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Reflections on Personal Learning Environments

January 5th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

I got a great email from Rui Páscoa, Sérgio Lagoa and João Greno Brogueira, Masters students at the Open University in Portugal. One of their teachers, they say, Professor José Mota, “asked us to interview someone who is a reference in online teaching and, based on thisinterview, write a 2000-word paper as one of the compulsory activities for the subject ‘Elearning Pedagogical Processes’.”

They sent me the questions and rather than write a long text I agreed to reply by video. The questions – see below – are excellent – in focusing on the key issues around Personal Learning Environments. I struggled with some of my answers – it would be great if anyone else could add their ideas by video or in the reply box to this blog entry.


  1. What is the pedagogical model you follow as an online teacher and why?
  2. You have been developing some serious thinking on PLEs. How important are they in the learning process?
  3. Do you advise your students to follow a specific  “model” or do you give them full freedom in building their PLE?
  4. Ever since the concept of PLE appeared there have been several discussions about this issue and the concept itself has been evolving. In what way has the PLE interfered in the change of elearning pedagogical models? Or is the PLE merely “a tool” that you can use and take some benefit from in the already existing practices, without real influence in changing them?
  5. Many Universities and Colleges offering online courses tend to adopt pedagogical models quite close to traditional teaching and learning, centred on transmitting contents in closed environments (LMS/VLE) controlled by the institution. How shall we overcome this traditional approach and persuade the universities to change their practices?
  6. Elearning is becoming more and more relevant, both in formal and informal education, and it is seen as essential in lifelong learning processes. How do you see the future of elearning, bearing in mind the technological development and the social and economical changes that will come along with the evolution of society?

6 Responses to “Reflections on Personal Learning Environments”

  1. Manish says:

    Looking and sounding great as ever.

  2. Graham Attwell says:

    Thanks Manish 🙂

  3. Hi Graham. Following up on your comment about learners lacking in competence and confidence, it reminds me of Gerald’s Grow’s Staged Self-Directed Learning Model, based on the Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership Theory that is tied to employee readiness/maturity. I wrote a paper on it in 1997 and plan to incorporate the model into my current research. You are likely familiar with it, but for anyone who is not, the SSDL is available on Gerald Grow’s site:

    His original article and follow up are also available:

  4. José Mota says:

    Hi Graham :-). In fact, I told them “online teaching OR training”, because there is a lot of great stuff going on outside formal academic settings.

    Thanks for your cooperation and for a great interview. This just “sky-rocketed” their enthusiasm with the activity. Let’s see how their paper comes out.


  5. Graham Attwell says:

    Thanks for comments. Will follow up on your references Tony.

    Glad to know this has added to students enthusiasm Tony. They were indeed very good questions and think that the learning that comes from thinking up the questions to ask are underrated. Think I have written before on the laziness that survey web sites like Survey Monkey have introduced into research.

    Would be excellent if the paper was to be presented at the PLE conference on Aveira in July.

  6. M C Morgan says:

    Thanks for extensive responses to some excellent questions, Graham.

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