Digital and Open Tools and Approaches

Establishing a Personal Learning Network (PLN)

PSU Open CoLab


A learning network is any set of connections that allows you to encounter the work of scholars and practitioners in your field(s) and to then offer your own knowledge and experience to that field. Networks are symbiotic and synergistic: You learn and you also help develop more knowledge that other people may then learn from. 

For a quick view of how a PLN can be immediately useful, look at this tweet and replies

How to Build a Network

You will research how scholars in your disciplines build networks and you will then analyze the most helpful and appropriate methods for building a learning network of your own, one that will last throughout your time at PSU and, we hope, longer.

Using Twitter

Twitter is an easy example of building a PLN. If your PLN is primarily Twitter, here’s a recipe for how to grow an excellent network:


  • add a Twitter widget to your ePort
  • Following 1-10 new academic and professional (“acaprof”) accounts per day
  • A minimum of 1 simple acaprof retweet a day
  • A minimum of 1 quoted retweet a day
  • A minimum of 1 reply a day
  • A minimum of 1 acaprof tweet of your own per day
  • 1-10 favorites per day
  • Active use of the #IDSIntro hashtag (#PlymouthIDS, too, if you want)
  • Active use of your relevant acaprof hashtags
  • Use a helpful apps (Twitter for mobile; Tweetdeck; etc)
  • 5 days a week (minimum) of this tweeting. 10 minutes a day or so.

Using a Different of Tool than Twitter

Twitter might not be right for you, or it might not be common for your fields. Focusing on a different tool such as LinkedIn, Instagram, Medium, Facebook, Reddit etc. if they are more appropriate to your fields and your own needs. Here, for instance, is an article about ways to use LinkedIn for the purposes we’re talking about here. (And if you are on LinkedIn and/or Facebook, be sure to seek out our IDS groups there: LinkedIn, Facebook.)

Mixing Tools

Mixing various tools together via your ePort: a bit of Facebook, some Twitter, some LinkedIn, some blogging. Why? Because you like to dabble and your fields are scattered. This is the option I would least recommend, because it could get messy, but it might still be the perfect one for you. The easiest version might be Twitter plus Medium, since a lot of people out in the world use those tools together.

Use an Open-Source Tool/Platform

Trying to grow an open-source community on a noncommercial platform like Mastodon (see, for instance, (Why? Because you don’t trust the for-profit motivations at Twitter to help you steward an acaprof network; because Twitter’s enforcement of its harassment policies is erratic; because you enjoy developing new technologies and building new public tech architectures for the future.)

Focus on Blogging

Regularly reading and blogging about print journals and sharing those blog posts with the authors, orgs, and readers of those journals where possible. Why? Because you have one or two acaprof journals that you think are really helpful and you are willing to subscribe to them or access them daily to read and take notes, and you like more in-depth reaction rather than the brevity of Twitter.

Or you could subscribe (via RSS or email) to 10-15 acaprof blogs and posting comments on them, and blogging about what you learn and sharing those posts back to the comments Why? Because you enjoy collating websites and prefer to receive your news as targeted posts from a small cohort rather than as a constant stream, and because you enjoy commenting more than simple retweets or annotated retweets; because you enjoy having more control over the algorithms that deliver your news to your feed.

Consider Webinars

Attend at least 3 webinars a month and 1 or more acaprof conferences a year and blogging about them and sharing those blogs with the participants Why? Because you enjoy more in-depth and face-to-face interactions with people; because you would rather learn from “live” colleagues instead of from browsing through text or links.

Something Else?

Using some other process to slowly and deliberately build an acaprof community from which you can learn on a near-daily basis and to which you can contribute every week. Anything is fine, but you need to justify it in your PLN Plan.

Hint: If you are curious about how alternative tools might be useful, try a search to see if there are tutorials that give you a better sense of how the tool works.



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Establishing a Personal Learning Network (PLN) by PSU Open CoLab is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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