PLEs and University IT Planning

Writing a synthesis on Personal Learning Environments (PLE) David Delgado says:

The course-oriented, teacher-centered approach of the LMS was not enough to cope with this new ideas in e-learning, and a new concept was used: the Personal Learning Environment (PLE). Personal Learning Environments are systems that help learners take control of and manage their own learning, they are distributed, social and learner-centric. They are composed of a suite of tools that the learner uses to learn whatever they want. So, the learner chooses their own personal learning environment, taking whatever tools that help them to achieve their own goals. Different people have different ideas to build their own PLE.

He goes on to say “I still use my old LMS to build formal courses, workshops and communities.”

Which points to what I am coming to think is the rub that we are trying to address in a white paper we are working on for Educause on LMS futures. The issue we are looking at is institutional planning around adoption, retention, retirement of learning management systems (LMS) and the question might be how should the institutional IT plan for PLEs (or can it at all)?

As PLEs are becoming better described and understood, and because they represent a different model space for learning than the LMS, it leads me to these questions:

  • How should institutional IT plan over the next 2- or 5-years relative to LMS/PLE? Might LMSes be retired? Might LMSes be used differently to interact with PLE thinking? Should the institution host PLEs, or portions of them, or is this an oxymoron?
  • What is the relation of PLE to course design? In the spectrum of pedagogic approaches (Teacher-Centered, Learner-Centered, Learning-Centered) where do current faculty fall? Where do LMS uses typically fall? Are LMSes destined to that niche by their design? PLEs are learning-centered in current use, would faculty adoption of PLEs move them (either PLEs or faculty) toward another point on the spectrum? If faculty fall at one point on the pedagogy spectrum and PLEs on another, what are the implications?
  • What implications are there for PLEs and university courses? Does the university have any role guaranteeing student course-related data will not be lost? How are things archived from a PLE-based course? Who owns the IP? How does the learner establish their identity within the PLE to the satisfaction of the university (issues of plagiarism, cheating, etc). What about other management and logistical issues that LMS solve now (enrollments, single identity, gradebook)?
  • What are the PLE implications for certifying students’ learning? Can the PLE be used to create a portfolio to document learning? Is there a role for standardized testing? Since an increasing number of students are “swirling” (taking courses from more than one institution at a time), does the PLE facilitate making learning visible and coherent?

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