Lifelong learning in the digital age: A content analysis of recent research on participation

Alison J. Head, Michele Van Hoeck, Deborah S. Garson


This paper presents results from a cross-disciplinary content analysis of 185 recent research articles, published between 2008 and 2013. These papers examined factors affecting adult participation in lifelong learning, based on the availability and use of Internet-based and face-to-face modes of learning. Articles were written by scholars from 39 countries, including the European Union (EU), United States (U.S.), Canada, Australia, and, to a lesser extent, from developing and newly industrialized countries, such as Mexico, Brazil, China, and Taiwan. Despite widespread assumptions as to online learning’s potential and promise, articles focused on traditional face-to-face learning and training modes more than Internet-based modes. Seven thematic research areas were identified from the dataset: four major and three emerging themes. Key findings from 40 studies about the adult participation in learning in the workplace and community-based programs are highlighted. These papers present broad and deep investigations about diverse groups of lifelong learners previously unstudied, while equity issues pertaining to access and availability of training and learning opportunities are addressed. Directions for future research are identified and discussed.


lifelong learning, adult continued education, online learning, workplace learning

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