A Look At My So-Called Personal Learning Network

You know the course you’re taking has made some impact when you notice changes within yourself, such as a shift in perspective or a positive change in one’s behaviour (hopefully). Thanks to my interaction with the ONL171 community, both on a micro (within my AWESOME group PBL1) and semi-macro level (the rest of the ONL171 community), I’ve noticed that the following has happened:

  • Assumptions Have Been Overturned. First, it has overturned some previously held assumptions about open and online learning (e.g. online learning = solitary and self-contained study, online learning = easy to pick, basically classroom learning the Internet version). I’ll get back to these assumptions in a bit, but suffice to say, I’ve been roundly proven wrong on both counts, thanks to the discussions and collaborative group work I’ve had the opportunity to do for this course.
  • Thinking More Deeply About My Own Learning. Second, I’ve found myself thinking a lot more about the way I learn. So, remember my earlier assumptions about online learning being a solitary endeavour? As I found out, nothing could be further from the truth. According to Siemens’ theory of connectivism (2005), learning, especially in the digital age, is no longer dependent on individual knowledge acquisition; instead, it relies on the connected learning that occurs through the learners’ interaction with various sources of knowledge (e.g. learning management systems, Internet, social media networks), and learners participating in communities of common interest, social networks, and group tasks. In short, it’s about individuals connecting with each other and with technology; it is as much a social activity as it is an individual one (Kearsley, 2000).  

    Armed with these insights, I found myself thinking: to what extent is my own personal learning (face-to-face, online, or blended) a social one? What can I do to augment the “social” aspect so that my learning becomes meaningful, not just to myself but also in a way that would make a meaningful impact to my academic context and community?

These reflections led me to consider what my personal learning environment (PLE), and particular, what my personal learning network (PLN) looked like. What does my PLN look like, and how strong was it?

PLEs & PLNs: What Are They?

Both PLEs and PLEs are based on the theory of connectivism (Siemens, 2005; Downes, 2010), which posits that learning happens when learners make connections within a network, and in the process develops knowledge through these connections. According to the literature, PLEs are self-directed learning spaces which contain tools the individual learner uses to gather, organise and create knowledge that is specific to his/her goals and needs. Meanwhile, a PLN is part of a PLE when the individual learner has a group of people within his or her virtual professional network, and the relationship with each is based on a common interest, collaborative project or research. Connections are made through different platforms (e.g. social media platforms, web applications), with the primary intent of sharing or gathering information (Morrison, 2013).

What Does My PLN Look Like?

To find out whether I had a robust PLN was (or not), I took a quiz conceived by Lisa Nielsen; based on your response to each question, you get insights into your level of engagement with various networked platforms and communities. You can see my quiz results here:


Figure 1. Taking the “How Strong Is Your PLN?” quiz.

25 out of a possible 48! According to this quiz, I’ve made some connections; however, I daresay I still have some way to go before I can confidently say that I have a strong learning network. This was further reinforced when I attempted to sketch out my PLN, inspired by what Kay Oddone did on her recent and very nicely written post on personalised learning through PLNs.


Figure 2. My very basic PLN.

As you can see, it’s a very basic network. On the bright side, there’s a lot of potential to build it up, and participating in the ONL171 course has given me a very good opportunity to do so, from working with my group members on various platforms like Google+ and Prezi, to participating with the rest of the community on openly networked platforms like Twitter and more. Beyond ONL171, I hope to continue building my PLN in different ways, and to continue to equip myself with the aptitude and skills to seek out various sources of knowledge, and participate in, create and sustain learning communities and networks.

Next Time: My Thoughts on Blended Learning


Downes, S. (2010). New technology supporting informal learning. Journal of Emerging Technologies in Web Intelligence, 2(1), 27-33.

Kearsley, G. (2000). Online Education: Learning and teaching in cyberspace Belmont, CA.: Wadsworth.

Morrison, D. (2013, January 22). How to create a robust and meaningful personal learning network (PLN). [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://onlinelearninginsights.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/how-to-create-a-robust-and-meaningful-personal-learning-network-pln/.

Nielsen, L. (2013, August 11). How strong is your personal learning network? Take this quiz to find out. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.sg/2013/08/interactive-conversation-on-developing.html.

Oddone, K. (2017, April 12). Personalised learning through the PLN. [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.linkinglearning.com.au/personalised-learning-through-the-pln/.

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age.International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1), 3-10.


3 thoughts on “A Look At My So-Called Personal Learning Network

  1. Dear Shin Dee,

    I really inspired by the way you wrote your blog. Your self-review on “How strong is your PLN?” makes me feel like doing an assessment on my own PLN too. I suppose I’m in the same region as you, where I’m starting to make connections, more work is definitely needed for me too. Thanks for your sharing!


  2. Thanks for sharing, Shin Dee. This is indeed a good start for us to start building our PLN. I think it will be good to stay connected even with our our PBL group and maybe there’s a chance to collaborate with them. All the best!


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