Rationales and challenges of PLE

When I was reading for literature review on the topic of PLE, I was focusing on its definition, purposes, rationales, and challenges. Here are my write-up on the rationales and challenges of PLE, which I think it’s important for us to understand why PLE and how to make PLE a success:

The rapid growth of social software or Web 2.0 technology is the main motivation behind the PLE development. With the use of social software, learners are not limited to the role of consumer of knowledge (as what is happening in LMS) but the learners are taking more active role as the creator of contents and active learners in PLE (Amberg, Reinhardt, Haushahn, & Hofmann, 2009).  PLE enables the learners to construct and explore knowledge in an active inquiry-based learning by participating socially to enter into a discussion (Drexler, 2010). The learners are not only taking up knowledge passively that being passed to them but they are constructing their own knowledge in order to make new meaning for themselves. They become the owner of their constructed knowledge and they pass this knowledge around to others by active and social participation. With the help of social software, this knowledge sharing is becoming connected and interdependent.

Furthermore, PLE is seen as the organizational answer to adopt the new Web 2.0 technology development by incorporating the Web 2.0 tools into the learning process which also allows the learners to take advantage of the tools and control of their new learning environments (Johnson & Liber, 2008). In order to adopt Web 2.0 technology into the learning process, new pedagogical approaches are required that allow the learners to not only take control of their online learning activities but is able to let them control their offline activities too (van Harmelen, 2006). PLE is able to facilitate the learning process in both formal and informal ways which eventually lead the learners to lifelong learning goals especially outside the institutional boundaries. The existing pedagogical approaches to learning might not be sufficient in this new web-based or technology-mediated learning environment, which requires higher level of learners’ literacy in using the Web 2.0 technology to sustain their own learning process.

The challenges for PLE’s success are varied. Although PLE is about individual’s preference and control in the learning process, to close the gap between formal and informal learning in higher education, it does not affect only the individual. PLE involves many stakeholders in the higher education: the learners, educators and the organizational management. The biggest challenge for the stakeholders is striving for balance of control in the learning environments (Drexler, 2010; Mcloughlin & Lee, 2010). To reach a balance between them is not an easy task and it requires a lot of changes in the ways of teaching and learning, and the changes in the organizational policy to adopt new pedagogical approaches.

The learners’ success in PLE is highly dependent on their self-regulation capability, Web 2.0 technology literacy level, their motivation level in learning and the appropriate scaffolding provided from the educators (Drexler, 2010). If learners do not have the ability to learn on their own and do not have the necessary skills in using the Web 2.0 technology in facilitating their learning activities, PLE has no use to them. If learners are not motivated to use the tools and participate actively and socially in the learning process, learning experience is not improved. If educators do not provide certain amount of scaffolding in the learning process, learners eventually feel neglected and go astray from reaching their learning goals.

In today’s higher education, learners are expected to have sufficient literacy in using Web 2.0 technology; however, scaffolding is still necessary as not all learners have the same literacy level or aware of the relevancy of using the appropriate tools in their learning process (Mcloughlin & Lee, 2010).


Amberg, M., Reinhardt, M., Haushahn, M., & Hofmann, P. (2009). Designing an Integrated Web-based Personal Learning Environment based on the Crucial Success Factors of Social Networks. Research, Reflections and Innovations in Integrating ICT in Education, 1, 1075–1080. Retrieved from http://www.formatex.org/micte2009/book/1075-1080.pdf

Drexler, W. (2010). The networked student model for construction of personal learning environments: Balancing teacher control and student autonomy. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(3), 369-385. Retrieved from http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet26/drexler.html

van Harmelen, M. (2006). Personal Learning Environments. Sixth IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies (ICALT’06) (pp. 815-816). Ieee. doi:10.1109/ICALT.2006.1652565

Johnson, Mark, & Liber, Oleg. (2008). The Personal Learning Environment and the human condition: from theory to teaching practice. Interactive Learning Environments, 16(1), 3-15. doi:10.1080/10494820701772652

Mcloughlin, C., & Lee, M. J. W. (2010). Personalised and self regulated learning in the Web 2.0 era: International exemplars of innovative pedagogy using social software. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(1), 28-43.


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