Activities 15 and 16: Let’s connect – but for business or pleasure?

Personal learning networks

A Google search reveals plenty of resources on PLNs. On the webpages and blog posts I came across, a few words and even sentences were spent on defining the concept of a PLN, but most of the space was used to argue why building a PLN is a great thing and to present a multitude of social media tools that could be used for creating a PLN. So activities 15 and 16 are good ways to discuss thoughts and ideas on this particular concept. It’s been very helpful to read the many interesting blog posts that have already been written by my fellow moocers on H817open 🙂  Thanks for the inspiration.

The shortest definition of PLN that I came across is probably this one: “Your Personal Learning Network (PLN) is the group of people who feed your learning head” (P2PU). However, the text continues “In a true network, you’re a contributor, not just a consumer.” I think this is a very important aspect which is also stressed by Bozarth who claims that “you get back what you put in” (Bozarth, 2011). So reciprocity seems to play an important role in a PLN.



I found a somewhat longer definition on the Educational Technology and Mobile Learning website:

“A Personal Learning Network (PLN) is a way, a process, a network of interrelated connections you make for the purposes of discovering, collaborating and sharing ideas and resources. These connections are created based on your learning needs and can be made with like-minded people from all around the world” (Educational Technology and Mobile Learning website).

I think the definition above captures the reciprocity but also manages to stress that it takes effort to build and maintain a PLN. I was very intrigued by the “based on your learning needs” in the quotation above. The P2PU also stresses the “intentional” aspect and state that “[m]eaningful participation in this network is an integral part of your personal learning plan”. I was a bit surprised at discovering this link to what might be called personal learning objectives. My first impression of PLNs was that these were networks based on mutual interest and that you would more leisurely share ideas, thoughts and resources to explore a certain topic to keep up to date. I hadn’t quite thought of a PLN as such a very targeted getting down to business (learning) approach. But I do see the benefit of more purposefully building a PLN and now consider whether I myself should set more specific learning objectives than “just” finding out what MOOCs are all about, exploring new tools or keeping up to date.

But now I think it’s time to venture into my own attempt at a definition of PLN, so here goes:

A personal learning network consists of peers with whom you connect to explore topics of mutual interest by sharing ideas, thoughts and resources.

Now the question is whether PLN is a useful term or not. As such, it’s not a new phenomenon which has already been stressed in many posts. However, the many social media tools available today certainly expand your range when attempting to build a PLN and the possibilities for connecting, sharing and collaborating online. I’m thinking that PLN becomes a very important element in open education, especially when talking MOOCs. I can see how the formulation of a personal learning plan and the focused effort to build a PLN, can help learners get valuable learning experiences when it comes to informal learning. This is my first MOOC, and I have experienced myself how important it is to reach out and connect to other participants to be able to explore, share and collaborate. It took some effort initially to do the reaching out, but now I’m enjoying every minute of it 🙂


Bozarth, J. (2011). Nuts and Bolts: Building a Personal Learning Network (PLN).

Educational Technology and Mobile Learning website. A Simple Comprehensive Guide on the Use of Personal Learning Networks in Education.

P2PU – The Peer 2 Peer University. Build a Personal Learning Network.

2 thoughts on “Activities 15 and 16: Let’s connect – but for business or pleasure?

  1. Hi Inger-Marie,
    I like your definition, it’s also about people.
    You address an interesting aspect i have not taken into account before, the topic. This means that we can have multiple and different kinds of PLNs. Depending on the topic i would share ideas with peers from a different network.

    Like you, i was surprised about that formal learning expressions in the definitions you have found. I think if you look at learning from a constructivist perspective, then learning happens outside a given plan and sometimes a given topic. For me this is an open and ongoing PLN. On the other hand, making peer connections with a specific purpose in mind, can make sense. I see this kind of PLN as temporary, you come together for the time of your study or to compete a group work.

    • Hi Cinzia
      Thanks for your comment. I was struggling a bit with PLNs and the explicit expression of learning intentions, so It’s great to hear your thoughts on this issue. It makes sense to me to distinguish between open and ongoing PLNs and more targeted PLNs that are part of a defined and delimited learning experience. Also, I think that one can evolve into the other, as when you hang on to your PLN after having done a course and keep connecting to that same group of people to explore and share thoughts and ideas. And yes, people are certainly at the core of this. There’s been much talk of PLEs but I think that discussion fails to capture the issue that it’s about people reaching out and connecting to other people to share 🙂

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