E-learning with web 2.0


PLE_2_(Flickr).png - ► what - A PLE, or personal learning environment, is a customised online study space, built by and for an individual. It can be seen as a subset of an individual's wider PLN in which focused learning occurs at a particular time, usually for a limited period during a course of study.

- ► why - In many ways, PLEs represent an improvement on VLEs. In fact, PLEs and VLEs are at opposite ends of a continuum of online study spaces. In coming years, it is likely that individually customised PLEs will be increasingly used to complement - and partially supersede - more rigidly structured institutional VLEs.

PLEs can also be an important stage in the development of e-portfolios. Inspired by the social networking principle of organising webpages around people rather than topics, PLEs are actually quite similar to e-portfolios except that they are not designed for public display. At the end of a course of study, a student might select his or her best work from a PLE and export it as an e-portfolio, which would document achievements and function as a kind of digital CV to show potential employers.

- ► how - Essentially, a PLE allows students to develop a web presence which draws together all of the people and resources associated with their course of study. Students might collect:

  • their own written work, including notes, drafts, and final submissions
  • their own multimedia work, including photos, digital stories, podcasts and vodcasts
  • feedback and commentary from peers and/or teachers

In addition, students might link to their wider PLN, by building in:

  • other elements of their web presence, e.g., blogs, microblogs (such as Twitter), social sharing accounts (on Flickr or YouTube), social networking profiles (on Facebook), etc. These aspects of their web presence could simply be displayed as links, or as RSS feeds from the above sites and profiles.
  • sites of interest and/or relevance to their studies and work

White-25-400-pixels.jpg - ► where - Like e-portfolios, PLEs do not depend on a single piece of software, but can be built on websites, blogs, wikis or social networking sites, or may even make use of aggregator tools like FriendFeed, Hi, I'm, Silentale or Spokeo to pull together an individual's work from across the web. Very popular and easy-to-use aggregator services are provided by Flavors.me and Symbaloo.

Alternatively, PLEs can be built using dedicated software: e-portfolio software which can equally be seen as PLE software includes the open source Elgg and the commercial PebblePad.

- ► examples - The blogs by pre-service teachers at the University of Western Australia show a variety of blogging platforms used to create PLEs used for the duration of a semester-long course. The video on the left shows Symbaloo used by a school student to create her PLE.

- ► more - For academic and journalistic references about PLEs, see the E-learning references page.

Credits: The image above right is available under a Creative Commons licence from Francesc Esteve's Photostream on Flickr; the original can be found here.

Contact: There's no such thing as a finished wiki. Like all wikis, this one is a work in progress and there will be changes from time to time in organisation, content and links. However, don't let that stop you from contacting me at any time with comments, suggestions or questions.