Older Adults’ Use of Online Personal Learning Networks to Construct Communities of Learning

Dirk Morrison


This study investigated how retired older adults (age 55+) use the Internet and social media tools to facilitate their informal, self-directed learning by creating and maintaining online personal learning networks (oPLNs). The research examined what information and communication technologies (ICT) participants included in their oPLNs and how they used these oPLNs to activate and self-direct their informal learning. Employing the web-conferencing tool WebEx, four online focus groups and four one-to-one audio interviews were conducted allowing for a total of 15 voluntary, geographically-dispersed participants from across Canada to synchronously interact and exchange their experiences and insights regarding their oPLNs. Using a thematic analysis method, the discussion transcripts generated were analyzed to examine learning contexts, strategies to manage learning, motivation to learn and achievement of learning goals, as well as to discover emergent themes. It was clear from our findings that oPLNs provided a virtual "learning community" that supported informal, self-directed learning via learner participation and interaction opportunities fostered by ICT-based tools and processes.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/jse.v10i1.16010


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