Reading: “Online learning in the workplace”

Workplace Learning

Like many of my peers I read around my ‘subject’ a lot. Sometimes I print copies out and store them, other times I save to favourites (on Twitter mainly, very rarely to a browser), or to Delicious (when I remember to use it). The Australasian Journal of Educational Technology is always worth looking at as the papers are interesting and varied.

“Online learning in the workplace: A hybrid model of participation in networked, professional learning” from Mary Thorpe and Jean Gordon covers different aspects of ‘work-based’, or rather ‘work-related’ learning, with a need to understand online participation as a “hybrid concept” that is a “reflection of offline roles, opportunities and pressures, as well as the usefulness, usability and relevance of what is online.”

Do those who develop online materials for online students fully understand the importance of support, guidance, design, engagement, collaboration, assessment, timetable, social or professional pressures? Have they ever been on the receiving  end of an expected 10-15 hours per week of study, on top of their already busy life? From my own experience it wasn’t until I took an online course in 2008 that I realised the difficulty in balancing work, home, and study – once I fell behind it was near impossible to catch-up, all due to the fast-paced activities that allowed little or no time for reflection or breathing space.

“Although online environments now offer more diverse forms of participation than the asynchronous forum, this form of online participation predominates in the literature. Organisations seeking to use the web to support work-related learning have typically used forums and have also been influenced by the communities of practice approach, often aiming to replicate online the claimed features of face to face practice communities.”

Discussion boards were the first real forms of interaction in what we are now calling the Web 1.0 world. Since then we have seen the emergence of self-publishing through Blogs and the rise of the collaborative environment of Wikis. While discussion boards are still a valid form on online engagement there are some activities that could be more suited to a blog or a wiki – in fact I would argue that, in order to keep the learning materials and required interactions ‘fresh’, the activities should be tailored to use and encourage a variety of different tools, including wiki or blogs.

The context of this paper holds that “informal learning online in the workplace … has to be accessed voluntarily by the user” which means, in my role as a Learning Technologist, the activities and tools used to access them need to be attractive and engaging and must involve the learner and encourage interaction. If they don’t, what good are they?

Official citation for this paper is:

Thorpe, M. & Gordon, J. (2012). Online learning in the workplace: A hybrid model of participation in networked, professional learning. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 28(8), 1267-1282.

Image Source: Thirteen Heads by woodleywonderworks / CC License