Personal Learning Networks as a Support for Transitioning MSc Students


  • Shona Robertson University of Dundee



Persona Learning Network, Transitions, Newly Qualified Social Worker, Student Social Worker


This paper reflects on the lessons learned from an attempt to evaluate an online non-assessed module which was run for the first time in 2016 as part of a larger MSc Social Work module taken by 26 final year students. It uses a Real World Research Approach to consider the lessons which can be learned from research enquiry which yields an unexpected or disappointing response.

The paper discusses these lessons learned from initial results in the context of literature on Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) (sometimes referred to as personal learning environments). It uses this literature to explore the context within which students might use PLNs as they transition into becoming newly qualified social workers. It concludes by suggesting that further enquiry into the role of PLNs is required with a further study planned for the next academic year.

Author Biography

Shona Robertson, University of Dundee

Shona Robertson is a lecturer in the School of Education and Social Work at the University of Dundee and is in the early stages of her research career. She teaches on both campus based and online courses and is interested in exploring the use of online resources to support learners at all stages in their education and post-education careers.


Boud, D. & Falchikov, N. (2007). Rethinking assessment in higher education: Learning for the longer term. Abingdon, Abingdon: Routledge.

Buchem, I., Attwell, G., & Torres, R. (2011). Understanding Personal Learning Environments: Literature review and synthesis through the Activity Theory lens. The PLE Conference. Southampton 10th-12th July 2011. Retrieved 12th February, 2016, from:

Crawford, K. (2009). Following you: Disciplines of listening in social media. Continuum-Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 23, pp. 525-535. doi:

Dabbagh, N., & Kitsantas, A. (2012). Personal Learning Environments, social media, and self-regulated learning: A natural formula for connecting formal and informal learning. The Internet and Higher Education, 15(1), pp. 3-8.


Drexler, W (2010). The networked student model for construction of personal learning environments: Balancing teacher control and student autonomy. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(3), pp. 369-386.


Grant, S., Sheridan, L., & Webb, S. A. (2014). Readiness for practice of newly qualified social workers. Retrieved 20 May 2017.

IRISS. (2014). Building your personal learning network. Retrieved 12 February 2016, from:

Merchant, G. (2009). Web 2.0, new literacies, and the idea of learning through participation. English Teaching-Practice and Critique, 8(3), pp. 107-122.

Onwuegbuzie, A., & Leech, N. (2005). On becoming a pragmatic researcher: The importance of combining quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. International Journal of Social Research Methodology: Theory and Practice, 8(5) pp. 375-387.


Rajagopal K., Joosten-ten Brinke D., & Sloep P. B. (2010). Using personal professional networks for learning in social work: Need for insight into the real-world context. In M. Wolpers, P. A. Kirschner, M. Scheffel, S. Lindstaedt, & V. Dimitrova (eds) Sustaining TEL: From Innovation to Learning and Practice. EC-TEL 2010. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 6383, pp. 572-577. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.


Robson, C. (2002). Real World Research, Oxford: Blackwell.

Tour, E. (2017). Teachers' personal learning networks (PLNs): Exploring the nature of self-initiated professional learning online. Literacy, 51, pp. 11–18.


Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.







On the Horizon