Personal Learning Environments
The emergence of innovative knowledge processes can no longer be denied or ignored. As one consequence of it the role of learning institutions starts to falter and needs to be reconsidered.The concept of Personal Learning Environments (PLE) is based on the use of tools and systems that allow learners to (1) set their own learning goals (2) manage their learning; managing both content and process (3)communicate with others in the process of learning.
But why should institutions care about PLEs?
If we look at the model of technology provision in higher education institutions, the most common is a centralized system known as Learning Management Systems (LMS) or Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs). The rationale behind these systems is the possibility to deal with technology complexity. While offering such a product that allows for easier maintenance, it imposes restrictions on the learners and high dependence on IT departments. This is a very common strategy and an option to deal with complexity but there are more and more attempts to bring in other alternatives. In this regard, considering PLEs should not be overseen.
What exactly is a PLE?
A PLE is by definition unique. This means that at the level of universities, teachers and students will tap into their decentralized environment and take advantage of the variety of networks of peers for learning purposes. It may reduce the demand individuals place upon the resources of the organization to meet their needs (Wilson et al 2007)
What could that mean for universities?
What if universities start to take into account the personally owned technologies and use these in preference to centrally offered services? This may lead to rethink the role of universities. A shift from centralized systems to the recognition of decentralized systems means universities would no longer focus on managing the learners but rather on supporting and coordinating their learning environments. One obvious implication would be to develop the support capability of IT staff to enable them to act as personal technology advisors to staff and students, able to advise on ways of improving their effectiveness with their technologies or suggesting alternatives.
The debate VLE v.s PLE recently lead to some very interesting ideas (http://cloudworks.ac.uk/cloud/view/2162).
What are the costs to fully implement PLEs at HEI? Can we afford to ignore the rapid pace at which technologies develop and stick to centralized models? Is the idea of making the connection between the VLE and PLEs realistic?
Chahira Nouira (nouira[at]vie.unu.edu)