Personal Learning Networks, CoPs, and Connectivism

Image for PLN Connectivism CoP

As I embark on this journey of networked learning, it is important for me to reflect upon the key concepts and theories related to Personal Learning Networks, CoPs, and Connectivism. While each concept is separate and distinct with its own features, there is no denying that strong connections and relationships exist among and between each of them.

With widespread use of the internet, social learning has evolved from something that required individuals to come together in face to face setting to connections and interactions that are no longer constrained by time or geographical locations. Understanding how PLNs, CoPs, and Connectivism are interrelated can help educators better understand their roles and responsibilities in their own learning.

The image above is a visual representation of my current understanding of PLNs, CoPs, and Connectivism. In the center is the brain made up of gears to represent the concept of connectivism. Connectivism is one potential theory  to explain the manner in which individuals acquire knowledge through interaction with others. Around the brain is a small group of people who share a connection by holding hands. This represents a Community of Practice. These individuals are working closely together with a common purpose adding to their knowledge. On the outside, surrounding the CoP and the ever-learning brain, is the much wider group of people who represent the Personal Learning Network. Again, each individual contributes to the overall learning emphasizing the role of connected learning, but the members of PLN are not as tighlty connected as the CoP.

Personal Learning Networks – According to Marialice B.F.X. Curran, a Personal Learning Network is “self-created set of experts, colleagues, and resources…that meet one’s daily learning needs.” The word self-created implies that the members of a PLN have a personal interest continual learning. PLNa allow learners to connect with other teachers on their own time to seek feedback, support, resources, and personal connections with other teachers (Rossett).

Communities of Practice- I would argue that a Community of Practice offers many of the same benefits as a PLN, but there are some distinct features that separate a PLN from a CoP. Specifically, More specifically, a CoPs develop from a learning network and that focus in collaborating and learning together is more tightly focused with a specific purpose. Within a CoP, the actions, discussions, and common goals are coordinated. Communities of Practice share common values and dispearsed leadership, even when there are different perspectives among members of the community (National Council of Teachers of English).

Connectivism– Connectivism has been described as a potential learning theory, but a number of learning theorists argue that Connectivism is not a stand alone theory. Instead, some argue, it is a component of social learning theories long since established. Connectivists argue that the acquisition of knowledge comes as a direct result of our interactions with society. Kegan Remington describes it well when he says, Connectivism presents an opportunity for learners to construct their own understanding of the world around them by associating pre-exisiting knowledge with their own interactions with society.”


“Communities of Practice. A Policy Research Brief by the National Council of English Teachers” Rev. of Performance Title, by Author/Director/Artist. November 2011: Retrieved July 5, 2015,

The Connected Educator: Building a Professional Learning Network « Allison Rossett. (2012). Retrieved July 5, 2015, from

Connectivism: Learning as a Community – Designed:2:Learn. (2015). Retrieved July 5, 2015, from

Curran. Marialice. “Creating Personal Learning Networks (PLN) in Teacher Preparation Programs Through Twitter.”  University of Saint Joseph, Mentoring Conference (2013): Retrieved July 5, 2015 from

The PLP model: Research-based professional learning. (2012, August). Retrieved July 5, 2015, from

“Communities of Practice. A Policy Research Brief by the National Council of English Teachers” Rev. of Performance Title, by Author/Director/Artist. November 2011: Retrieved July 5, 2015,

Image Credits:

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One thought on “Personal Learning Networks, CoPs, and Connectivism

  1. Cinnamon,

    I really like how you used the brain image as central to aspects of connectivism, CoPs, and PLNs. That’s the key focus of them all! As your depiction expands it’s great how you show the move from the connections in the brain, out to CoPs, then further out to PLNs in regards to distance from the learner…it also would be cool if there was a way to show the connections returning back to the brain again. Very well written explanation, too…thanks for sharing!

    Melodie 🙂


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