Developing a virtual personal learning network in higher education: Embracing complexities, chaos, confusions and conflicts

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Personal learning networks consist of formal and informal networks of individuals who share their knowledge and provide resources and advice to guide a learner in independent learning experiences (Tour, 2017). PLNs provide a vehicle for lifelong learning for both personal and professional development by enabling individuals to remain relevant in a global environment of rapidly changing information. This workshop will draw on theories of connectivism (Siemens, 2005) and social learning (Bandura, 1977) to actively engage participants in the creation of a global higher education personal learning network using social media platforms.
Session Description
We are witnessing an unprecedented rate and diversity of changes in the global higher education sector. As teachers, how do we make sense of this while continuing to bring meaning and value to our work? How do we adapt to changes in the profession, learn faster than ever before and bring innovative approaches to teaching in the classroom?
Personal learning networks (PLNS) offer an ability to develop a highly customisable approach to learning. And while PLNs can encompass both virtual and face-to-face connections, the focus of this discussion will be on virtual learning networks. Virtual PLNs provide exceptional access to diverse networks of people, resources and information, providing participants with the ability to focus their PLN to suit their learning needs.
Participants in this workshop will be encouraged to build a PLN plan (Green, 2017) across three key domains: informal learning, formal learning and social networking. We will discuss the various roles an individual can take in a PLN – contributer, lurker and everything in between – and the need to tend to your PLN as it grows and evolves. Participants will be provided with a PLN plan template and will collaborate to create an annotated global virtual PLN with a diversity of foci, spheres of learning, and platforms. Connections will be made between the virtual PLN and putting the learning into practice.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jul 2022
EventImproving University Teaching 2022: From Research to Practice - Hybrid conference - Ilia State University, Tbilisi, Georgia
Duration: 27 Jul 202229 Jul 2022
Conference number: 48th


ConferenceImproving University Teaching 2022
Abbreviated titleFrom research to practice
OtherWhat can we do to help ensure that sound pedagogical research informs our teaching? What can we do to foster the flow of information in both directions—from classroom practice back to formulating new research questions and generating data to test what we think we “know”? And what directions should new research take to best serve our students and teaching staff in their day-to-day work? In other words, how can 21st-century research continue to improve teaching and learning?

These questions underlie the theme of the 2022 IUT conference: “From Research to Practice.”

In many universities today there is still a gap between the two. Traditional forms of teaching, including the much-maligned lecture, have demonstrated remarkable resiliency, while innovative practices, such as flipped classrooms and extended student discussions, have often faced resistance from both teachers and students. These and other challenges have increased with the pandemic, which has transformed classroom teaching in unpredictable and often negative ways.

Over three days we will explore the links between research and teaching in the hopes of providing some answers to the questions posed above. Given the continuing uncertainties of the COVID pandemic, however, the format of IUT 2022 remains fluid. Our strong hope is to meet in person in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, where the Ilia State University is ready and eager to host our 2022 meeting. We recognize that COVID-related travel policies remain fluid and inconsistent across regions. Therefore we remain flexible in our choice of format. If emergent conditions prevent an in-person conference, we will return to the live, 72-hour format successfully used in 2020 and 2021. If we are able to gather in Tbilisi, we will adopt a hybrid format, which will allow remote participation from delegates who are unable to journey to Georgia.

Whatever the final format—hybrid or remote—we hope that you will join us in July, 2022 for what promises to be another inspiring and useful IUT global conference.
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