The Power of Networking

“Assessments do not reflect real world tasks that students will encounter in the real world…if we don’t re think our approaches to assessment we will continue to educate the followers of yesterday rather than the leaders of tomorrow” (Eric Mazur, 2015).

What is Networking?

  • A network consists of two or more nodes linked in order to share resources.
  • A node is a connection point to a larger network.
  • Learning communities are nodes.
  • Courses need to be redesigned to reflect networked economy.
  • A network, in the context of an ecology and communities, is how we organize our learning communities…resulting in a personal learning network.


Advantages of Networking

Timmis et al (2016:455) identified that digital technologies offer significant opportunities for more engaging pedagogy and for new forms of assessment. Networking has the possibility to transform how students learn and receive feedback, thus impacting on the overall assessment of an assignment. It could encourage students to generate networks across areas of interest, thus developing skill levels and preparing students for employment. This concept is supported by Howard Rheingold (2010) who expresses the opinion that understanding how networks operate is an essential 21st century literacy skill.

Networking will also provide students with the opportunity to collaborate with the tutors and peers outside the classroom environment. Moreover, networking may provide students with feedback and ideas from topic experts, professionals and fellow students. Ultimately creating a rhizomic system which Coyne (2008:3) describes as ‘a dynamic and unresolved, growing and anarchic, in the manner of a rich and open ended conversation.’

One of the strengths of creating an online network is highlighted by Kop and Hill (2008) who state that the learner will be at the centre of the learning experience, rather than the tutor and the institution. Manuel Lima (2012) also explored the evolving organisation of knowledge and information which results in the shift from hierarchical structures to distributed lateral networks. Based on these notions, it could be suggested that when a learner breaks free from the institution and is engaged in creating their own learning networks, a more meaningful understanding will transpire. This suggestion is supported by Siemens (2008: cited in Kop and Hill, 2008:3) who states, ‘learning and knowledge are said to rest in diversity of opinions.’


Technical advances of the internet have increased opportunities for participation and collaboration in online environments. The advances in social networking technologies have promoted new opportunities for communication and global interaction with a variety of people. Thus, enabling learners to connect to one another in networks of their own making. Rheingold (2010) asserts that people can become connected in a virtual community by a single idea. This community is described by Siemen’s (2004: cited in Kop and Hill, 2008:9) as ‘the clustering of similar interests that allow for interaction, sharing, dialoguing and thinking together’.



Of course there are criticisms of networking;

  • Verhagen (2006) argues that learning cannot reside in non-human appliances.
  • Timmis et al (2016) is also keen to highlight that developments in social networking bring with them issues such as data management and sharing.
  • There is a possibility networking may change the role of a teacher.
  • Extensive requirements are placed on the learner – they need to be capable of and self-motivated to engage in self -directed learning.



Bates, A. W. (Tony). (2015). MOOCs. Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning (pp. 149–186). Retrieved from [Last Accessed; 2nd March 2017].

Coyne, R. (2008). The Net Effect: design, the rhizome, and complex philosophy. The Journal of Policy, Planning and Future Studies. Vol. 40. (6). pp.552-562. [Last Accessed; 1st March 2017].

Lima, M. (2012). The Power of Networks: knowledge in an age of infinite interconnection. Available Online at: [Last Accessed; 1st March 2017].

Kop, R and Hill, A. (2008). Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past? International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, Vol 9, (3), pp. 1-13, Education Source, EBSCOhost. [Last Accessed; 27 February 2017].

Rheingold, H. (2010). Attention, and Other 21st-Century Social Media Literacies. EDUCAUSE Review. Vol.45, (5), pp.14-16.

Timmis, S., Broadfoot, P., Sutherland, R., and Oldfield, A. (2016). Rethinking Assessment in a Digital Age: opportunities, challenges and risks. British Educational Research Journal. Vol.42, (3), pp.454-476. [Last Accessed; 2nd March 2017].

Verhagen, P. (2006). Connectivism: A new learning theory? Surf e-learning themasite. Available Online at: [Last Accessed; 2nd March 2017].