This is a question which has bothered me for some time as I am involved in developmental projects for both e-Portfolios and Personal Learning Environments. And it could well be that there is little difference, depending on how both applications (or better put, learnng processes) are defined. Of course, if e-Portfolios are seen primarily as a vehicle for assessment then the differences are clear. Simililarly if the e-Portfolio is owned by an institution or course. But if the e-Portfolio is seen as being owned by the learner, is intended to record all learning and is seen as a tool for formative self evaluation and for reflection then the differnces become more fuzzy.
I have had a number of interesting discussions about this issue recently – with Jenny Hughes, Cristina Costa and Mark van Harmelen. Jenny (who loves working with words) talked about the difference between presenting knowledge and representing knowledge. I think this is a valuable distinction. An e-Portfolo is a` place for reflection, for recognising learning and presneting that learning. A PLE may be seen as a tool (or set of tools) for not only presenting learning but for also (individually or collectively) developing a representation of wider knowledge sets (ontologies?).
Of course it could be possible to develop a tool set which supports both tasks. But there are different sets of tools involved in those different prcesses and in the interests of si8mplicity and usability it may be better to develop environments which allow flexible access to such different tools or tool sets for different purposes.
Why am i wrestling with such obscure ideas? Pontydysgu is a partner in the EU funded Mature project. Part of our tasks is to research the ‘state of the art’ on these issues and to develop and test PLEs as a process for developing and sharing knowledge. Its going to be interesting.