The power of online professional learning communities

In this article, Martine Ellis investigates how online professional learning communities can bring educators together and support your professional development.

What are professional learning communities?

Professional learning communities (PLCs) are groups of educators who come together to develop their teaching practice and improve student outcomes. The fundamental principles of PLCs focus on collaboration, shared inquiry and continuous improvement.

PLCs vary in format, from in-person meetings to online forums on social media or dedicated platforms. Anyone at any level can create a PLC; initiation can be top-down or bottom-up.

For example, a PLC might be inside an organisation, a group of colleagues gathering fortnightly to share lunch and discuss teaching practice. More often, though, PLCs extend outside the organisation, bringing together a diverse range of educators; these groups can be in-person or online.


Introducing online PLCs

Online PLCs can attract increased participation as they are often more accessible to busy educators – particularly if they are asynchronous. Examples include groups sharing ideas and educational content via social media platforms under specific hashtags, such as #JoyFE and #SustainFE.

Social media hashtags can be used synchronously to create chat-style professional learning environment; #UKFEChat on X is an excellent example.

Many popular online PLCs offer synchronous community elements too; for example, #JoyFE runs regular Ideas Room events via Zoom, and the #SustainFE group meets regularly online.


Benefits of online PLCs

Participating in an online PLC has many benefits. It can be a space to explore ideas and innovate, and it is an efficient and engaging way to keep up-to-date with current education research. PLCs are also a wonderful way to connect with educators outside your organisation and reduce the sense of isolation that teachers and trainers can feel.


PLCs to explore

LinkedIn groups

The Society for Education and Training has two active LinkedIn groups – one for students and one for SET members – so please join us there.


Facebook groups

The Society for Education and Training has three active Facebook groups – one for those undertaking QTLS, one for those undertaking ATS and one for the wider Further Education community.



#JoyFE is a collective with shared leadership focused on "the joyful remaking of education". The group is present on X and Facebook and holds regular online events, including Ideas Rooms. Find out more about #JoyFE.



#UKFEChat is a regular chat on X that takes place on the third Thursday of each month at 8.00pm. Each event has a different host and an FE-specific theme. Follow @UKFEChat on X and join an upcoming chat using #UKFEChat.



#SustainFE is an online community for educators seeking to embed education for sustainable development. Members meet online. Find out more about #SustainFE on the ETF website and follow the group on X. 



#AmplifyFE amplifies and connects communities of practice for digital learning, teaching and assessment in vocational education. This group has a podcast, newsletter, and active hashtag on X. Find out more about #AmplifyFE.


Martine Ellis (FSET ATS) is a writer, speaker, and trainer specialising in professional development and wellbeing-driven productivity.


SET logo

Looking for a PLC? Join the SET communities

Join one of our vibrant communities to discuss and share effective practice and current sector issues with fellow practitioners.

SET Communities