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Professional Development Resources in a Network Age

Tuesday, March 21, 2017   (0 Comments)
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Heba AbuZayyad-Nuseibeh and Ezzard C. Bryant, Jr., Ph.D., University of South Florida


It is not enough to just be able to perform one’s job well. Adults should remain motivated to increase their skillset to match the increasing pace of changes within their profession. The major purpose of this post is to introduce a variety of educational applications adults can use to enhance their professional development. Mobile learning has changed over the past 10 years since the adoption of smartphones. With the improvement of mobile devices and internet in countries like the United States, not only has the speed of access to information at our fingertips grown, but also our ability to create and synthesize new information. The apps we mention below will help adults find content relevant to their profession or personal lives.

The apps featured in this post fit the idea of connectivism, a learning theory for the digital age that takes into consideration the effect of technology on learning and the changing nature of learning in a networked world. In connectivism learning is defined in terms of the nodes and the connections between them, or as Siemens (2004) defines it.

Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories. Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual. Learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing. (p. 5)

This theory recognizes the decentralized nature of learning in a digital world such as in an e-learning environment, and therefore, the changing role of an educator as a facilitator to the learning process. It also recognizes the distributed and fast changing nature of knowledge in real time; hence, it views learning as the process of connecting nodes or information sources. Learning can reside in non-human appliances. It stresses the importance of maintaining the learning connections for continual learning (Siemens, 2004).

The process of learning is also viewed as a cycle of knowledge development where personal knowledge feeds the knowledge of the networks (or institutions) and, in turn, gets fed by their knowledge. Maintaining the connection can assure an updated knowledge from others’ experiences and new gained knowledge (Bell, 2011; Reese, 2014; Siemens, 2004).

In the following section, we will explore a variety of educational applications and learning tools to enhance your professional development activities.

Massive Open Online Course(s) is a model for delivering learning content online to any person who wants to take a course, without traditional limits on attendance. It is usually a free open access platform to online learning resources, where experts facilitate the learning process to the participants interested in learning. The idea of these courses is to be open to everyone, with no prerequisites required, interactive participation, and does not offer formal accreditation (McAuley, Stewart, Siemens, & Cormier, 2010).

Examples of MOOCs include but are not limited to:
MIT OpenCourseWare

Expert Forums
Online Forums or communities provide access to individuals who consider themselves to be experts on specific topics. These communities provide an online space to ask questions and receive different answers and opinions on a topic. Below are a few options for online forums with high levels of participation.

Team Based Development
In network learning, an individual may find using a platform to set up team or class communication systems where everybody is dedicated to a specific topic. These apps below allow you to create communication channels between colleagues, teammates, and other experts to discuss content in a more controlled environment than a public online community.
MSFT Teams

Social Individual Tools
Connecting with individuals in a one-to-one or group setting in real-time can provide just-in-time access to experts in almost any field. The apps below allow you to create groups or lists of individuals to provide and answer questions as needed either via text, voice, or video.

Note Taking – Document Storage
Another way to enhance your professional development is to create notes about books, classes, talks, or ideas and store them in the cloud for real-time access across all your internet connected devices and collaboration with other colleagues or experts in any given field.
Google Drive

Video Learning
Well produced content can be found on many sites that specialize in serving media to the masses. Video allows you to introduce an expert from anywhere in the world into your learning environment. Below are some good resources to find video learning channels around many topics.
Atomic Learning
Khan Academy
Skype - #skypeathon

Audience Response and Assessment
The sites listed below are good tools to help the adult educator increase interaction in their own informal or formal course offerings. Audience response tools such as Zeetings and Social Q&A provide method of measuring formally or informally assessing your learners.
Poll Everywhere
Social Q&A

The rapid growth of technology has a major influence in our daily and career lives. In order to keep up with the latest information, it is important to consistently enhance our professional skills and knowledge by exploring, learning, and integrating technology. We hope the apps mentioned above will benefit your professional development plan, as well as enhance your integration of technology tools into your career.


Bell, F. (2011). Connectivism: Its place in enabled learning. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12, 98–118. Retrieved from

McAulay, A., Stewart, B., and Siemens, G. 2010. The MOOC model for digital practice. University of Prince Edward Island

Reese, S. A. (2014). Online learning environments in higher education: Connectivism vs. dissociation. Education and Information Technologies, 20(3), 579–588.

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology, 2(1), 1–8.



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