Learners Without Borders
(Les apprenants sans frontières):
Transgressing the Formal and Informal Learning Boundaries
“You forget about education when you are working all these years, and then I realized I learn new things everyday. After all these years I’m still learning.”
This realization, put into words by Dianne, a Boeing Winnipeg employee, mirrors the sentiment expressed by fellow workplace learners as they reflected on their learning experiences of both a formal and informal nature. This inward look revealed for them, and provided me with insights into the processes surrounding their vast learning at the workplace. And exactly what do those insights uncover about possible connections, or pathways that form as one learns through both formal and informal means? This case study is in response to this question. Data collection for this study was achieved through interviews and journal keeping of three workplace learners, Dianne, Pamela, and Dave, two workplace instructor interviews, and by administering the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory (ELLI) survey to an additional 16 workers, from which a random sampling of responses was used.
In 2003, workers at the Winnipeg plant of Boeing Canada Technology, which is an aerospace company that manufactures commercial and military aircraft worldwide, asked for the opportunity to earn their high school diploma through courses offered in the workplace. This interest was the impetus for Boeing Winnipeg to develop a program to allow workers to achieve this goal. Since high school graduation was not a condition of employment at Boeing Winnipeg before 1997, this interest in graduation voiced from the factory floor was not in response to a company demand for pre-1997 hires to satisfy this education level. Individual motivation for achieving this goal stemmed from a variety of personal and external situations, as in any adult education program.
In partnership with a local adult learning centre, the Manitoba government departments of Adult Learning and Literacy and Labour and Immigration, and the local Aerospace Sector Council, the Boeing Mature Student Diploma (MSD) program was developed. In early 2004 it was underway, offering grade twelve level courses that were selected to not only satisfy provincial graduation requirements, but also to use material that allowed learners to make connections to their work, daily life, and prior knowledge and skills. This concept was taken one step further, as each of the courses were developed to include 50% of the content using Boeing related material. This incorporation of “company” material within the course content includes Boeing stock market analysis and a report on the history of Boeing. It also looks at the “LEAN” concept which is the philosophy and practice behind Boeing’s manufacturing process, the use of Boeing images in graphics, letters and memos addressing workplace issues, and a long term project that fits in with the Boeing workspace. This practice provides relevancy to the learners and eases transfer of learning.