This paper explores the varied use of information technologies (ITs) such as the computer and Internet for self-education, highlighting how these technologies can facilitate and suppress such learning opportunities throughout the adult population. Based on data drawn from a large-scale study of adults in the West of England and South Wales, the paper addresses three areas of inquiry: (i) how computers and the Internet are used in adults' engagement with self-education; (ii) why adults engage (or do not engage) in IT-based self-education; and (iii) the social stratification of adults' engagement in IT-based self-education. The paper concludes that although computers and the Internet are, indeed, being used by some adults for self-education (often in extensive and elaborate ways), they appear to be reinforcing rather than activating processes of self-education, allowing people to continue with pre-existing and pre-set patterns of informal learning which generally replicate and reinforce patterns of 'offline' self-education.
Studies in the Education of Adults is an international refereed academic journal, publishing theoretical, empirical and historical studies from all sectors of post-initial education and training. It provides a forum for the debate and development of key concepts. Studies in the education of adults is published by NIACE in association with the Standing Conference on University Research and Teaching in the Education of Adults (SCUTREA), the Universities Association for Continuing Education (UACE) and the European Society for Research on the Education of Adults (ESREA).