Professional learning networks are webs of connections between professionals who share a common interest: improving continuous learning. These types of networks are typically made up of educators, but can also be made up of colleagues, experts in a particular field, mentors, or any individual who shares the same passion for learning.
The purpose of a professional learning network is to share or exchange information, resources, ideas and experiences amongst its members, in order to provide catalysts for personal and professional growth.
They work through three fundamental principles: connection with other professionals who share similar interests, communication through interactions or discussion, and collaboration on projects or content creation.
Many educational centers encourage teachers to build their own PLN, but these networks are not exclusive to education. They also play an important role in the business world, in different vocations and even in some hobbies.
To build and use a professional learning network, you first need to understand what they are and how they function, as well as identify your specific professional development goals. This will help you find the right network. You’ll also need to choose the ideal platform for your network. Nowadays there are many online communities where you can build your own PLN – such as LinkedIn, social networks, specialized educational platforms, chats, forums and corporate social networks – that we will expand upon later.
Active participation is another of the key ingredients to maintaining a professional learning network. It’s not enough just to join – you need to stay active in the network by sharing content, asking questions or collaborating on projects. The balance between giving and receiving is a fundamental principle of a successful network.
As we mentioned previously, there are many online platforms and communities where you can build your professional learning network. Here are a few examples:
Nowadays social networks are a fantastic means of keeping us connected, not only on a personal level, but also on a professional level. LinkedIn is a great example of this – the professional platform par excellence where you can connect with other professionals or colleagues, as well as follow companies or join discussions relevant to your industry.
Engaging in conversations or debates with other professionals is another great way to build your own professional learning network. Reddit is just one of the platforms where millions of users looking to participate in discussions search daily for information on their industry or interests. However, you can also encounter such discussions through chats, forums and webinars.
Whether you’re looking to become certified in a specific field, or simply exploring some of the most important skills for your professional development, you’ll find many opportunities to become part of a professional learning network on online course platforms.
These platforms present you with the chance to develop skills at flexible hours that fit any schedule, and you’re likely to find other professionals with similar interests into the bargain.
Employee apps are the ideal platform for sharing knowledge, managing tasks and staying connected. And some of the best have features perfect for interacting with other professionals who share similar interests.
A great example of this is isEazy Engage – a collaborative and gamified social app with a corporate feed where professionals can ‘like’, comment and share content to their heart’s content. They can also use the app to participate in individual and group chats which will boost their professional development.