LEARNING EXPERIENCES OF DIGITAL IMMIGRANTS IN AN E-LEARNING ENVIRONMENT: A CASE STUDY IN MALAYSIA
The recent development of technology has revolutionised higher education institutions globally. Technology has transformed the way of learning and teaching in the 21st century. The majority of the higher education institutions are now using technology in teaching the students. The advancement of technology also enables universities to provide various online courses to fit the needs of different learners. This is also seen as another learning opportunity offered to working adults who did not have the chance for pursuing full-time studies. Today, there is an increasing number of adult learners using the e-learning technique to earn their degrees, develop new skills and acquire new knowledge. ‘Information society’, ‘knowledge economy’ and ‘lifelong learning’ all coincide and are encapsulated by the specific case of ICT-based adult learning (Selwyn et al, 2006). Malaysia is expected to have 22.6 million lifelong learners in 2020. The Malaysian government has spent on multi-billion dollar policies aimed at encouraging adults to live, work and learn with the support of ICTs (Ministry of Higher Education, 2011). However, the question is how do adult learners learn in this digital age, especially for those who learned and developed their computer skills through experience and self-exploring at their workplace? Many kinds of literature applauded the benefits of Web 2.0 in various learning occasions. However, there are hidden aspects concealed below the surface that are often ignored and have yet to be explored from the user for e-learning (Zakaria, 2013). Based on the study in one of the colleges in Malaysia by Emmanuel, Prakash and Ch’ng (2015), the malfunction of technology devices and lack of computer skills are stressors for learners from the age group of 41-55 years old. As for those aged 51-55 years, the learners feel a sense of discomfort studying alongside ‘tech-savvy’ students during tutorials. As such, this study was conducted to examine the learning experience exhibited by middle aged learners, also known as digital immigrants by Marc Prensky (2001), in an e-learning environment. Thus, this case study was conducted to develop a detailed evidence based on how adult learners from the middle-aged group, those who have not received any formal computer training during their school time, integrate the use of technology in their learning process. Specifically, the research objectives of this study are to observe and identify the learning experiences of these learners in an e-learning environment. 14 adult learners with ages ranging from 40-55 years old, two males and 12 females participated in study. The participants took part in the semi-structured interviews and the researcher had also taken the field notes when making observations during the tutorial sessions. From this study, it has been found that this group of adult learners, which is also named as digital immigrants, comes to the e-learning environment with their own experiences. They are well-prepared and ready to learn. In the study, it can be observed that the forming virtual group using WhatsApp application is very important to the learners; the course instructor is no longer the main source of learning; printed materials are still irreplaceable by electronic learning materials; tutorial class is not meant for learning anymore but more emphasis on social interaction and technology provides another alternative for the learners to learn.