Make the connection

Connected learning communities (CLC) can't be bought off the shelf, they are more opportunity than product, and as such are not supported by a manual.

The CLC can only be as effective as its members make it, so training, support and guidance are key. Collaboration has to be planned internally and organised to meet local curriculum demands. However, look for a provider that can offer support beyond the technical and ask for details of schools that use the system already.

The community should be concerned almost exclusively with learning and, as such, should meet the requirements outlined in the school's teaching and learning policy. In short, when purchasing, look for a platform that fits the needs of your school, rather than one that makes demands of learners that don't fit with your philosophy.

Do not be swayed by useful-looking administrative tools - these can get in the way of learning. We deliberately avoided using many of these tools as we were keen to ensure that educational outcomes were at the forefront of teachers' thinking.

To allow for future changes, flexibility and adaptability are key. Look for a system that has capacity for growth, and that can be customised and owned by the whole school. A community must be created in response to an identified need rather than bolted on to current systems and practices. If it does not reflect the vision central to the school's development it will fail.

Ensure the system is compatible with your school's management information system, as this will be vital for managing users effectively. Also, check that users can be given the kind of permissions that support the way your school is organised. Different users need to be able to see different things in a community that is responsive to personalised learning.

Have a plan for roll-out with a view to getting the whole school connected as early as possible. This way the CLC will quickly become embedded in practice.

The hub manager should be someone responsible for teaching and learning, rather than simply technically capable. Think of a CLC as an opportunity that is concerned with learning in all its forms. As with all emergent strategies, be prepared to adapt your plan in line with experience.

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