JISC e-Learning Focus - What is a PLE? The future or just another buzz word?
It's good to see a continued discussion on the premise of the PLE - personal learning environement. Traditional institutional learning environments (a.k.a Virtual Learning Environments or VLEs represented primarily by the LMS - learning management system) are monolithic, boxed environments designed for institutional management needs, not student needs. "They are administration environments not learning environments." This discussion asks:
" Are systems like these an inevitable compromise to the perennial problem of education: too many students and not enough teachers? Can we re-examine the online learning experience and design a set of tools which more fully support the learning process and are more closely matched to the needs of individual learners?"
Specifically can we allow the learner greater control over their learning experience, povide them with a PLE that they can "use to interact with a number of different institutions throughout their studies."
Here's some points that came out of the discssions, with my comments in italic:
There were opposing views on current institutional systems, from those who thought they were straightjackets, stifling learning, to those who realised their value in facilitating large scale online provision of learning materials.
This sidesteps the issue - yes the existing systems are stifling and sure they facilitate learning - but they don't facilitate continuous, mobile learning from the persepctive of the learner's needs beyond an individual instutuion (or even course)
There was some concern that the introduction of PLEs would be highly disruptive – highlighting a key challenge: that there should be a gradual and managed transition between current and future learning environments. Recent moves by BlackBoard and other VLE providers to open up their systems and adopt a more Service based approach are seen as essential to the long term prospects of learning systems more closely matched to learners needs.
Disruption is bad thing? progressive cnage is nice, but not within the same box. Why wait for blackboard to impose its idea of a PLE (which will surely be designed like a movable jail cell to be linked into the next penitientiary of higher learning. take a look at a tool like Elgg, open source, and can be linked into webCT or Moodle. The real question revolves around who will freely and confidentially "store" student generated data/profile. This is an issue larger than any one or a group of educational institutions, and is in fact a question that ministries of education or better yet the UN should be considering. All citizens should have a personal respository of their learning experience, associated with a set of interactive toolsets, that they can "port" around the web and link into educational institutions at will, then "port" back to their home base (maintained by ministry of education or world body like the UN.
There was an acknowledgement that the Web 2.0 tools and services (blogs, wikis, chats, shared workspaces) which form the basis of the PLE concept would be an inevitable component of education in the future...Failure to utilise these tools would alienate students and institutions would risk becoming technology ghettoes.
Well yes this is true. And those tools should be in the control of the students.
There was some debate as to whether the technology really matters at all. Inherent in the concept of a PLE is a move away from large-scale high-stakes assessment towards assessment by portfolio and generating evidence of competency. Is such a shift ever likely to occur, and if so, to what timescale?
The technology is and should always be secondary to the philosophy. Why are we doing this? To let the student control their learning. How can we do it? the technology allows us the opportunity. is it a big change? Inevitably, and it will call into question many existing practices - institutional control, student confidntiality, content ownership, student control of actions, content, and assessment - will it all change at the same time? Not likely. But it will change. And it will change us.