Over the past decades, information technology has had a disruptive effect on adult education. Today, learners can access libraries from their pocket and shape their thoughts while socializing on networks. The position of educators as ‘knowledgeable others’ has been challenged as experts can be found online and learners can control their own learning. Social media are changing adult education, because they offer tremendous potential to enhance learning processes. But do they really?
The results show that Web 2.0 technologies can facilitate a high level of communication amongst learners and educators, and consequently raise the level of “presence” in the online environment. New technologies were seen to foster engagement and self-directed learning. The role of adult educators was seen as crucial for all learners, and for those displaying higher levels of autonomy, the educator was perceived as a trusted “human filter” of information.
The research adds to the under-conceptualized field of networked learning in the Web 2.0 era, and challenges the notion that knowledge and learning are revolutionized by new social media. It shows that a trusted “knowledgeable other” is still at the heart of a meaningful learning experience. Finally, the thesis provides recommendations for adult educators and institutions to enhance their effectiveness in networked environments characterized by changing attitudes toward interaction for learning.