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Personal learning networks: it’s who you know

As the old adage says, ‘it’s not what you know – it’s who you know’.

This basic concept of connecting with others to gain knowledge and share insights isn’t new. The rise of social media is making it easier for people to make connections. While it helps to be sociable, you don’t have to be a celebrity intellectual or a ‘people person’ to have an effective professional learning network

building-your-personal-learning-network“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.” Dryden and Vos

Specifically, the learner chooses whom to interact with and how much to participate. Learners have certain goals, needs, interests, motivations and problems that are often presented to the people they include in their PLN. The learner will collaborate and connect differently with various members. They will establish stronger relationships with some members and have a low level of connection with others. 

So, where do you learn?

Most of us might answer “in a classroom”, but, in reality, the majority of learning comes from other places, like Personal Learning Networks. These networks are personal, meaning there are no two PLNs that are equal; each of us has a unique range of people we learn from including peers, co-workers, supervisors, experts and other professionals. Today more learners use tools like Google and Wikipedia to acquire new skills and knowledge. They subscribe to personal and professional blogs. Or they ask questions through their social media networks to get the most relevant answers from the members of their PLN.

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.

It’s not all about being online, though. Andy Lancaster, CIPD Head of L&D Content, says: ‘people who’ve initially connected in the digital space are now valuing finding the time to get together – face-to-face still plays an important part.’ So Are “business dates” a new way of networking? and learning from a person rather than a screen can still be more effective.

Building personal learning networks can improve professional development, and increase both capability and loyalty. They can build on structured Management and Personal Development Training Programmes. For more information about how you can develop yourself or your team contact SYLO Associates for more information.