What are Personal Learning Environments?

Personal learning environments (PLEs) support self-directed and group-based learning, designed around each user’s goals, with great capacity for flexibility and customization. The term has been evolving for some time, but has crystallized around the personal collections of tools and resources a person assembles to support their own learning — both formal and informal. The conceptual basis for PLEs has shifted significantly in the last year, as smart phones, tablets, and apps have begun to emerge as a compelling alternative to browser-based PLEs and e-portfolios. Along with that, there has been a corresponding move away from centralized, server-based solutions to distributed and portable ones. Using a growing set of free and simple tools and applications, such as a collection of apps on a tablet, it is already quite easy to support one’s ongoing social, professional, learning and other activities with a handy collection of resources and tools that are always with you. While the concept of PLEs is still fairly fluid, it is clear that a PLE is not simply a technology but an approach or process that is individualized by design, and thus different from person to person.

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1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Personal learning environments can substantially augment the resources available to learners of all ages; can support the learning process in an engaging way that makes the learner a participant in creating learning successes; and, as noted in the description introducing this section, are becoming easier to access through the rapid spread of mobile devices. They are wonderful ways of nurturing communities of learning regardless of geographic boundaries--which, in turn, contributes to the idea and success of learning as a lifelong endeavor rather than something that is centered on what happens in an onsite or online learning environment.- paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Oct 10, 2013
  • Personal learning environments will significantly impact online learning in public 4-year institutions in the next five years. There is an emerging need for personal system of information management within which students can organize their new KSA across formal and informal learning experiences in classrooms and online. - Jolie Jolie Oct 16, 2013

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • A PLE can play a significant role in helping a student transition from her or his student role into demonstrating successful workplace performance. As a kind of personal EPSS, PLEs have the potential to afford learners with greater knowledge retention, information management, and learning structures that will support lifelong learning.- Jolie Jolie Oct 16, 2013
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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on higher education?

  • Personal learning environments can deepen a learner's exploration and understanding of a subject and might be another way to encourage learners to nurture and sustain communities of learning that provide lifelong support rather than seeing the learning communities that form within a specific course or seminar end when that course or seminar ends.- paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Oct 10, 2013
  • PLEs will impact learning by providing students with a means for integrating their knowledge across core, major, and minor discipline areas. Growth in this area can extend to integration of library resources, citation managers, social media, and communities of practice.- Jolie Jolie Oct 16, 2013

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?