Do You Have a SOLE? Research on Informal and Self-Directed Online Learning Environments

  • Curtis J. BonkEmail author
  • Minkyoung Kim
  • Shuya Xu
Living reference work entry


Web-based resources and technologies for informal and self-directed learning have proliferated during the past two decades. This chapter reviews some of the key research on informal and self-directed learning. Next, it explores different types of informal and self-directed online learning environments (SOLEs) (e.g., learning portals, shared online video, language learning, adventure learning, virtual learning, global change, etc.). An eight-part scheme for analyzing the quality of those resources is then detailed. Using this scheme, the researchers analyzed more than 300 Web resources for informal and self-directed learning. The results of this analysis are briefly recapped. In addition, results of several studies on the goals, achievements, preferences, and challenges of self-directed online learners are highlighted. This chapter also offers examples of individuals who have been using such resources to experience a life change of some type. These examples reveal that learning is currently being stretched from formal school-based situations to learning anywhere and at any time on the planet. It is intended that this paper provide a lens for understanding and evaluating informal online learning including the quality of such content, tools, and resources.


Informal learning E-learning Online learning Massive open online courses (MOOCs) Motivation Nontraditional learning Open education Open educational resources Self-directed learning SDL model Self-directed online learning environments (SOLEs) Videoconferencing Web-based technology Wikipedia 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Indiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Instructional Systems TechnologyIndiana University School of EducationBloomingtonUSA

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