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The Road to the Personal Learning Environment

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The Road to the Personal Learning Environment
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   A Reference Model for the Personal Learning Environment   Most education institutions now manage the delivery of course content and communication facilities through a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). But VLEs are a solution to an organisational problem (providing tools and delivering content), and whilst they serve the needs of an institution well, they are ill suited to the needs of learners. Specifically:     there is an underlying assumption that the VLE represents the students entire online learning environment. Yet increasingly, students study part-time, possibly studying at more than one institution or undertaking additional informal (lifelong) learning. This means that students end up interacting with several environments, and have their online learning experience fragmented.     the tools and environment provided by VLEs represent a compromise: the same set of tools for all  –  yet each learner has a unique set of requirements, dependent upon their chosen subject, educational level, and individual learning preferences. In a Personal Learning Environment, the learner would utilise a single set of tools, customised to their needs and preferences inside a single learning environment. The tools might allow the learner to interact with content, manage and share resources they have created and work collaboratively with their peers. For the PLE reference model, we chose to examine software which exhibited characteristics deemed to be useful in a personal learning context. We looked for recurring patterns of functionality in these tools, grouped and characterized these patterns and then described them in terms of the services they would utilise. These services represent specific and generic functionality which might be exhibited by a personal learning toolkit. In parallel, we created two prototypes to test the concepts covered by the model.   The exercise has highlighted some key issues facing e-Learning providers as the learner community and technology backdrop evolves. In contrast to some of the other Reference Models being developed under the e-Framework, the PLE Reference Model maps a new domain which has yet to stabilise. The Model therefore provides an opportunity to create a blueprint for first generation software and tools which adopt a Service Oriented Architecture approach and can be extended and refined by other practitioners. Once the PLE Reference Model is in the public domain, the model may be extended to cover emerging patterns of personal learning. For more information, see the PLE blog at http://www.cetis.ac.uk/members/ple/ where project outcomes will be posted when complete. Colin Milligan  
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