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Personal Learning Environments project

Oleg Liber
Last modified 19 Oct, 2005
Published 19 Oct, 2005
CETIS has a new JISC project focussing on Personal Learning Environments.

The last five years have seen a major uptake of VLEs (or LMSs) by colleges and universities, as they seek to widen access to and enhance their educational provision. The vast majority of these are large, institutional systems, which are predominantly course based, and are integrated into the administrative procedures of the institution in question. Course descriptions and class lists have to be synchronised with student record systems or MIS, as do course grades. However, the core of these systems has to be concerned with teaching and learning, and they typically provide support for content distribution, discussion and assessment, mainly through proprietary tools. As service oriented approaches become more widespread, it is becoming possible for VLEs to provide access to a wider range of tools and alternatives. However the prevailing metaphor used by VLEs is still that of the classroom - a place that people go to to be taught. Typically the tools and technologies used in VLEs are not those used outside the VLE - they have their own content management and their own messaging systems.

There are several problems with this approach of which two are of most concern.

• VLEs are not easily customised to suit the needs and preferences of individuals

• As learners move between institutions, they may need to learn the interfaces to different VLEs.

An alternative approach would be to locate a large amount of VLE functionality with the learner either as a desktop application or an independently hosted portal. Institutions would still provide content via repositories, undertake assessment and so on, but learners would interact with these using their personal systems, comprising their preferred tools and ways of working. This new sharing of technical facilities requires careful elaboration, but offers the promise of providing more control for the learner in their lifelong learning journey, and reduces the requirement for institutions to be total system providers, from data to user interface.

The PLE project team at CETIS is currently working on developing the definition, scope and a reference model for PLEs. It will also be developing desktop and portal based prototypes. The project hopes to report early in 2006.

For further information about the project contact Oleg Liber at o.liber@bolton.ac.uk

 

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