Material matters for learning in virtual networks: a case study of a professional learning programme hosted in a Google+ online community

Aileen Ackland (Lead / Corresponding author), Ann Swinney

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    In this paper, we draw on Actor–Network Theories (ANT) to explore how material components functioned to create gateways and barriers to a virtual learning network in the context of a professional development module in higher education. Students were practitioners engaged in family learning in different professional roles and contexts. The data comprised postings in the Google+ community, email correspondence, meeting notes, feedback submitted at the final workshop and post-module evaluation forms. Our analysis revealed a complex set of interactions, and suggests multiple ways human actors story their encounters with non-human components and the effects these have on the learning experience. The aim of this paper is to contribute to a more holistic understanding of the components and dynamics of social learning networks in the virtual world and consider the implications for the design of online learning for continuous professional development (CPD).
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number26677
    Pages (from-to)14
    JournalResearch in Learning Technology
    Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2015



    • Professional education and training
    • Learning communities
    • Higher education
    • Actor network theory

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