Skip to main content

Open online spaces of professional learning: Context, personalisation and facilitation


This article explores professional learning through online discussion events as sites of communities of learning. The rise of distributed work places and networked labour coincides with a privileging of individualised professional learning. Alongside this focus on the individual has been a growth in informal online learning communities and networks for professional learning and professional identity development. An example of these learning communities can be seen in the synchronous discussion events held on Twitter. This article examines a sample of these events where the interplay of personal learning and the collaborative components of professional learning and practice are seen, and discusses how facilitation is performed through a distributed assemblage of technologies and the collective of event participants. These Twitter based events demonstrate competing forces of newer technologies and related practices of social and collaborative learning against a rhetoric of learner autonomy and control found in the advocacy of the personalisation of learning.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. Ala-mutka, K. (2009). Review of Learning in ICT-enabled Networks and Communities. Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, JRC, European Commission. EUR 2406.

  2. Barad, K. (2003). ‘Posthumanist performativity: toward an understanding of how matter comes to matter. Signs, 28(3), 801–831.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Bingham, T., & Conner, M. (2010). The New Social Learning. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Bradley, A. J., & MacDonald, M. P. (2011). Social media versus knowledge management. Retrieved September 26, 2013, from

  5. Bruns, A., & Stieglitz, S. (2013). Towards more systematic Twitter analysis: metrics for tweeting activities. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 16(2), 91–108. doi:10.1080/13645579.2012.756095

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Castells, M. (2000). Materials for an exploratory theory of the network society. The British Journal of Sociology, 1(51), 5–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Conradie, P. W. (2014). Supporting Self-Directed Learning by Connectivism and Personal Learning Environments. International Journal of Information and Education Technology, 4(3), 254–259. doi:10.7763/IJIET.2014.V4.408

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Donnelly, R. (2011). The coalescence between synergies and conflicts of interest in a top consultancy firm: An analysis of the implications for consultants’ attitudes and behaviours. Human Resource Management Journal, 21(1), 60–73.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Downes, S. (2014). Connectivism as Learning Theory. Retrieved August 18, 2014, from

  10. Evans, P. (2014). Exploring the relationship between discourse and a practice perspective on HRD in a virtual environment. Human Resource Development International, 17(2), 183–202. doi:10.1080/13678868.2014.886889

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Fenwick, T., & Edwards, R. (2010). Actor-Network Theory in Education. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Fenwick, T., & Landri, P. (2012). Materialities, textures and pedagogies: socio-material assemblages in education. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, (December), 37–41.

  13. Fiedler, S. (2014). “Open-sourcing”personal learning. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2–3.

  14. Fournier, H., & Kop, R. (2010). Researching the design and development of a Personal Learning Environment. In PLE Conference, 6-8 June. Barcelona.

  15. Gnosis Media Group. (n.d.). Tweetchat Wiki/By Subject. Retrieved March 28, 2013, from

  16. Hodgson, V., McConnell, D., & Dirckinck-Holmfeld, L. (2012). The Theory, Pedagogy and Practice of Networked Learning. In L. Dirckinck-Holmfeld, V. Hodgson, & D. McConnell (Eds.), Exploring the Theory, Pedagogy and Practice of Network Learning (pp. 291–305). New York, NY: Springer New York. doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-0496-5

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  17. Kop, R. (2010). The design and development of a personal learning environment: researching the learning experience. In European Distance and E-learning Network annual Conference 2010. Valencia, Spain.

  18. Kop, R., & Hill, A. (2008). Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past ? International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 9(3).

  19. Makitalo, A. (2012). Professional learning and the materiality of social practice. Journal of Education and Work, (October), 37–41.

  20. Malcolm, I., & Plowman, L. (2014). Knowledge, technology and the professional learning of localisers. Professions and Professionalism, 4(1), 1–15. doi:

  21. Marks, A., & Huzzard, T. (2010). Employability and the ICT worker: a study of employees in Scottish small businesses. New Technology, Work and Employment, 25(2), 167–181. doi:10.1111/j.1468-005X.2010.00246.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Mazzolini, M., & Maddison, S. (2007). When to jump in: The role of the instructor in online discussion forums. Computers & Education, 49(2), 193–213. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2005.06.011

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. McCulloch, J., McIntosh, E., & Barrett, T. (2011). Tweeting for Teachers: how can social media support teacher professional development?

  24. McInerney, P.-B. (2009). Technology Movements and the Politics of Free/Open Source Software. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 35(2), 206–233.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Mutch, A. (2013). Information and Organization Sociomateriality — Taking the wrong turning ? Information and Organization, 23, 28–40.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Procter, R., Vis, F., & Voss, A. (2013). Reading the riots on Twitter: methodological innovation for the analysis of big data. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 16(3), 197–214. doi:10.1080/13645579.2013.774172

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Purohit, H., Hampton, A., Shalin, V. L., Sheth, A. P., Flach, J., & Bhatt, S. (2013). What kind of #conversation is Twitter? Mining #psycholinguistic cues for emergency coordination. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(6), 2438–2447. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2013.05.007

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Robinson, M., Anning, A., & Frost, N. (2005). When is a teacher not a teacher?’ Knowledge creation and the professional identity of teachers in multi-agency settings. Studies in Continuing Education, 27(2), 175–191.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Rovai, A. P. (2007). Facilitating online discussions effectively. The Internet and Higher Education, 10(1), 77–88. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2006.10.001

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Scholz, T. (2013). Introduction. In Digital Labour: the internet as playground and factory (pp. 1–9). London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Sie, R., Pataraia, N., Boursinou, E., Rajagopal, K., Falconer, I., Bitter-Rijpkema, M., … Sloep, Peter, B. (2013). Goals, Motivation for , and Outcomes of Personal Learning through Networks : Results of a Tweetstorm. Educational Technology & Society, 16(3), 59–75.

  32. Siemans, G. (2005). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1).

  33. Sloep, P. B. (2014). Networked Professional Learning. In A. Littlejohn & A. Margaryan (Eds.), Technology Enhanced Professional Learning: Processes, Practices and Tools (pp. 97–108). London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Small, T. a. (2011). What the Hashtag? Information, Communication & Society, 14(6), 872–895. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2011.554572

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Wagner, N., Hassanein, K., & Head, M. (2008). Who is responsible for E-Learning Success in Higher Education? A Stakeholders’ Analysis. Educational Technology & Society, 11(3), 26–36.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Wang, C. X., Anstadt, S., & Goldman, J. (2014). Facilitating Group Discussions in Second Life. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 10(1), 139–152.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Wilson, S., Liber, O., Johnson, M., Beauvoir, P., Sharples, P., & Milligan, C. (2009). Personal Learning Environments: Challenging the dominant design of educational systems. Journal of E-Learning and Knowledge Society, 3(2. June 2007), 27–38.

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Peter Evans.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Evans, P. Open online spaces of professional learning: Context, personalisation and facilitation. TECHTRENDS TECH TRENDS 59, 31–36 (2015).

Download citation


  • assemblage
  • community
  • professional learning
  • social media
  • Twitter