Tertiary students’ understandings and practices of informal learning: A New Zealand case study

Kwok-Wing Lai, Lee Ann Smith


In 2013, we undertook research in a New Zealand University to gain insights into students’ understandings of informal learning, its connection to formal learning and how they engaged in informal learning using digital and mobile technologies. A total of 765 students (postgraduate, undergraduate and first-year students) completed a questionnaire. Follow-up interviews were conducted with 30 of these students. A total of 90% of the questionnaire participants undertook informal learning to support their formal learning or for their personal development. The undergraduate and first-year interview participants reported that they primarily engaged in informal learning to support their formal coursework. However, the postgraduate participants made arbitrary links between their informal learning and formal learning. The three groups of participants used the same digital technologies to engage in informal learning, including laptops, desktop computers and mobile phones, while the dominant means of conducting informal learning was accessing the Internet and using online tools such as Google and Wikipedia. Fewer students used social networking sites (such as Facebook or Twitter) or mobile digital technologies (such as iPads and tablets) for informal learning.


education; mobile technology; digital technology; informal learning

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14742/ajet.2937

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