Personal Learning Environments

7 Things You Should Know About Personal Learning Environments
1. What is a PLE? The term personal learning environment (PLE) describes the tools, communities, and services that constitute the individual educational platforms learners use to direct their own learning.... A PLE is frequently contrasted with a learning management system in that an LMS tends to be course-centric, whereas a PLE is learner-centric.... A typical PLE, for example, might incorporate blogs where students comment on what they are learning, and their posts may reflect information drawn from across the web.... While most discussions of PLEs focus on online environments, the term encompasses the entire set of resources that a learner uses to...approach the task of learning.
2. Who is doing it? University of Bolton (UK)...University of Mary Washington (VA)...Baylor University (TX)... Penn State...The University of British Columbia....
3. How does it work? Instructors or institutions generally provide a framework for student study [that] might be a desktop application or a web-based service and could include links to web tools, as well as traditional research and resources to which students can add their own network of social contacts and collection of educational resources. As ideas are generated, problems queried, and content created, ...feedback becomes the combined output of peers, colleagues, and friends as well as experts and critics.
4. Why is it significant? PLEs represent a shift away from the model in which students consume information through independent channels such as the library, a textbook, or an LMS, moving instead to a model where students draw connections from a growing matrix of resources that they select and organize.... A PLE is created from self-direction and therefore the responsibility for...learning rests with the learner.
5. What are the downsides? The process of self-directed learning requires a degree of self-awareness.... Some students may have never taken the time to think about their own metacognition or to reflect on how they learn best. These less experienced students may not be ready for the responsibility that comes with building and managing a PLE.
6. Where is it going? The PLE is a result of the evolution of Web 2.0 and its influence on the educational process. As such, the concept is likely to become a fixture in educational theory, engendering widespread acknowledgement of its value.
7. What are the implications for teaching and learning? The concept of the PLE marks a fundamental change in the role resources (people and media) play in teaching and learning. In an environment where information is ubiquitous, ...the goal for the student shifts from a need to collect information to a need to draw connections from it—to acquire it, disseminate it, and collaborate in its use.

Excerpted from the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative's (ELI's) "7 Things You Should Know About..." series that provides concise informationon emerging learning technologies and related practices. To read the entire PLE tract and to see others in the series, go here.

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