What a Personal Learning Network can tell you about PLNs & Why You Need One NOW
Concurrent Session 4
This interactive session showcases strategies that promote productive virtual collaboration through the experiences collected in a study on participation in a Professional Learning Network (PLN). Participants reflect on the findings of the research study and engage in structured networking designed to kick-start collaborative partnerships to improve productivity and institutional outcomes.
As online programs continue to compete in an ever-crowded student marketplace, many colleges and universities find themselves needing to differentiate and innovate, ever faster than in previous years. This changing environment calls for a culture of learning and adaptation that can sometimes be difficult to accomplish only with internal support, or the benefit of expensive, formal professional development. A critical aspect of learning that is often discussed, yet not thoroughly operationalized, is peer-to-peer learning. A low-cost, and often free type of learning, peer-to-peer learning also brings with it affordances in diverse perspectives and experiences of peers in the learning group. The Community of Inquiry framework has reinforced the importance of this type of learning; yet as educators, we often struggle with how to create space for peer-to-peer learning for ourselves. At the same time, professionals inside and outside of the academy are paying more attention to the value of Personal Learning Networks (PLNs). A PLN is “being part of a ‘connected’ community which provides support for getting specific needs met, solving personally relevant and meaningful problems, and developing professional expertise” (Moreillon, 2016, p. 65).
For all of these reasons, a research collaborative, formed from a PLN, conducted an autoethnographic research study in July and August of 2019 to inform on the benefits and implications of participation in virtual PLNs. During this highly interactive session, findings from the study will be presented. Through these collective experiences, themes from these experiences are framed as a model for developing personal learning networks which can be leveraged for creative, innovative, and efficient problem-solving, career exploration, and for providing a sense of community and ambition that would compare to an in-person community of peers. Session attendees will be asked to reflect on the themes and the opportunity to create a virtual PLN for themselves for institutional and personal betterment. Attendees will also have the opportunity to build a PLN from other attendees in the room. Lastly, the facilitators of the session will host a series of virtual, quarterly meet-up sessions for PLN creation and cultivation after the conference.
After attending this session, attendees will be able to:
Identify the benefits of Personal Learning Networks (PLNs),
Create a vision for personal participation in a PLN, and
Network with other attendees with similar interests in a PLN.