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Tensions in PLE development

July 28th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

It is heartening to see the increasing interest in Personal Learning Environments. Indeed, in terms of research into Technology Enhanced Learning, it is probably not going too far to say that PLEs have now mainstreamed.

However, with increasing research, and especially as developers and practitioners move towards implementing PLEs – or rather implementing an approach to learning based on Personal Learning Networks and PLEs, tensions are emerging.

One particular point of tension became very apparent at last weeks ROLE project expert workshop between an approach to personalisation based on a (corporate or institutional) VLE or Learning Management System providing more space for self supported learning and those wishing to empower learners in developing their own learning environment based on social software.

A related tension is between seeing learners essentially using PLEs to follow programmes of learning – be they courses or online learning – and those seeing PLEs as primarily a space to reflect on informal learning.

And yet a further tension is in the extent to which recommender systems can assist learners in developing their own learner systems. Or is the prime function of a PLE to enable individuals to develop their own networks for peer assisted learning?

All these approaches have their strengths and are not mutually incompatible. However with growing numbers of projects aiming to develop, test or implement PLEs, it is becoming important that project partners gain a shared understanding of both the meaning of a PLE and the particular objectives of any project development.

3 Responses to “Tensions in PLE development”

  1. Interesting reflections, Graham. Regarding the war among the corporate, centralised VLE/LMS and the personal, autonomous PLE, I think they are compatible. In my own PLE model ( http://bit.ly/g9QQe ), I just see the LMS as a part of the PLE, a tool that the learner can use among others. It can be good for formal and heavily coached training.

  2. Ingo Dahn says:

    LMSs provide powerful services for institution-based learning. There is no reason why these services should be only accessed from their native built-in environment. Personal learning occurs lifelong and lifewide and institutional learning has an important place in it. Similarly institutional services (distinguished from institutional environments) need their place in PLEs.

  3. Andre Mersch says:

    As you said, I also believe, that the mentioned tensions have to be in mind of anyone dealing with PLE – but are solvable.
    As for the integration of LMS in PLE I think that it is not only valuable for learners to make LMS one of their multiple ressources in their PLE. We also have to think the other way round.
    There is no conradiction between institutional VLEs and LMS producing more space for informal Learning and supporting Learners in creating their PLE. It is rather crucial to use institutional structures to empower learners for both formal and informal learning.

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