This article by Mary Thorpe and Jean Gordon was published on the Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 28(8).
The design and conceptualisation of online learning environments for work-related, professional learning was addressed through research with users of an online environment for social workers. The core questions for the research were to identify the nature of participation in the online environment, the relationship between online participation and the offline context, and the implications for conceptualisation of online learning environments to support work-related learning. Key areas of the research literature in technology-enhanced and work related learning are discussed in order to position the study, to inform the research methods used and interpretation of the findings. Online participation needs to be understood as a hybrid concept, in that it is a reflection of offline roles, opportunities and pressures, as well as the usefulness, usability and relevance of what is online. Online participation was diverse, from short browsing for information to more reflective engagement that supported movement across the boundaries between roles and areas of work practice and a focus on practice skills and underlying values. Online sites intended to support work-related learning should start from the perspective of the socio-technical interaction network, with its emphasis on building in the social context at all stages in the life of a site.