Networked learning
Networked learning is a perspective that aims to understand learning processes by focusing on how people develop and maintain a ‘web’ of social relations, used for their learning and professional development.

Networked learning can be characterised as a process of 1) developing and maintaining connections with learning resources (e.g., with other learners, through learning arrangements, with learning materials, supported by media) and 2) fostering interactions between resources that support social participation, knowledge co-creation and value creation. Networked learning can occur through the use of ICT, but networked learning activities can also happen face-to-face in the workplace. Research in this programme is concerned with the design parameters and characteristics of social learning in networks, how it can be facilitated and the kind of spaces and places that are conducive to networked learning.


In organizational literature on professional development and in literature on teacher professional development, there has been a growing interest in understanding the role social networking plays in creating and maintaining meaningful and productive social relationships. The central idea is that understanding network patterns and the creation of social relationships is key to understanding how people develop the ability to gain access to shared recourses, ask for help and develop collaborations. In other words, it is about understanding how people develop the ability to create or participate in social spaces that contribute to working, learning and innovation.

Research in this programme builds on the principles of networked learning, learning networks, communities and the use of social(ized) media in settings of formal and informal learning and professional development. Within this programme we draw on several theoretical frameworks used to understand social learning, for instance on activity theory, actor network theory, practice theory, communities of practice (COP’s) approaches, Socio-constructivist and Socio-cultural theories of learning.

Networked learning emphasises learners as agented in their own social learning process with or without the use of technology. At the same time learning networks create a space for learning, a space of which the boundaries are not clearly defined – some may be open others could be closed. Research into the, so called, social configurations and architecture of learning networks provides insight into how these networks come to be, how they function and how they can be sustained. Learning networks display their own particular types of (open) practice and it is crucial to understand them in order to develop new theoretical models and design guidelines to support them.

Leading research questions

Overall we perform practice-based research towards networked learning, preferably embedded in organizations. The main research focus is on understanding the nature of learning ties and the configuration of social learning structures (such as networks, communities and teams). The following research question guide our research:

  • What constitutes a learning tie and how are they maintained?
  • What types of social configurations (group structures) enable networked learning?
  • What are the underlying mechanisms and design features that support productive networked learning practices and its value creation?
  • How does networked learning relate to professional development and what are the implications for management, leadership and learning cultures in organizations?


  • 21st century Leadership Skills. (NWO – Dutch Science Foundation) project on developing modern management skills to lead educational organizations driven by open professional practices, teacher professional learning networks and communities.
  • Teacher Tech Networks. Improving quality and success of STEM education through setting up regional (online) open teacher professional networks.
  • Network facilitators Leeuwenborgh. Professional development trajectory for network coaches.
  • Lectoraat Alfa Stenden. Research guidance for Innovation workplaces on landscapes of practice and convenorship in Health and Tourism.
  • Lectoraat Alfa Stenden. Informal learning and value creation in higher and vocational education together with regional networks of practice in health care and well-being.
  • SKOEM. Practice-based facilitation Teacher Networks and researching value creation.
  • Teacher’s Value Creation Stories. Project on using the value creation framework to research innovative teacher teams redesigning their work conditions and regulations in secondary vocational education. ROC Amsterdam.


Key publications:


  • Van den Beemt, A., Ketelaar, E., Diepstraten, I., & De Laat, M. (submitted). Costs, rewards and social reciprocity: teachers' motivations for networked learning. British Educational Research Journal.
  • Meijs, C., Prinsen, F., De Laat, M. (2016). Social learning as approach for teacher professional development; how well does it suit them? Educational Media International, xx
  • Meijs, C., Prinsen, F., De Laat, M. (2016). Evaluation of the functional status of learning networks based on the dimensions defining Communities of Practice. International Journal of Web-Based Communities, xx
  • Vrieling, E., Van den Beemt, A., & De Laat, M.F. (2016). What’s in a Name: Dimensions of social Learning in Teacher Groups. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 22(3), 273-292.
  • De Laat, M., & Prinsen, F. (2014). Social Learning Analytics: Navigating the changing settings of Higher Education. Journal of Research & Practice in Assessment, 9(4), 51-60.
  • De Laat, M., & Strijbos, J. W. (2014). Unfolding perspectives on networked professional learning: Exploring ties and time. Frontline Learning Research, 2(2), 72-80.
  • Vaessen, M. F., Van Der Beemt, A., & De Laat, M. (2014). Networked professional learning. Frontline Learning Research, 2(2), 56-71.
  • Schreurs, B., & De Laat, M. (2014). The Network Awareness Tool: A web 2.0 tool to visualize informal networked learning in organizations. Computers in Human Behavior 37, 383-394.
  • Schreurs, B., Van den Beemt, A., Prinsen, F., Witthaus, G., Conole, G., & De Laat, M. (2014). An investigation into social learning activities by practitioners in open educational practices. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 15(4), 1-20.
  • Haythornthwaite, C., De Laat, M.F., & Dawson, S. (2013). Introduction to the special issue on Learning Analytics. American Behavioral Scientist 57(10), 1371-1379.
  • De Laat, M.F. & Schreurs, B. (2013). Visualizing Informal Professional Development Networks: Building a Case for Learning Analytics in the Workplace. American Behavioral Scientist 57(10), 1420-1437.


  • Carvalho, L., Goodyear, P., & De Laat, M.F. (Editors). (2016). Place-based Spaces for Networked Learning. Abindgon: Taylor & Francis.
  • Sinclair, C, Ryberg, T., Bayne, S., & De Laat, M.F. (Editors). (2016). Research, Boundaries and Policy in Networked Learning. Dordrecht: Springer.
  • Hodgson, V., De Laat, M.F., McConnell, D., & Ryberg, T. (Editors). (2014). The Design, Experience and Practice of Networked Learning. Dordrecht: Springer
  • Korenhof, M., De Kruif, R., & De Laat, M.F. (2014). Leren van Aruba: Professionaliseren van leraren in netwerken [Lessons from Aruba: Teacher professional development in networks]. Heerlen: LOOK.

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