The Lifelong Learning Iceberg of Information Systems Academics-A Study of On-Going Formal and Informal Learning by Academics

By Davey, Bill; Tatnall, Arthur | Journal of Information Technology Education, Annual 2007 | Go to article overview
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The Lifelong Learning Iceberg of Information Systems Academics-A Study of On-Going Formal and Informal Learning by Academics

Davey, Bill, Tatnall, Arthur, Journal of Information Technology Education


UNESCO adopted Lifelong Learning as a master concept in 1970 (Tight, 1998) as the culmination of efforts by many people to have recognised the relationship between investment in education of whole populations and economic and social outcomes. By the end of the century most world governments had recognised the importance of support for lifelong learning. The British Education Secretary David Blunkett (1998) noted that: "In the 21st century learning at different stages in life will be essential as human capital becomes to the information revolution what fixed capital was to the industrial revolution."

Field (2000) cites evidence suggesting that in Canada the proportion of adults involved in organised learning rose from 20% in the mid-1980s to 38% in the mid-1990s. Estimates for the USA are for a 46% participation rate in adult learning in 1999, which represents growth of about onethird since 1991. In Finland participation in organised adult learning increased 28% between 1972 and 1995, while in the Netherlands participation rose from 15% in the 1960s to 20 per cent in the 1980s and had reached almost 38% by the mid-1990s (Field, 2000). Whether mature graduates gain sufficiently to make learning a worthwhile investment remains undecided, with one recent study suggesting that it may not be a good investment for many mature graduates, at least when returns are measured solely in income terms. There is an absence of research on the returns of other kinds of qualifications for adult learners in the British economy, and on learning that may not result in a qualification (Jenkins, Vignoles, Wolf, & Galindo-Rueda, 2002).

In a publication resulting from a recent IFIP conference on 'ICT and Real-Life Learning' Mike Kendall (2005) takes the position that real-life learning and lifelong learning are, in effect, the same activity with different names. Kendall goes on to argue that lifelong learning will continue to gain in prominence, and explores the relationship between lifelong learning and informal learning styles as well as how this relates to vocational and professional education. At the same conference Tom van Weert (2005) pointed out that students of higher education can make good use of real-life learning environments where they can learn to deal with knowledge work processes using real-life examples. While these and many other papers often speak of the value of life-long and real-life learning for our students, in this article we argue that learning of this type is also of value to university academics.

Lifelong Learning

The European Commission defines lifelong learning as "Any learning activity undertaken throughout life, with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competences within a personal, civic, social and/or employment-related perspective." (European Commission, 2001) In addition to the emphasis it places on learning from pre-school to post-retirement, lifelong learning should encompass the whole spectrum of formal, non-formal and informal learning (European Commission, 2001). In 1998 Livingstone conducted a large-scale, country-wide survey in Canada of the informal learning activities of Canadian adults (N=1562) that indicated an increase in the incidence of informal learning and that people in virtually all walks of life exhibited similar patterns of incidence of informal learning (Livingstone, 1999). In the study, Livingstone (Livingstone; 1999; NALL Research Network, 2007) recognises two stages of formal education: 'Formal Schooling'--the compulsory schooling related to age, and 'Further Education' covering all other formal classes organised for adults. This study also investigates 'Explicit Informal Learning' and 'Tacit Informal Learning' and Livingstone distinguishes explicit informal learning from more tacit informal learning by considering the subject's own conscious identification of the activity as 'significant' learning. "The important criteria that distinguish explicit informal learning are the retrospective recognition of both a new significant form of knowledge, understanding or skill acquired on your own initiative and also recognition of the process of acquisition.

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The Lifelong Learning Iceberg of Information Systems Academics-A Study of On-Going Formal and Informal Learning by Academics


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