Women Entrepreneurs: Informal Learning and the Internet

Women entrepreneurs are one of the fastest growing groups of informal learners in Canada. Although the Internet presents extensive opportunities for informal learning, it remains an understudied area and little is known of the true nature of the learning that takes place in this mode. In this qualitative study, semi-structured e-mail interviews were used to explore the experiences of four Western Canadian women entrepreneurs who used the Internet for informal business-related learning. A sociocultural perspective was found to be helpful in understanding the nature of their informal learning. Results showed that perceived value of the Internet for informal learning included its capability to provide learner control for access to informational capital via the World Wide Web, and connectivity to social capital via e-mail. A taxonomy of informal learning using the Internet suggests that women entrepreneurs’ learning exists on a continuum of self-direction, ranging from autonomous (for independent seeking of external learning resources) to relational (for e-mail communication with colleagues as a support), but also includes incidental and social (tacit) learning. Implications for practice and questions for further research are presented.

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