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Scan of literature on youth learning and instructional design for e-learning
Literature review

A scan of principles of the youth learning and of how e-learning can engage young learners indicates that there is little research specifically around the uptake and use of e-learning tools with NESB youth. Much of the research available refers specifically to the characteristics of generation Y and how they like to learn.

Youth learning

Recent research by Choy & Delahaye (A case for youth learners, 2004) has identified some of the principles of youth learning (as opposed to adult learning) and points out the need for teaching and learning designed specifically for youth. In summary:

  • most youth use a surface approach to learning and are outcomes focused
  • most youth learning could be facilitated through a directive, but supportive approach where the facilitator plays the role of a motivator and guide
  • most youth seem to appreciate a relational level of understanding rather than abstract thinking. Their learning is best facilitated through an approach that begins with concrete experience and is followed by reflective observation and then abstract conceptualisation.

And, what is common to all generations and all groups is that they want to be able to choose the how, when and where of their learning (LeCornu, 2004).

Youth and e-Learning

The Australian Flexible Learning Framework, through its Inclusive E-learning project is gathering a growing body of evidence and some very practical exemplars of how teachers are engaging youth in e-learning. Many of the lessons learned are very applicable and relevant to teaching youth with low language and literacy skills.

  Some of the emergent principles of youth learning and support to engage younger learners – particularly, but not only, those from non-English speaking backgrounds indicate that:1

  • NESB youth in the main, are digital immigrants – i.e. they did not grow up with or have ready access to the technology
  • NESB youth embrace technology with enthusiasm
  • typing is preferred to hand writing. In the educational landscape this is fast becoming the norm, it is a skill that many NESB youth need and want to master.
  • there are differences in how male and female learners operate online, with male learners preferring shorter, more interactive burst of activities
  • being connected is essential (the learners surveyed for this project indicated that they wanted to learn emailing and navigating the internet - in order to stay connected)
  • young students prefer specific information about how to perform a particular task or understand a particular topic
  • young students want their information in small chunks – hence the fact that they are often “tuned in” to blogs – as they tend to cover one topic at a time and in small chunks of text
  • young people, and specifically NESB, wanted the choice of having their learning materials in audio and text, so that they can have a choice as to how and where they received the information
  • young people need to develop a product - this was particularly evident in our digital storytelling activities. This is an excellent tool for learners to build skills and confidence in ICT, while at the same time developing a product.
  • Learning support is a prominent issue – especially with NESB youth.

  Research conducted by Williams and Nicholas finds that:

“computer-mediated learning is also useful for younger learners because they are motivated by the technology rather than daunted by it. Younger learners usually enjoy working with computers and are willing to explore the possibilities of the technology, see it as important, and are not afraid of making mistakes as they explore possibilities. This applies to exploration of the Internet, as well as the use of computers (sometimes including mobile phones), to assist them in completing tasks. The use of other aspects of digital technology, such as digital photography and music, are motivating and interesting to younger learners”.

  Learning tasks that make use of interactive e-learning activities have shown remarkable results within the youth sector 2.

“Young people who were previously thought to have learning and attention disabilities flourished when provided with the right resources (Kharif, 2004: 80). In England and the United States, chronic truancy has been treated not with punishment, but with a separate learning program rich in content embedded within interactive media and edutainment (McGavin, 1997: 2). Anecdotal evidence from this and other youth projects confirms this. Teachers who were part of the digital storytelling project reported improved attendance rates and fewer request for breaks from the young people involved”.

Trials conducted for the 2007 Framework Inclusive E-learning project demonstrate that self determined learning, or heutagogy, which develops individual capacity through learner directed rather than teacher directed training, facilitated by the use of technology, is showing significant outcomes in terms of engaging this learner cohort. Students were able to learn what they wanted, when they wanted, and in the way they wanted to learn it.

 The models and strategies developed as part of this project and informed by the research provide examples of how e-learning in the classroom can and do develop confidence and skills

1 Peters, K. 2005. E-learning for Target Learner Groups – Youth. Environmental Scan Research Paper to inform the 2005 E-learning for Target Learner Groups Project. AFLF

William, A $ Nicholas H. 2005. AMESP Research centre facts sheet: Responding to younger learners with minimal or no schooling. P6.

2 Creative Industries Faculty; QUT. 2006. E-learning – youth culture.
Retrieved from "
http://wiki.media-culture.org.au/index.php/E-Learning_-_Youth_Culture" 14/12/06

  http://www.flexiblelearning.net.au/flx/go/home/projects/2007/inclusive07/pid/418

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