Purpose ‐ Adopting a personal knowledge management (PKM) scope, this paper aims to report the resulting experience of a four-year qualitative research project on the dynamics of social skills development strategies in knowledge-intensive, e-learning workplace environments. Design/methodology/approach ‐ By adopting a grounded encased study approach, the research explored how practitioners develop strategies for adapting to emerging e-learning spaces while developing networking skills. The encased study stemmed from research completed at the University of Manchester. The study aimed to gain perspectives and make sense of social skills development (communication, networking and collaboration skills) in the particular setting of knowledge facilitation within virtual environments in three universities of the Manchester city region. Findings ‐ The personal lifelong learning journey that educational and academic staff undertake in order to become skilled knowledge facilitators online is perceived and represented as a full learning cycle of multiple dimensions. Also, by identifying specific roles of knowledge facilitators according to context, the existing institutional social systems and city networks of learning were made evident in the practitioners' learning scope within their own institutions and beyond. Originality/value ‐ The paper uses a multiple-layer, third-generation knowledge management framework to explore the different emerging roles of knowledge workers in knowledge-intensive communities online, and how they facilitate multiple tacit knowledge conversion into explicit scholarly knowledge.