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Informal Learning within Virtual Social Learning Systems

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paper

Published

Publication date2010
Number of pages9
Original languageEnglish

Conference

ConferenceEuropean Conference on Educational Research
CountryFinland
CityHelsinki
Period25/08/1027/08/10

Abstract

If upwards of 70% of learning is informal (Kim et al. 2004) and Web 2.0 social software will have a ‘profound impact on the future of education’ (Mason & Rennie 2008, p.177), then there is clearly a need for greater understanding of how one occurs within the other. This research aims to identify incidents of informal learning within virtual social learning systems (VSLS), it investigates flashpoints for incidents of informal learning and considers strategies to encourage and scaffold such incidents. Three VSLS, all based on the ELGG social networking platform, were the environments within which discourse was examined. These consisted of one specifically designed for the teaching of a Foundation Degree in Project Management and used by the 105 students on the course, another designed for the 425 National Diploma Automotive students to build their electronic portfolios. The third was created as a student-run forum for 51 students studying on courses ranging from a Foundation Degree in Interactive Media Development, a Foundation Degree Games Design & Development and a BSc (Hons) Interactive Design. Stern and Sommerlad (1999) argued that learning occurs on a continuum with informal learning as learning that comes closer to the informal end compared to the formal end of the continuum. Informal learning can be considered to include implicit, opportunistic and unstructured learning and the absence of a teacher (Eraut 2005). Trinder and colleagues (2008) also argued that it arises from daily, social life activities related to education, work, socialising with others or pursuit of leisure activities and hobbies. They proposed that informal learning may be intentional or non-intentional (incidental) from the learner’s perspective. Using the SQUAD theoretical framework (Oriogun 2003) and Eraut’s 2005 version of his typology of Informal Learning, categories for analysis were constructed for discourse analysis to be applied to the on-line postings within the three VSLS. Early results appear to show that requests for help are the predominate flash points for informal learning and that evidence of such learning extends to many individuals beyond the request originator and immediate respondents in an initial discourse.