Photo: Hanna Tuvesson (private)

What do “all about guinea pigs”, “nursing researchers”, “living in Spain” and “vegetarian cooking” have in common? They are all examples of informal communities that contribute to my learning in different areas. The newest addition is the “all about guinea pigs”.

One month ago my family decided to buy a couple of guinea pigs. None of us have any experience in guinea pigs and are beginners in this area. Fortunately I quickly found an online community comprised of people who share an interest in guinea pigs and wants to share experiences, answer questions and contribute to learning on various levels for its community members! In just a couple of weeks I learned the basics (and a lot of other useful tips and tricks) regarding guinea pigs and how to take care of them. Through Youtube I learned how to build my own cage from the basis of a baby cot and the meaning of different sounds made by guinea pigs. One week ago the two “pigs” came into our home and we now have the opportunity to also get some practical learning experiences.

Are these various online communities considered Personal Learning Networks? Personal Learning Networks (PLN) have been described to be informal learning networks, based on interaction and deriving knowledge in a personal learning environment (Oddone, 2019). “Personal learning networks are the sum of all social capital and connections that result in the development and facilitation of a personal learning environment” (Veletsianos, 2010, p. 125). Kay Oddone mean that PLNs can be used to guide your learning, answer questions and share own experiences and knowledge. In addition, PLNs today has expanded connections thanks to technology. In PLNs the learner work independently but with in-put from others (Oddone, 2019).

Following these lines of thoughts, I believe the communities I am part of could be considered a PLN. Reflecting upon this I would even suggest that most of my “online life” is based around different PLNs. For all areas of interest in my life, I have some sort of PLN where I interact, share and learn new skills/understandings. It almost feels like my whole life is one big PLN! 🙂

Apart from these communities, I also use PLNs as a professional. Both as a researcher and a teacher, but these networks are not as well developed in regard of learning as my personal networks. Haas and colleagues (2020) suggest that faculty members must develop their own PLNs in order to drive their own development and guide the students to do the same. I believe my professional learning networks can be better maintained and there is need for development. An article search with the words “Personal learning Network” in PubMed (title/abstract search) resulted in three results. I was very surprised to get so few results. Maybe this is related to a lack of research studies in this area in general (although many other resources on PLNs are available for example blogs and conference papers) or specifically in the medicine/health discipline?

Going through the literature concerning strategies and recommendations for how to develop your PLNs, I came across some suggestions I would like to share with you. I am happy to notice that I already practice and use several of these strategies and recommendations, but there is, of course, room for improvements.

Strategies for developing a PLN according to Veletsianos (2010);

Immerse yourself: understand how various tools work and how they can be utilized for example tools for blogging, photo- and video sharing
Learn to read social media: use suitable social media search engines and tools as traditional search engines are not ideal for social media
Strengthen your PLNs: interact, give feedback and contribute in order to strengthen human connections in PLNs
Know your connections: Understand the background and skills of those in your networks so that you can benefit from their expertise if needed
(Veletsianos, 2010).

Recommendations from Haas and colleagues (2020);

Set specific goals: Intention and authenticity will contribute to achieving goals
Harness the power of Web 2.0 and social media with a professional Twitter profile
– Use PLNs to collaborate on research and scholarly work
Intentionally foster relationships, locally, nationally and internationally
Generate a virtual, asynchronous journal club: discuss implications of research
Share content presented at conferences
Access, contribute and share resources developed by others

Haas, MR., Haley, K., Nagappan, BS., Ankel, F., Swaminathan, A., & Santen, SA. (2020). The connected educator: personal learning networks. Clin Teach, E-pub ahead of print. Doi: 10.1111/tct.13146

Oddone, K. (2019). PLNs theory and practice. Retrieved from:

Veletsianos, G. (2010). Emerging technologies in distance education. Edmonton: Athabasca University Press. Retrieved from:

Topic 3 – On the notion of Personal Learning Networks