Virtual learning communities as a vehicle for workforce development: a case study

Allan, Barbara and Lewis, Dina (2006) Virtual learning communities as a vehicle for workforce development: a case study. Journal of Workplace Learning, 18 (6). pp. 367-383. ISSN 1366-5626

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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the benefits and challenges of using a virtual learning community (VLC) as a vehicle for workforce development. This paper argues that VLCs provide a flexible vehicle for workforce development. However, workplace realities may lead to unexpected challenges for participants wanting exploit the flexibility of e-learning technologies. Design/methodology/approach – The case study is located in a strategic healthcare organisation in the UK. The study used a multi-method approach to develop a rich picture of the VLC. Data were collected from a variety of sources (programme evaluation questionnaires, learning logs, discussion group messages and VLE tracking system) and analysed using quantitative and qualitative methods. Findings – The findings indicate that while membership of a VLC offers new opportunities for collaboration, learning and working at a time and place that suits individuals it also offers many challenges. The following issues were identified as having an impact on effective participation in the VLC: motivation; time management; public/private boundaries; work/life balance; and access to ICT. Research limitations/implications – There are limitations in generalising from a particular case study. The use of a case study provides a depth to the study that helps to illuminate the experiences of individual e-learners. Practical implications – The findings have strategic implications for organisations planning to use VLCs to support workforce development. The study indicates the need for facilitators to enable participants to explore time and work/life balance issues. It highlights the importance of involving the managers of e-learners in the negotiations involved in establishing a VLC. Finally, the study identified that employers need to provide protected time for e-learners and that access to technology is an issue. Originality/value – The research has value to managers who are considering using VLCs as a means of enhancing workforce development.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: University of Westminster > Westminster Business School
Depositing User: Rachel Wheelhouse
Date Deposited: 16 Jul 2012 15:17
Last Modified: 16 Jul 2012 15:17

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