. Whatever is produced as an outcome from the learning activity? (Increasingly created online to share on a platform: blog, audio podcast, animation, photo gallery, video and any combination or 'mash–up' of these).
5. Experiential: study, Experiment, Field trip, Game, Role play, Scavenger hunt, Simulation, interactive problem solving from a field trip to a role–play. Creative Problem Solving techniques might include Heroes, Human Sculpture, and Time Line).
Pegler, C (2009). Preparing for Blended e-Learning (Connecting with E-learning) (Kindle Locations 2442-2444). Taylor & Francis. Kindle Edition.
Conole, G (2007) ‘Describing learning activities and tools and resources to guide practice’, in H. Beetham and R. Sharpe (eds) Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: Designing and Delivering e-Learning, London: Routledge, (reformatted)