Monday, November 14, 2011

Why Consider Adding an Online Professional Learning Community (PLC)?

Why Consider Adding an online PLC to a Professional Association?

 A professional association is an organization formed to unite and inform individuals who work in the same occupation or field. There are many advantages to joining associations. Whatever your discipline or area of interest, professional associations offer a way to keep in touch with policy developments and offer opportunities to  network with others who share your interests through conferences, resources and forums. What many associations don’t do is provide a way to take the new information and connections being made and offer a way for members to apply it to real life. How many times have individuals walked away from a conference or workshop, excited to get started applying the new information and becoming frustrated because they were unsure how to get started? Or gave up after hitting their first obstacle because there was no support? Taking it to the next step and learning how to apply new knowledge can be accomplished within an online professional learning community or PLC.

What is an online Professional Learning Community?

A PLC can be defined as a community of professionals who come together with a shared vision, similar to an association, but collaborate by engaging in activities, discussions and practice online. PLC’s can provide benefits such as opportunities to:

  • Share experiences or personal practice
  • Help each other solve real problems that are relevant to members in the community
  • Learn new skills and increase knowledge base
  • Reflect, interpret and hear other perspectives
  • Develop social experiences and build a sense of community
  • Provide feedback and support

For example, instead of just going to a conference and passively listening, a PLC can provide continuing discussion and evaluation of the content and allow members to discover new ways to apply this information; long after the conference is over. Through the variety of perspectives, community members actively analyze, evaluate and apply knowledge to create new awareness and understandings that are shared with the community and is referred to as “active” learning. Active learning enables members to become “creators of knowledge”, another reason to consider adding an online PLC.