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Learning online? Educational Internet use and participation in adult learning, 2002 to 2010

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Covering a decade during which the “digital divide” came to popular and political attention, and written at a time when the Internet continues to be championed as a means of widening access to educational opportunities, this paper presents an analysis of the social, economic and educational characteristics associated with using the Internet for educational purposes. The research was conducted using nationally-representative, individual-level, repeated cross-sectional data (n = 47,001) collected in annual surveys of adults in the UK between 2002 and 2010. The results of multivariate analyses show that although there was a substantial increase in both Internet access and non-educational use of the Internet during this period, there was comparatively little growth in “educational” Internet use. As with participation in adult learning more generally, educational Internet use was structured by age, occupational class and educational engagement. The growth in the availability of Internet access and the development of new technologies appears to have neither increased nor widened participation in adult learning. This growth does not appear to have impacted on the social characteristics of those who use the Internet for educational purposes, nor led to any substantial uptake in Internet-based learning among already educationally-active groups.
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Keywords: Internet; adult learning; digital exclusion; inequalities; lifelong learning; participation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology,University of Leicester, Leicester, UK 2: London Knowledge Lab, Institute of Education, London, UK

Publication date: 01 November 2012

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