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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.


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