Networking and Personal Learning Networks

Merriam-Webster defines networking as “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions”.

Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of networking because they see it as a way to get something for yourself. If you change the way you view networking and instead think of it as a way to help others, then it becomes a lot easier to do, but also you will be more effective with it. Networking is an act of generosity (Ref),

If you need a job, it is too late, networking needs to start three to six months before you “need” something from it.

Personal Learning Network (PLN)

We all have a Personal Learning Network (PLN), even if we are not aware of it. Marc-André Lalande describes a PLN as “a way of describing the group of people that you connect with to learn their ideas, their questions, their reflections, and their preferences” (Ref).

Example nodes in my PLN are: Maha Bali, #lrnchat on Twitter, Virtually Connecting, and Demystifying Instructional Design.

Maha Bali ( - Maha challenges my thinking when it comes to intentional equitable hospitality - her reflections provide me with a completely different perspective on what it means to be an open educator. She regularly challenges my thinking. Plus she is a pretty awesome human too :-)

#lrnchat on Twitter - #lrnchat (pronounced Learn-chat) is a weekly twitter chat that focuses on learning in the professional context. It is a place where you see a lot of instructional designers and is hosted by Jane Bozarth (who wrote the book on social media and professional learning) and Clark Quinn (who has written books on mobile-learning in the workplace context). This is definitely less academic focused and much more corporate sector focused. If you have never done a Twitter chat before, it is a great place to start.

Virtually Connecting - VC is an organization that I cofounded to help allow for "hallway conversations" at academic conferences. It is what we call a Little Open Online Movement (LOOM) that helps people connect through both the background work required in setting up a VC sessions and in the sessions themselves. VC is open to anyone who is interested. If you are interested, feel free to sign up - it is free to watch and free to participate (you can watch the prior sessions anytime as they are all saved on YouTube). For me personally, I find that I regularly meet new people on VC and I learn by listening to the conversations that occur (I rarely join in the sessions themselves these days, mostly I 'lurk').

Demystifying Instructional Design - Demystifying instructional design is a podcast that I host. As a result of being a podcaster, I have met a variety of instructional designers that I connect with through interviews. I learn something from every interview I do.

Activity: Draw your PLN

Activities.pngDrawing your PLN allows you to see your network in a visual way and may help you identify gaps in your PLN.

  1. List all your sources of learning (e.g. people, organizations, networks).
  2. Group your sources in a logical manner.
  3. Draw your PLN.

Instructional design professional networks

There are quite a few organizations that support learning and development (sometimes called talent development). Here is a list of instructional design related professional networks:

I asked my colleague about instructional design related professional organizations - here is what he had to say:

Apostolos Koutropoulos:

I joined the ACM, AECT, and ISPI a while back. I like the ACM stuff, but it's not as relevant to ID (unless you really like the nitty-gritty of computing). The ISPI membership is basically good for the journal access that they provide (which I don't read as often in recent years). For the AECT I get the mails, but beyond reading the journal that comes out every so often I haven't really jumped in. Since these are lifetime memberships, I feel like I can jump in at any time.

I joined ATD (national), and I think this was the biggest bang for the buck (I pay for this on my own). I like that as part of the membership you get tokens for free ebooks (sort of like audible subscribers get tokens), and it's a way to keep up on things. I don't see much value in the local (I can't really attend in person, and COVID makes it impossible now).

I recently joined ALT (in the UK), this was a free membership via GO-GN. I like the ALT's online conferences, and even when I wasn't an ALT member I attended them.

I pay my own fare for IALLT as well, but this is more specific to technology in language learning (so if we have IDs who are also language teachers, this is perfect). IALLT has free webinars each month. The archive is only available to members, but the live ones are free to anyone who wants to join synchronously.

I am also in the Learning Guild (free membership). I recommend it for access to their publications and webinars. I also keep an eye out for IABL (International Association for Blended Learning) webinars that deal specifically with the subject of blended learning.

Finally, there is the Training Magazine Network. It's not an association per se, but they have a lot of webinars, a means to track your PD, and a rather large webinar recording archive. I join in from time to time when I have time.

Activity: Explore professional networks

Activities.pngMembership in professional learning networks is one way to show that you are committed to lifelong learning.

  1. Explore the professional learning networks in the list above.
  2. Consider joining a few. Some of them have free membership.

Activity: PLNs and networking as generocity

Activities.pngWhen you combine the idea of a PLN and Networking as generosity, then it provides a way you can be a creator.

Take some time to reflect: What can you offer your PLN?

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