PLEs and Personal Services

Student-centredness has moved into the next phase with the emergence of personal learning environments (PLEs). In plain English, it’s a shift from centralised to de-centralised service provision. An interesting and more extreme viewpoint was expressed by some experts claiming that universities should not fulfil the role of an ISP (Internet Service Provider). This could lead to the outsourcing of many IT services to external providers and students. Especially with mobile technologies we already see an increased expectation by institutions that students have their own devices and should use them also for their studies.

Another aspect is that of a personal learning space, presenting students as active participants in control of their own tools - largely Web 2.0 community tools such as del.icio.us, weblogs, wikis, concept maps and search engines. To some extent this view represents the maturing information society, where knowledge is up for grabs and knowledge production takes a shortcut to publication.

From the institutions’ perspective, it was the personal teaching environment that up till now held the monopoly in service provision. The assumption had been that what benefits the tutor will cascade to benefit the learner. Of course, this led to a dependency of students on their sometimes technically challenged tutors. In a reverse case scenario a digital divide between students is the result, where a perfectly computer literate learner cannot use and develop their skills because the tutor resists change.

Especially with the emergence of Learning Networks and self-directed learning in communities, being able to determine your own personal environment is a step into the right direction.

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