Why and how to create a personal learning network

What is a personal learning network?

A Personal Learning Network (PLN) is a group of colleagues, mentors, and professionals that you connect with to enhance your learning and take charge of your professional development. 

A few decades ago, if you had to do the simplest of things, like making a long-distance phone call, you had to go to a trained operator to help you with it. However, today, if you have to overcome a challenge at your workplace, you no longer have to go through the entire training process. You can simply use your Personal Training Network to get the information you need and become instantly productive.

To further understand the meaning of a  Personal Training Network, you can simply deconstruct the term and understand what each term stands for:

Personal:

Creating personal relations at your workplace with your colleagues and coworkers has become the norm of the day. It is up to each individual to create a bond with their coworkers, as corporate training programs usually cannot afford such opportunities. Maintaining these bonds even after the said training program has concluded is the first step to a PLN.

Learning:

The bonds created with your coworkers can then be used for ongoing social learning at your workplace. This usually starts with no-so-formal discussions among the coworkers present, sharing information and knowledge. This helps everyone understand where each other’s expertise lies, and can then be used for your learning.

Network:  

What starts as a small group of personal contacts, can evolve into a broad personal training network of peers and colleagues. Slowly,  it extends beyond the personal circle of contacts that was started initially, as everyone is free to bring in more people at any given point. Far greater learning opportunities are created through such established networks.

create personal learning network

In simple terms,  PLNs are an extension of a professional’s Personal Learning Environment. 

The modern corporate world is fast and dynamic. Companies usually arrange a learning program for their employees once a year but in today’s competitive environment, continuous learning in the workplace is a must.

Listed below are a few barriers to workplace learning:

Huge Investment:

Continuous learning could be very expensive. Arranging training programs 6 times a year demands huge investment and planning, and often becomes a barrier to ongoing learning in the workplace.

Time Consuming:

Planning a corporate training program takes up a lot of time. Besides, a training program is always scheduled, and the knowledge to be shared is pre-decided. If an app gets an update, an employee shouldn’t have to wait for the next training program to learn about the update.

Disruptive:

Every training program that a company arranges, or other social events are hosted, they disrupt the regular working session. Though employees usually understand the importance of events, they are not very keen on attending them due to the disruptive nature of the events. Hence, a non-disruptive alternative must be found for the employees to socialize in the workplace.

In the modern work culture, employees cannot rely on their employer to formally train them all the time. Hence, every employee must take it on to themselves to work on their knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the workplace. PLNs are a cost-effective, time-saving method to learn and grow.

Opportunities from PLNs:

  • They allow you to pursue learning opportunities at a time and place of your choice.
  • You can join learning networks of your choice with ease, instead of being grouped into classrooms of your employers’ choosing.
  • They are a great way to socialize with your coworkers and learn without the fear of being judged or ranked, and this eases the learning curve significantly.
  • There is a free flow of knowledge,  information, and experience amongst network members, PLNs offer you a great opportunity for continuous informal learning in the network.

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Personal Learning Networks in workplaces can be managed in-person, or virtually. Here we will see how each of these networks work:

In-Person PLNs:

Working for a large organization often helps its employees to connect with people from different cities or branches during their annual training programs. You can then turn this network into a PLN after coming from the training program, by continually learning about what is happening in the other branches of the company. However, your PLN does not need to be restricted to the people working within your organization. You could join a PLN with like-minded people from other organizations too.

Virtual PLNs:

The most exciting opportunity of forming bonds and creating a Personal Learning Network is offered through social media. Most social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and many others have groups of like-minded people constantly discussing and sharing knowledge about various things. You can join these groups as per your needs for continuous learning in the workplace. Virtual PLNs often allow you to interact anonymously. Hence, while you might hesitate to raise a point in an in-person PLN, you can easily raise such points in a virtual PLN and learn from the broader community’s experiences.

How to make PLN work?

The key to making a successful PLN network is to bond with the right people and choose the right network. Just like you would do extensive research before a job interview, you must do a complete evaluation before joining a PLN network, and letting others into the network. This could be useful in both, In-Person PLN network and Virtual PLN network. Your training network can be a powerful learning tool, but only if you are aware of how best to make use of it as per your own learning needs and goals.

To conclude: 

Well, there you go! We hope you have learned something new today! Thank you for reading and all the best! 

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