Tag Archives: ple

It’s not Napster

It’s not Napster

Interesting Examples of Technology Enhanced Learning – ocTEL

Probably the most interesting example of TEL for me at the moment is the MOOC, but probably not in the way you would expect.

What interests me about MOOCs is the hype surrounding them and a belief that they will have a significant impact on the HE sector. Some have been saying that MOOCs are to HE, in the same way that Napster was to the music industry. I am less confident in that view, but I do wonder (as someone who works in formal education) if I am thinking as a record company rather than an innovator.

The thing is that over the last few years there have been a fair few ideas and technologies that people have talked about as revolutionising education.

Go back to the 1990s and lots of people back then were talking about how online learning and VLEs were going to revolutionise education. Fast forward to today and VLEs are embedded in a fair few educational organisations (and used intermittently in others) however the VLE is in the main used to enhance and enrich an existing educational experience. You still have traditional classroom and lecture theatre delivery, but there is support, communication tools, extra resources and activities on the VLE that allow for a more personalised and individual learning experience. Rarely will you see a course delivered wholly on the VLE and where you do, it’s usually by an organisation that was doing that kind of remote learning before with paper.

In 2006 many people were talking about mobile learning (oh and still are) and how mobile devices were going to break apart traditional education delivery allowing learning to happen at a time and place to suit the learner. Fast forward again and what we find is that mobile devices are again in the main used to enhance and enrich an existing educational experience. Learners use mobile devices to access additional information and resources, as well as communicate. Services such as Twitter which work well on mobile devices allows back channel communication and sharing of resources and links. You aren’t seeing in the mainstream whole courses designed to be delivered on a mobile device. Some subject areas have made good use of mobile learning, but as with the VLE, the real strength of mobile has been to add value to a traditional learning experience.

Go back just a few years and everyone was talking about the PLE (Personal Learning Environment), how every learner could create their own learning environment, how Web 2.0 tools could take learning outside not just the institutional VLE, but also allow learning in communities and add an element of social learning. At a simple level, in a PLE, a learner would use a range of web based tools and services to create their own learning environment, engaging with learning communities across a range of institutions. Though that is happening today, it certainly isn’t mainstream.

I don’t see mainstream education using the PLE concept, yes individuals are pushing it and encouraging their learners to engage with web tools and services, but the PLE revolution that was talked about, just hasn’t happened and the term is rarely referred to or mentioned today in discussions about learning technologies. Certainly I don’t think I have seen the term PLE in any of the discussions in this MOOC.

In many ways I do think that MOOC is similar to what we have seen before. A lot of people evangelise how this “concept” will revolutionise education and cause traditional institutions to change. Personally I don’t see that happening.

In many ways MOOCs for me are an evolution of the PLE. By adding content and structure to the PLE you get a MOOC.

So will MOOCs revolutionise education in the same way that Napster changed the music industry?

What needs to be remembered is that there were lots of other services at that time, as well as other technologies, it wasn’t just Napster that had an impact on the music industry. Well maybe we should look whether it was just Napster, in many ways I think mp3 and the iPod (and iTunes) had a bigger impact. Also where is Napster now, the original Napster concept that is? It’s gone.

MOOCs will change education, the fact we are talking and discussing them implies that this will feed into how we work and support learning. But is it Napster? I don’t think it is.

100 ways to use a VLE – #101 as a PLE

There has been a lot of discussion and debate over the years about the use of VLEs by learners in institutions. There are problems and issues in providing a standardised virtual learning environment to learners, who are all different and have a variety of needs.

The ability to create a personalised and individualised online learning environment is one of the strengths of the concept of the PLE that has been discussed at length at many different conferences (and even on this blog). One of the challenges though, for learners, in using a PLE is that it requires a level of commitment and skill by learners to create their PLE. Though many learners will have the skills and ability to do this, not all do. The institutional VLE is not a replacement for a PLE, and often will be part of a learner’s PLE.

One way that a VLE could be used as a PLE is to provide each learner with their own VLE that could form the basis of their individual PLE. Familiarity will be there if they have used the institutional VLE and the disadvantages of the standardised vanilla VLE can be avoided as each learner will be able to create an individualised, personalised virtual learning environment. The learner would be able to create areas (courses) to meet their needs and invite other learners to collaborate and share in these areas. Common content could be made available to learners to download and install in their own VLE.

Technically with virtualisation it would be very simple to provide learners with an individual VLE to be used as a PLE. In the past each individual VLE would need an individual server, virtualisation allows multiple servers to be hosted on a single server. Even cloud based services could be used removing the need to host the servers on site.

The individual VLE would not be used in isolation and other tools and services could be plugged into the VLE to support the learner concept of the unique PLE.

There are some challenges, administering a VLE, though simple, may not be in the capabilities of all learners. In these instances, learners may want to share a single VLE for their PLE rather than each have individual VLE. Groups of learners in a single cohort might also want to share. Even all learners in a single institution may decide that a single VLE meets their needs for a PLE rather than having a VLE or PLE each. This then allows the learners to focus on their learning rather than managing a learning environment.

Providing individual VLEs for learners to use as their PLEs can be a challenging process, from a technical, administrative and learning process; but may be the answer in meeting the needs of learners.

Bob and Sue – VLE vs PLE

Bob and Sue discussing their perspective on the elearning debate on personal learning environments versus virtual learning environments.

But it’s not a debate about PLE versus VLE. An institutional VLE can be part of a learner’s PLE…

Time to write a blog post methinks…

Explaining the PLE

A nice video created to support a paper being presented at the Plymouth e-Learning Conference on the 8th/9th April.

From here and here.

Despite the “official” title of VLE vs PLE, the reality is that PLEs have always existed and are nothing new. It is not a choice between a VLE or a PLE, students will have a PLE, the issue is whether the institutional VLE adds anything to that and whether institutional policies restrict learners in how they use their PLE.

It's not dead… yet…

Why we can’t bury the VLE just yet…

cpr

There are many people out there who believe that the institutional VLE is dead and we should allow learners to use their own PLE (personal learning environment) and/or a selection of Web 2.0 tools and services.

For example Steve Wheeler in Learning with ‘e’s says in a recent blog post on the death of the VLE that:

The institutional VLE is led by the entire institution and is therefore slow to respond to change, whilst the personal web is led by one user. The personal web has one more key advantage – it is owned by the individual who created it.

In another of his blog posts, Steve argues that

I have previously argued that VLEs tend to constrain students into particular ways of thinking and stifle creativity. I also maintain that most proprietary VLEs have been designed by businesses not by teachers, and therefore are unfit for purpose.

To be honest I don’t actually disagree with Steve on principle. I do believe that in order for learning to be accessible and personalised for all learners, institutional services often fail as they provide a service for all which can only meet some of the needs of some of the learners. Eventually learners will be able to choose the tools they want to use and when they want to use them. For those learners the VLE will be dead.

However we do need to question whether we bury the VLE now or wait…

Why wait?

Well Steve argues that learners are able to utilise the online tools and services available on the web to facilitate their learning.

There’s a big problem with this, in that most learners do not know how to use the web effectively and many of these only “visit” the web to do some stuff.

The concept that the majority of learners are adept at using Web 2.0 tools and services, are engaged with social networking and importantly are able to apply these skills to learning is a flawed concept at this time.

Most learners are not using these tools for anything let alone learning. There are no digital natives and there isn’t a Google Generation. Various papers have been published on this subject.

From my experience, most e-learning professionals aren’t engaging with the Web 2.0 tools and services out there let alone learning professionals. At ALT-C 2008 for example, six hundred delegates who were coming to a learning technology conference, and of those less than 8% were using Twitter! Though I expect the situation to be different at ALT-C 2009 I still don’t see the majority of the delegates at that conference engaging with the very technologies that are supposed to be replacing institutional tools.

Most learning professionals aren’t engaging with the web tools and services, so will learners?

Most learners who engage with post 16 learning could in theory already choose a personalised individual route to learning and use the wide variety of tools out there. They don’t choose that route though, they choose to engage with their learning via a physical learning environment, a college, a university, they choose to engage with a learning environment which is led by the entire institution and is therefore slow to respond to change.

If the VLE is dead then  maybe we need to ensure that the physical learning environment is buried alongside. However it will be some time before we see the demise of the physical learning environment, why it’s not perfect, but it does a job.

Steve in his recent blog post concludes:

All things considered, it is inevitable that the personal web will win in a straight fight against the institutional VLE. The VLE has had its day and will meet its demise, even though its supporters cannot see it coming. The personal web is on the rise.

The personal web will probably win, the personal web however is currently the domain of a select few individuals and not embraced or used by learners. For these learners they need guidance and advice on what tools they should use. This does not need to come from tutors alone, however where do these learners start from? Where should they go first? They need some kind of starting place (and dare I say it) some kind of portal to their learning.

The VLE can be that starting point.

Using an institutional VLE does not preclude using other Web 2.0 services and tools, on the contrary, a VLE and web tools can be used together. For example this blog has an RSS feed which feeds directly into my institutional VLE. I use Slideshare to host my presentations which I can then as well as embedding into this blog, also embed them into my institutional VLE too. As well as embedding presentations, I also embed YouTube videos, videos from this blog and other sites too. My delicious tag cloud is embedded into the VLE to allow staff to see what I am bookmarking. My Twitter stream is streamed into the VLE to allow staff to stalk track my activity.

The VLE is not perfect, but it does a job that with the current cohort of learners and teachers could not do by themselves.

Eventually the VLE will be replaced as are all tools, but at this time we can’t afford to bury a tool which for some is their starting point on their learning journey.

Is the debate over?

No it’s just beginning. You can join myself, Steve Wheeler, Graham Attwell and Nick Sharatt at ALT-C 2009 in our symposium, “The VLE is dead” where we will be presenting and debating these issues.

Is the VLE dead?

Not yet.

Photo source.