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Activity 15 – Defining a PLN (Personal Learning Network)

Photo by Sue Waters

Activity 15 concerns PLNs;

As with many new terms, PLN is used in a variety of contexts. The Wikipedia entry defines it as:

‘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.’ (Wikipedia, 2012 )

Use search tools and the discussion in the forum to formulate your own, one-sentence definition of a PLN.

I have had PLNs in my life, at college and uni, but this wasn’t what they were called then. Study group or partner was what we would have called them except we didn’t give them a name, we just did it generally because we had been asked to as part of an assignment. In my experience you either teamed up with friends and did well (once you had stopped snacking, gossiping and flicking through magazines) or were teamed up by a teacher and it turned out badly. Someone didn’t pull their weight or turn up and there was always an over-ambitious one that out shouted everyone else in the group.

It is only since I started doing MOOCs that I have discovered the power of PLNs. Actually I didn’t discover it in my first 2 MOOCs, it was the third one E-learning and Digital Cultures where I was truly inducted. Some of you may have already heard me going on about this course but it really was a defining moment for me. I had embarked on a course I was terrified and exited about. On my previous two MOOCs there had been no interaction on social media and I wasn’t keen on the official forums. All of a sudden I was thrown into a thriving, dynamic and supportive network which I still remember with great fondness today.

Obviously PLNs don’t need to be purely digital, you can have a discussion by the water cooler or in the canteen. But social media and technology make them global, instant, dynamic and potentially as big as you like. My experience of them has made me determined to try and create or build upon a PLN in future courses if one doesn’t already exist. To me it is an essential component of any learning experience.

I came across lots of websites dealing with the subject which highlights how important they are becoming/have become. I have included a selection;

Ways to build a PLN

How to create a robust and personal PLN

What is the point of a PLN?

So to the difficult bit. My one sentence definition of a PLN

A network of people who work together (digitally or face to face) and support each other in a learning experience. Learning is improved by this connection which is dynamic, global, supportive, exciting and constantly on the move.

(Okay two sentences but that was hard enough without trying to get it in one!)


  1. Hi Nat
    Enjoyed reading your post. Thanks for the extra resources. The part of the Wikipedia entry on PLN that says “specific intent that some type of learning will occur” caught my attention. I think that sometimes you build connections with a social purpose and then learning happens rather as a “by product” of the interaction. Also I think that even if the learning that occurs is informal learning (outside of an educational institution), the PLN itself can be more or less formal in charachter. A very interesting field to study indeed 🙂

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