History of personal learning environments

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Personal Learning Environments are systems that help learners take control of and manage their own learning. This includes providing support for learners to

  • set their own learning goals
  • manage their learning; managing both content and process
  • communicate with others in the process of learning

and thereby achieve learning goals.

A PLE may be composed of one or more subsystems: As such it may be a desktop application, or composed of one or more web-based services."[1]

Important concepts in PLEs include the integration of both formal and informal learning episodes into a single experience, the use of social networks that can cross institutional boundaries, and the use of networking protocols (Peer-to-Peer, web services, syndication) to connect a range of resources and systems within a personally-managed space.

While PLE is a very new term, the concept represents the latest step in an alternative approach to e-learning which can trace its origins to early systems such as Colloquia, the first peer-to-peer learning system, and in more recent phenomena such as the Elgg system developed by Dave Tosh and Ben Werdmuller and PebblePAD developed by UK-based Pebble Learning. This alternative approach developed in parallel to that of Learning Management Systems, which unlike the PLE take an institution-centric (or course-centric) view of learning.


[edit] 1990s

[edit] 1998

Learning Environments research group of the Media Lab in Helsinki released the first version of FLE (Future Learning Environment – later Fle3) - web-based learning environment designed to support learner and group centered work that concentrates on creating and developing expressions of knowledge. FLE had students WebTops that were used to store, organize and share different items (documents, files, links, knowledge building notes) related to the study work. Furthermore FLE contained Knowledge Building tool and Jamming tool for collaborative knowledge building and construction of digital artifacts.

[edit] 2000s

[edit] 2000

  • Oleg Liber publishes Colloquia - a Conversation Manager'.[2] Colloquia provides support for a conversational and activity based model of learning; maintaining information about people, resources, and tasks. Teachers set up activities and sub-activities at different levels of granularity and allocate people, resources and tasks to those activities. Learners may also create and parameterise sub-activities. Personalisation is only possible in a limited sense in that teachers and learners may add resources for an activity or subactivity. Most importantly, however, the new system incorporates a strong element of social networking - individual users constructed activities and invited friends to participate, rather than subscribing to courses or having courses allocated to them. This was implemented in Colloquia using peer-to-peer networking, however the conceptual foundations for this feature lay in earlier educational literature, such as Ivan Illich's concept of learning exchanges and networks.

[edit] 2001

  • The NIIMLE Project in Northern Ireland begins, implementing a personal space for students integrated from multiple institutional systems. A similar project, SHELL, is initiated at the same time, as part of the UK funding agency JISC's Managed Learning Environments for Lifelong Learning development programme.

[edit] 2002

  • May 7-11, 2002: "EDUTELLA: A P2P Networking Infrastructure Based on RDF" is presented at the WWW 2002 conference. Edutella uses P2P protocols to enable the construction of a distributed global learning object network based on social networking principles. This enables any learner to publish or search for learning objects to enhance their educational experience.

[edit] 2003

  • 2003: The ROMA project begins at the Open University of the Netherlands, focusing on the use of stigmergic connections within social networks to enhance individual learning experiences through the mining of anonymised information on the pathways chosen by successful learners. This work provided a foundation for the educational use and methods of social network analysis to support learning. (Similar work was also undertaken by INSEAD in France - more details needed)
  • September: Pebble Learning develop the Personal Development Planning tool "Profilability" to allow users to audit their skills and create plans to develop these skills with the aid of embedded resources. Users reflect upon their skills and receive feedback and comments from others.

[edit] 2004

  • 2004: Robot Coop release 43Things, a social networking site based around the concepts of describing and sharing personal goals (in many cases learning goals) and then collaborating towards achieving them with others with similar goals. 43Things distinguishes between 'peers' and 'experts' in the sense of enabling connections of people who want to achieve a goal, and those who report already having achieved it. 43Things proved highly influential to many in the e-learning field, and is notably present in the early architectural models of a PLE (see below).
  • February 2004: Working in collaboration with the University of Wolverhampton Pebble Learning add a Flash based interface to their ProfilAbility tool to create the first version of PebblePad, originally called PACE (Personal, Academic, Careers and Employability). A key feature of even the earliest version of the system was absolute control by the user both in terms of choices over interface and output designs, and over what was shared with who, with what permissions (view, comment, copy, collaborate) and for how long.
  • March 2004: The Elgg personal learning system is developed by Dave Tosh and Ben Werdmuller. Initially described as an e-portfolio system, and as a personal 'learning landscape' (this was, coincidentally, also the original name of the Colloquia system), Elgg had from the beginning many of the characteristics that would become the critical features of PLEs, including social networking (based on FOAF), feeds, and a high degree of personalization.
  • September 2004: The University of Wolverhampton launches a year long pilot for PACE with 160 students in four academic subject areas. Whilst originally promoted as an ePortfolio system the inclusion of tools such as action planning facilities, meeting recording, sharing and commenting as well as linking to wider tools on the Internet the system began to be recognized as a Personal Learning System.
  • November 4, 2004: The first recorded use of the term Personal Learning Environments: The Personal Learning Environments Session at JISC/CETIS Conference 2004. At least two projects, Colloquia and the then very early Interactive Logbook, are what would be recognisable as PLEs in 2006, when this page is started. Summary slides, and very rough session notes.

[edit] 2005

  • January 25, 2005: Scott Wilson publishes on his weblog a diagram illustrating a future vision for a VLE (and which later became incorporated into the Bolton PLE project). This vision is based around a personal system interacting with a range of Web 2.0 services as well as services offered by institutional systems to create a personal environment to support learning. Wilson's model also explicitly articulates the link between the personal learning environment (and learning process) with the presentation of an electronic portfolio.
  • May 25, 2005: Scott Wilson distributes a presentation given at the University of Sydney on the topic of ePortfolios, which incorporates architectural models of what are clearly PLE systems. Again, the link between personal learning and e-portfolios is made clear. The presentation also mentions a model of verification of claims - this was based on detailed work circulated within the UK funding agency JISC and a number of organisations the previous year proposing a method to support the verification by institutions of claims of competence or qualifications made by individuals using digital signatures and web services.
  • October 17, 2005: Stephen Downes publishes E-Learning 2.0 [3] in elearn magazine, articulating the themes and ongoing changes in education and web technology that together contribute to and combine to form what is now called e-learning 2.0.
  • July, 2005: JISC-funded Manchester Framework Project ends, produces a Tomcat-based framework that can be instantiated as a VLE or a PLE, where the PLE is a desktop client that is capable of offline use, and is to inter-work with the VLE that acts as a server for the PLE. A (not completely implemented) protocol, VPTP, is to be used for PLE to VLE communications. A single PLE may be connected to multiple institutional VLEs to support life-long learning needs.
  • November 15 and 16, 2005: Personal Learning Environment Theme, JISC-CETIS Conference 2005 included presentations from several PLE projects and general discussion summarised in this audio transcript (Charles Severance speaking).
  • 2005 sees the start of a movement that eschews desktop facilities in favour of a browser-based integrations of web server facilities, as for example in Leigh Blackall's post Die LMS die! You too PLE!. While Blackall denies that an aggregation of web-based server facilities in a browser is a PLE, by 2006 PLE is regularly being applied to such highly personal assemblages.

[edit] 2006

  • March 31, 2006: PLEX Beta released by the Personal Learning Environments Project at the University of Bolton. Informed by theory from Heidegger, Winograd & Flores, and Beer, the basic structure of PLEX has echoes of Colloquia: There is a resource manager, a people manager, and activities consisting of resources and people. People and resources are discoverable. PLEX supports the setting and realisation of learner goals with the creation of learning opportunities and their transformation into learning activities. Two versions were produced, a desktop version based on Eclipse, and a web-based version using a LifeRay portal. The Eclipse version is highly pluggable via Eclipse’s plug-in architecture.
  • May 16, 2006: Connected Learning Community launched as part of the Australian Flexible Learning Network. The community is expressly interested in the use of browser-accessed Web 2.0 tools to provide PLEs.
  • June 6-7, 2006: CETIS PLE Meeting in Manchester, UK. Documents from that meeting are here.

[edit] 2007

  • Mark van Harmelen and team release versions 1 (Sept) and 2 (Dec) of the Manchester PLE, an innovative system that merges social networking services with learning maps that initially express a learning plan and are then transformed to show knowledge gained by an individual or community.
  • Aug 2007 / ULCC begins developments for Personalisation Framework (http://moodle.ulcc.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=139)
  • Dec 2007 / Forthcoming : Interactive Learning Environments to publish special issue on PLEs

[edit] 2009

  • Dokeos released Dokeos 1.8.6 BETA, a PLE that focusses on individual learning through a personal notebook, conditional surveys (go to question 3 if answered B to question 1) and an individualized testing tool with scenario and redirections depending on the student's answers.
  • RWTH Aachen University released the Personal Learning Environment framework (PLEF) (http://eiche.informatik.rwth-aachen.de:3333/PLEF/index.jsp), a PLE mashup service that supports learners in aggregating, managing, tagging, commenting, and sharing their favorite resources (e.g. feeds, widgets, and different media) within a personalized space.

[edit] PLE in images

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ van Harmelen, Mark (August 2006). "Personal Learning Environments". http://octette.cs.man.ac.uk/jitt/index.php/Personal_Learning_Environments. Retrieved on 2006-08-24. 
  2. ^ Liber, Oleg (2000). "Colloquia - a Conversation Manager". Campus Wide Information Systems 17(2). 56-62. http://toomol.bangor.ac.uk/files/CWIS_paper.doc. Retrieved on 2006-08-27. 
  3. ^ Downes, Stephen (October 2005). "E-learning 2.0". http://www.elearnmag.org/subpage.cfm?section=articles&article=29-1. Retrieved on 2006-08-28. 

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