Please feel free to link to this page from your site so we can enroll as many participants as possible in this experiment, especially those who have knowledge and experience of these systems.
VLEs, PLEs and TLAs: An Experiment
According to Wikipedia, a virtual learning environment (VLE) is:
a software system designed to help teachers by facilitating the management of educational courses for their students, especially by helping teachers and learners with course administration. The system can often track the learners' progress, which can be monitored by both teachers and learners. While frequently thought of as primarily tools for distance education, they are most often used to supplement the face-to-face classroom.In contrast, Wikipedia states that personal learning environments (PLEs), 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, manage both content and process, and communicate with others in the process of learning.This paper will attempt to compare the affordances of VLEs with the nascent idea of PLEs.
Institutions like VLEs because ...
Learners also like VLEs because ...
PLEs are preferred by ...
Martin Weller: At the risk of plugging my own book (Virtual Learning Environments: Using, Choosing and Developing Your VLE. Routledge; New Ed edition, March 2007), I'll say what I've said in that:
Institutions like VLEs because:
i) they correspond with institutional procurement practice.
ii) They can point to something definite and say 'that's elearning covered.'
iii) They have a central system with which to integrate their systems. This is a massively complicated task and one the PLE world hasn't really engaged with.
iv) They can guarantee a level of provision to students.
v) They can standardise staff development programmes.
vi) They can centralise support for students and staff. This is not possible if everyone is using a different tool.
vii) You can standardise content, format, interaction and information broadcast if you have one central system. For example the discussion after the guest lecture will be in the forum. We will distribute marks via the noticeboard. All lecturer's notes will be in Powerpoint and uploaded by the end of the week to the course area. This is very difficult if you have a plethora of channels and tools.
I used to be anti-PLE but I've come round to their way of thinking in a web 2.0 world (one's blog with its widgets or Facebook page with its apps becomes a kind of PLE). But I still don't think they've addressed some of the issues above, particularly iii to vii, apart from pushing the responsibility back to the individual. There is a big debate to be had about to what extent it is HE's role to provide these tools (and teach the related skills) and to what extent we provide freedom and flexibility. More on affordances another time!
Tom Haskins categories of PLEs emphasize the flexibility of PLEs over VLEs:
- Tiny: limited to a research project
- Elongated: lifelong
- Deep: mental models
- Infinite: reflective
28.09.07: I'm currently rethinking this project after reading more of Tom Haskins writings on PLEs. What can I add?
Tom says: A PLE is not a content management system. A PLE must provide context and meaning.