Building PLNs to Ignite your own Personal Development

Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) is a relatively new term, however, the concept has existed in different forms for a long time. A PLN is where a group of individuals meet online to discuss topics, share knowledge, ask questions and provide references related to a particular domain and area of focus.

People always learn best when they can discuss ideas and work co-operatively to achieve tasks and complete assignments.

In today’s social era, PLNs are transforming into globally collaborative communities of practice. They are emerging into places where professionals connect, communicate, discover and share information quickly.

Building and expanding your PLN is a great way to get new ideas, meet and learn from thought leaders in your industry, locate resources for your work, participate in formal and informal personal development opportunities and sometimes get technical and professional help.

Personal Learning Networks are an efficient and almost free resource for professional development.

Here are some tips to grow your PLN and get the maximum benefit from it:

1. Find and join the right online community for you. If you are a programmer, a web developer, a manager, a trainer or whatever industry and profession you work in, there are several online communities for you out there. All you need to do is find the relevant PLN’s and join the one that is active, current and most suited to you. These communities can be found on LinkedIn groups, forums, Ning networks etc.

2. Separate your personal and professional accounts. Keep your professional account professional. This helps you retain your professional image and focus on your professional development goals.

3. Ask and you shall receive. Remember, a PLN is about connecting and learning from others. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for advice. Ask for a word of wisdom and ask for resources, you will be amazed at how people are willing to share their expertise with you.

4. Help people in return. Be willing to share your expertise, talk about your experiences and offer advice. Use the knowledge you have to strengthen your PLN.

5. Designate time to interact. Not only through discussions, asking and replying to questions, but also by designating time to read and review resources and articles. Using a PLN is a great way to increase your knowledge, but you will gain the most value when you try things out, practice and learn from the experience.

Sharifa Hajjat is a certified Blackboard Trainer and founder of Arab eLearning Academy. She is also eLearning co-ordinator for Higher Colleges of Technology based in Dubai.

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