Personal learning network

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A personal learning network is an informal learning network that consists of the people a learner interacts with and derives knowledge from in a personal learning environment. In a PLN, a person makes a connection with another person with the specific intent that some type of learning will occur because of that connection.[1][2]

An important part of this concept is the theory of connectivism developed by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. Learners create connections and develop a network that contributes to their professional development and knowledge.[3] The learner does not have to know these people personally or ever meet them in person.[2]

The following is an excerpt from Dryden's and Vos' book on learning networks:[4]

"For the first time in history, we know now how to store virtually all humanity's most important information and make it available, almost instantly, in almost any form, to almost anyone on earth. We also know how to do that in great new ways so that people can interact with it , and learn from it."

Personal learning networks share a close association with the concept of personal learning environments. Martindale & Dowdy [5] describe a PLE as a "manifestation of a learner’s informal learning processes via the Web".


One aspect is that the learner contribute and derive knowledge in a PLE through various nodes.[3] In this way, the learner chooses which PLEs, VLEs, and social media to build a PLN. Specifically, the learner chooses whom to interact with in these media and how much to participate. Learners enters the PLE with certain goals, needs, interests, motivations and problems that are often presented to the people they include in their PLN.[6] Moreover, the learner will collaborate and connect differently with various members. The learner will establish stronger relationships with some members and have a low level of connection with others. Not all nodes will be equal.[3] Some of the member roles include searcher, assemblator, designer of data, innovator of subject matter, and researcher.[6]

PLNs are becoming an important part of professional development in several fields with some businesses creating their own e-learning content and PLEs for their employees. In addition, PLNs have become prevalent in the field of education and are rapidly becoming adopted as centers for the diaspora of field related information (in this regard, they are also often referred to as PROFESSIONAL Learning Networks).[7][8][9][10]

Recognition of PLNs[edit]

The European Union Lifelong Learning Programme 2007–2013 has recognized the potential for PLNs by funding the aPLaNet project (Autonomous Personal Learning Networks for Language Teachers). The project explains the value of PLNs for the professional development of language educators.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Digenti, D. (1999). Collaborative Learning: A Core Capability for Organizations in the New Economy. Reflections, 1(2), 45–57. doi:10.1162/152417399570160
  2. ^ a b Tobin, Daniel R.. "Building Your Personal Learning Network". Retrieved 2010-01-28. 
  3. ^ a b c Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age, International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, Vol. 2 No. 1, Jan 2005
  4. ^ Dryden, Gordon; Vos, Jeannette (2005). The New Learning Revolution: How Britain Can Lead the World in Learning, Education, and Schooling. UK: Network Educational Press Ltd. p. 127. ISBN 978-1-85539-183-3.  ]
  5. ^ Martindale, Trey; Michael Dowdy (2010). "Personal Learning Environments". In George Veletsianos. Emerging Technologies in Distance Education. Athabasca University Press. pp. 177–193. ISBN 978-1-897425-77-0. 
  6. ^ a b From Personal Learning Environment Building To Professional Learning Network Forming, Malinka Ivanova, The 5th International Scientific Conference Elearning and Software for Education , Vol. 9 No. 20, April 2009
  7. ^,
  8. ^ Educator's PLN,
  9. ^ Classroom 2.0,
  10. ^

Radford University Presentation on Developing Personal Learning Networks

External links[edit]