Online Personal Learning Networks for Older Adults: Impacts on Social and Mental Well-Being

Dirk Morrison

Abstract


This study investigated retired older adults (age 55+) who use the Internet to facilitate their informal, self-directed learning by creating and maintaining their online personal learning networks (oPLNs), and how such use impacts their personal, social, and mental well-being.  Guiding this examination were particular research questions that specifically queried the perceived value of their oPLNs to activate and self-direct their informal learning. The web-conferencing tool WebEx was used to conduct four synchronous online focus groups allowing a total of 15 voluntary, geographically dispersed participants from across Canada to share their experiences and insights. A thematic analysis of the focus group transcripts revealed themes informing how oPLNs facilitated their informal learning goals and influenced participants’ personal valuing of their online activity.  As a component of results from the larger research study (Morrison, Litchenwald, & Krystkowiak, 2020; Morrison, Litchewald, & Tang, 2020; Morrison & McCutcheon, 2019)  , the findings presented, drawn from the online focus group qualitative data, indicated positive perceived valuing of their informal learning via their oPLNs as well as indications of favorable social and mental well-being outcomes. Interpretive speculation is provided regarding how these informal online learning experiences and oPLNs in particular, may point to a favorable impact on similar retired older adults’ personal, social, and mental well-being.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/jse.v10i2.16600

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