Developing a personal learning network

This resource will describe personal learning networks, and how Twitter, Facebook and WordPress can function as components of a personal learning network.

What is a personal learning network?

A personal learning network (PLN) is a “network of people that you connect with to learn their ideas, their questions, their reflections and their references”, and can function both offline and online (Lalande 2012). An online PLN is a network made up of one or more social media accounts that you use to exchange ideas, information and knowledge on a particular topic with other people. A defining feature of an online PLN is that it can be global, which means that you can create a network of people from across the world via social media platforms.

A PLN can be used to develop your knowledge academically, professionally or personally. Creating a hashtag for your subject, like #SUB101, is an example of a small PLN that you could use to develop your knowledge academically by connecting with other students completing your course. More globally, you could develop a PLN to increase your knowledge on, for example, astronomy by using the hashtag #astronomy to connect with others by retweeting, replying to and following other users on Twitter.

Benefits of developing personal learning network

There are multiple reasons why building a personal learning network could be useful to you. Some of them include:

  • Receiving knowledge from multiple sources across the world.
  • Learn anything, anytime, anywhere there is an Internet connection.
  • Learning occurs in a personal and meaningful way, because you can tailor how you learn (or, more specifically, who you learn from).
  • Establish connections with other people wanting to learn the same things as you and with experts in the field.

Developing a personal learning network

The first thing to do is to decide on a social media platform you would like to start with. In the paragraphs below, we will explain how Twitter, Facebook and WordPress can be used to develop a personal learning network.

While these platforms are good starting points, do not feel limited to only these three. Many social media platforms can form a part of your personal learning network, depending on the topic and how you utilise them.

Twitter’s hashtags

Using hashtags on social media platforms to locate information is an easy way to start building a PLN. Although hashtags are used on many social media platforms, for the purposes of this resource we will focus on hashtags used on Twitter. If you aren’t familiar with Twitter, take a look at our Twitter resource.

TIPS
  • Find a hashtag that is relevant to the topic. If you don’t know if there is one already out there, try typing in the key words of your topic with the pound symbol (#) before it into the search bar on Twitter. If you still can’t find one, create one and get the conversation started!
  • Search the hashtag on Twitter to discover information. Search the hashtag on Twitter using the search bar. All the public tweets that are using that hashtag will appear in a timeline, which you can scroll through to find information.
  • Interact with others. Favourite important tweets, follow users that contribute to the conversation frequently, and reply to tweets to tease out discussion and to learn from others.
  • Contribute to the conversation. Compose a tweet yourself and include the relevant hashtag so that others following the hashtag can see your tweet, respond to you and learn from you.

    NOTE: Your twitter account must be public so that those who aren’t following you can also view your tweets.

Facebook groups

Facebook groups are a great platform to create or join a network of like-minded people that come together to share information on a particular topic. Facebook groups can either be open, which means anyone can join, or closed, which means that you have to be approved by the administrators of the group to join.

TIPS
  • Find a group. Go to the search bar on the top left-hand side of your Facebook homepage and type in a keyword associated with the group you would like to join. For example, if you are interested in space and stars you might search the word ‘Astronomy’. Click on the ‘Groups’ tab at the top of the page to refine the search results to only groups.
  • Join a group. Click on the ‘Join Group’ button. Before joining a group, be sure to check out its description to make sure they take new members and use your best judgement as to whether this group is appropriate for you to join. For instance, if a group has only 300 members and is titled ‘New York Knitters Club’, it might only be for a specific group of people in New York and may not accept you.
  • Learn from and interact with others in the group. View and comment on others posts and post statuses, links or media to the group to contribute to the discussion.
  • Share your other social media accounts. Share your blog’s URL or your Twitter handle in the Facebook group to expand your PLN across multiple platforms.
  • Create your own group. Start a network of individuals interested in the same topic by clicking on the ‘Create Group’ button on the Facebook homepage and inviting your friends or connections on Twitter.

WordPress blog

A WordPress blog is useful if you would like to read and share long-form content. For example, if you want to create a personal learning network on study tips, a WordPress blog would be good to post photos of your notes and study space as well as to give a written overview on your study methods. If you aren’t familiar with Twitter, take a look at our WordPress resource.

TIPS
  • Create a blog or site focused on your topic. Write blog posts focused on your thoughts, ideas or emerging information regarding your topic of interest. Use this space to tease out ideas and to document information.
  • Follow other blogs or sites. Find other blogs or sites that discuss your topic of interest using the search bar on WordPress. When you follow them, their posts will appear in your WordPress reader so you can easily stay up to date on the latest information.
  • Interact with others. Comment or like blog posts to tease out discussion. The authors of those posts may also take a look at your blog and return the favour.
  • Make your blog easy to find. Tag your posts with relevant hashtags to ensure others can find them. For example if your blog is on study tips you might want to tag your posts with ‘#studyblr’.
  • Share your WordPress blog or site on other social media accounts. Promote your blog using other social media accounts, like Twitter, to expand your PLN across multiple platforms.

Further resources

References