Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Marketing and International Business

First Advisor

Dr. Pio Fenton

Second Advisor

Dr. Gearoid O'Suilleabhain

Third Advisor

Prof Dr Pleil


The purpose of this thesis is to investigate “how communication professionals attain lifelong learning in their working environment in order to face the challenges arising from digitalisation?” Challenges include, for example, the extensive use of social media by stakeholders. Even though scholars have clearly outlined the importance of lifelong and informal learning in the education literature, the topic has not been investigated with regards to communications professionals. Furthermore there is a lack of empirical evidence in the literature that investigated the impact of social media on informal learning strategies. This thesis provides an in-depth multi-disciplinary literature review with an emphasis on communities of practice, informal learning and network theory.

The thesis is dependent on a qualitative, explorative stance and uses a grounded theory methodology (GTM) with a triangulation of qualitative and quantitative methods to meet the research aims of the study. The methods included are interviews, a quantitative survey, and focus groups.

The result of this novel research is a model for lifelong learning of communication professionals in agencies. The model emphasizes “personal networks of practice” as the centre of all informal learning activities in communication agencies. Personas are provided to show how the model works in practice for different individuals. This strengthens the usefulness for practical application. The model contributes to research as a multi-disciplinary model for lifelong learning in a digital age that contributes to existing theory within educational research. A contribution to communication research is made through methodology novelty and insights about how communication professionals learn informally with social media tools.

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