141 paper

Towards a reference model for the personal learning environment

Mark Johnson, Paul Hollins, Scott Wilson, Oleg Liber
University of Bolton

The concept of ‘Personal Learning Environment’ (PLE) is fast emerging as a significant branch of learning technology. This paper describes the approach to this topic adopted by the Centre for Educational Technology and Interoperability Standards (CETIS) PLE project in the definition of a PLE Reference Model and in building a PLE prototype. In a domain that is typified by emerging technology, discursive differences and a lack of common terms of reference, we explain our approach in identifying three perspectives on the PLE for analysis:  themes, patterns and categories. These three strands are viewed as different ‘strata’ to approach the topic, the interplay between which has led to a perspective on the PLE which has combined an analysis of current PLE-focused discourse (themes), an examination of current practice (patterns) and an attempt to define phenomenological  categories of the ‘PLE experience’ from the philosophy of technology and cybernetics. We introduce our model as the focal point for these different investigations and discuss how the model can help in the effort to coordinate technological and discursive developments that will ensue in this area. We argue that the approach adopted in defining the model has allowed us to produce an effective tool for coordination of discourse and technological design, and that the identification of categories has contributed a powerful element to our analysis – one which may have application in other areas of e-learning.

Keywords: personal learning environment, service oriented architecture, reference model