I’ve been thinking recently about Personal Learning Environments from an institutional point of view. It makes sense that an institution would provide/host/manage a PLE for its students, but it makes no sense for that environment to be lost to the student after graduation. When you think of a student then moving between multiple institutions throughout their learning-life (and with life-long learning, wouldn’t this be their entire life?), it becomes complicated if different institutions run different PLEs. Even if a PLE was available to alumni, a single student may find themselves operating upon multiple different PLEs. Where’s the sense it that!?
So what problems do we have?
- How to keep the PLE available to the student after graduation
- How to prevent the situation of person split across multiple different PLEs
- If sticking with a single PLE, how to keep it relevant and competitive with other web tools.
I stuck problem 3 in there, as that’s always going to be a problem for any web tool.
I’m not just posing the problems. I’m also posing what I think might be my solution to this.
My suggested solution is constructing a framework PLE site that exists to pull together the tools the student wants to use. The PLE will contain minimal data on the student, but then provide a range of plugins. These plugins turn the PLE into a portal for the student to access their favourite web tools, as well as selectively share some of the information about themselves with others. For example, if the student activates the google-mail plugin, their portal includes a login box that takes them to their email. If the tick a box to share their google-mail details, then anyone viewing that students ‘who am I’ page will see their google-mail email address. Likewise if the student adds the flickr plugin and makes it public, others will be able to see the students flickr ID.
This way, anyone searching the PLE for another user, and visiting that user’s page, might be able to get their email address, flickr ID, url of their webpage, link to an RSS feed of their weblog, wiki, etc etc
So, how does this solution resolve the problems?
- The PLE is only a portal to other web tools which the student can keep using after graduation. If the student moves to another institution that is running the same PLE, they can activate all the same plugins, and be immediately operating in a familiar environment.
- Because the student is picking and selecting the web tools that they want to use, and taking them with them wherever they go (as they are not owned by any one of the institutions they are part of), they don’t need to worry about their identity being split over multiple PLEs.
- Because the PLE uses a plugin system, providing access to other web tools, you don’t need to compete with them. Plugins should be easy to create (10-20 lines of xml), and a new plugin can be created for every new web tool, letting the student pick which they want to use.
Having thought of this possible solution to the PLE problem, I thought I should mock up a page as a demo.
I’d be very interested in any comments, suggestions. Anyone interested in working towards developing along this line, would be more than welcome to get in touch with me to discuss.