Kim Welch


This qualitative, exploratory study grouped together and explored custom-built environments for communities of online informal learning (COILs) with a special lens on the socio-technical relationship of platform tools, structures, and strategies that lead to social learning. The study was conducted through a three-phase process. First, a list of possible candidate sites was analyzed for appropriate fit based on the defining terms of a custom-built COIL environment. Second, an observational content analysis was implemented on 10 of the sites to aggregate a list of the tools, structures, and strategies used in the sites. Lastly, the same 10 sites and the lists of tools, structures, and strategies were researched through both pre-established codes for sociability, usability, and community-building designs and an open exploratory observation of their uses with a focus on the way these features support COILs. Social learning and informal learning were also purposefully scrutinized while themes regarding personalized learning and sustainability also emerged from the exploration. All design themes were found represented within the sites, as were social learning, informal learning, personalized learning, and efforts toward sustainability.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Learning technologies; Web-based instruction -- Evaluation; Computer-assisted instruction; Non-formal education; Social learning; Educational technology -- Social aspects

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Sparks, Paul;