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Research Domain: Group Six - Computer Based Informal Learning

Title of Project: Computer-Based Informal Learning among the Working-Class

Start Date: April 1, 1999 (delayed at the request of Academic Investigator)
Academic Investigator: Dr. Jeff Taylor (Athabasca U.)


The purpose of this project is to analyze informal learning networks used by participants in formal online-post-secondary courses and in nonformal online courses. This theme builds upon TeleLearning Network of Centres of Excellence (TL/NCE) research project 7.6 "Developing Successful TeleLearning Strategies for Adult Educators."

This project analyzes the informal learning activities of adult learners enrolled in formal, for-credit Athabasca University labour studies courses and in nonformal, non-credit courses. In the TeleLearning Research Project (7.6) we are, among other things, converting print-based distance-education courses for online delivery and assessing the learning experience in these courses. Research questions in this project include: How does computer-based delivery modify the relationship between labour education and distance education"? How do hypermedia affect the preparation of learning material and the learning process? To what extent is community and solidarity fostered in an electronic environment? What is the relationship between computer-mediated interaction and pre-existing solidarities? What is the quality of interaction among conference participants? What is the role of the moderator?

In this project, the following questions will guide our research? How and to what extent to what extent do students use computer-mediated communication to learn informally" Is one medium (electronic mail or conference, for example) more conducive to informal learning than others? How and to what extent is community fostered through informal online interaction? How and to what extent do pre-existing social relations affect informal online learning? What are the gender or other cultural or status difference, if any, in these experience? How much time do participants spend in informal online learning? What is the relationship between formal and informal online learning? In conference situations where participants have opportunities for professional dialogue in addition to online and face-face professional dialogue?

Data will be collected through analysis of online archives and online surveys of course and conference participants.


Research Domain: Group Five - Informal Learning in Different Workplaces

Title of Project: Practicums as a Site for Informal Learning

Start Date: April 1, 1997
Academic Investigator: Dr. Roxana Ng, (OISE/UT)
Community Partner: CRIAW

The importance of linking formal and informal education is increasingly acknowledged in the educational sector as well as in the private and public sectors. The need to make the transition and links between theory, knowledge and practice is seen as a prerequisite for the

successful entry or re-entry into the job market. Practicums as Sites for Informal Learning is determining the connection between formal (women's studies programs) and informal (women's organizations) learning gained by students through a practicum and or field based learning project/assignment.

The key research questions to be answered by this project are:

  1. How do practicums give students insight into the links between theory and practice?
  2. How does a women's studies practicum build partnership with community?
  3. What are the main characteristics of these practica?  

This information gathering is three-fold:

  1. administering a survey of women's studies programs in universities in Canada with the view of discovering whether they have core and cross-listed courses addressing practicums and field- based learning;
  2. conducting a literature review in the area of practicums and\or field based learning within women's studies or related fields;
  3. conduct 20 in-depth interviews with students and organizations who have participated in these practicums. The final product will provide a comprehensive information guide for those interested in practicums and field-based learning.

Major Informal learning, education/training and any related social issue addressed.

  1. For women's studies field: It is anticipated that this project will add knowledge to the field of women's studies by providing descriptive, theoretical and analytical issues addressing practicums as site for informal learning of students.
  2. For students: To provide students with knowledge about student's practicums and field-based learning.
  3. For Women`s organizations; It will contribute to the women's organizations hosting practicums by exploring the building of partnership and dynamic tensions between community and academia. In particular, how the characteristics of these practica allow future professionals (practicum students) to contribute to the social change and feminist focus of the agency. This is of particular importance as practicum students are assessed for doing community practice (informal learning), under academic criteria (formal learning).

To conclude, our project will contribute knowledge to the dynamic tensions between academia (women's studies), community activism (women's organizations) and future professionals (practicum students). It will also contribute knowledge on the linking of theory and practice with special emphasis on the possible racial and linguistic biases within women's studies practicums.

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