Design of Personal Learning Environment Framework for Learner Autonomy

It has been at least more than 2 years since I have put my master’s dissertation aside. I had submitted a paper about my research to a journal and I actually got some feedback. Due to my hectic schedule when I first started my career in academia, I have left my paper behind. One of my many regrets until today. Then I basically lost touch with my supervisor.

So imagine my surprise that one day, out of boredom and curiosity, I google searched my name and I started to see some mentions of my name attached to a paper. In my knowledge, I have never submitted any paper to other places after my failed first attempt. Apparently, my supervisor was so kind to submit our paper to a conference and I believed she went to present it at the conference too. I’m truly happy to see my first published paper, though it’s just a conference paper.

Here I’m happy to share with you the paper that I wrote about my master’s research on Personal Learning Environment (PLE), particularly on the aspect of learner autonomy. It’s not a fantastic paper but it’s a good start for me.

What do you think of my paper? Feel free to give me comment for improvement.

I’m always very enthusiastic about teaching and learning, that’s why I started this research. Since I’m already in academia now, I should be able to write more about these since the whole campus is my playing field. I already have some new research ideas but getting things to start off is hard. Finding time to sit down and write is harder than I first thought with my teaching schedule generally 15-18 hours a week. Anyway, I vow to get my new research started and get more papers published (while I’m still excited about my first paper…haha!).


The Evolution of E-learning

I have recently prepared this presentation but didn’t get to present it. It was for the better reason, I guess. Anyway, I think it won’t get to waste by my sharing it here. It’s a simple presentation about how e-learning has actually evolved with Web 2.0 technology today and how it affects our learning process. This is just a small part of my literature review for my dissertation.

Below are the notes for some of the slides which can be found if you view the presentation in

Notes on Slide 2

E-learning is widely used without a standardized meaning to everyone. According to Guri-Rosenblit & Gros, e-learning is defined to be the use of various web applications of technologies esp. in learning environments. According to Mayes & de Freitas, it is defined as the use of technology to improve learning experience. Some associated e-learning to distance learning but some argue that they are not the same though their functions may overlap in certain situation.Other similar terms that are commonly used: internet mediated learning, web-based learning, virtual learning, distance learning, online education. These terms may or may not be synonym with e-learning.

Notes on Slide 3

The ambiguity of meanings signifies the different perceptions among many to define what e-learning means to them.To most learners and educators in higher education today, especially in Malaysia, e-learning is associated to Learning Management System. LMS is widely used in higher education as Course Management System where educators manage coursework content and learners activities through one platform. Similarly, learners get course information, lecture notes and assignments from LMS. Generally, LMS is designed to be in educators’ control rather than learners’ control.

Notes on Slide 4

There are many forms of e-learning available – there is face-to-face learning where electronic medium is used. Then we move to blended learning where we use classroom aids such as slide projector, computer labs/laptop and then we have the now famous type of blended learning where we use mixed mode with less face-to-face and more e-learning. Mixed mode learning is the beginning of the next stage called distributed learning where distance education is gaining popularity today. With the rapid development of the Web technology today, we see the e-learning evolves to become e-learning 2.0 where the focus is more towards personal learning environment and the practice of self-regulated learning.

Notes on Slide 5

Today e-learning has evolved with the Web 2.0 technology and become what we called the e-learning 2.0 that utilizes the advantage of Web 2.0 applications in education. So, what is Web 2.0? It is the platform for the web, where people’s participation and collaboration can harness the collective intelligence through the driving force of data. It also signifies the end of software cycle as software is delivered as service rather than product.Web 2.0 promotes the wisdom of the crowd through rich user experience where dynamic websites replace static ones and syndication technology keeps people together.

Notes on Slide 6

According to Amberg et al, web 2.0 applications can be categorized into four: collaboration, communication, relationship management and information.Collaboration are the applications that allow collaborative authoring content by multiple parties. One good example is the Wiki. Communications are those that allow both synchronous and asynchronous interaction between multiple parties. Relationship management as the name suggested allows a person to manage his/her online identity via social network. Information enables collection, publishing or sharing of information and facilitating feedback.

Notes on Slide 7

The learning process actually consist of both formal and informal learning. Amberg argues that the web 2.0 applications can be implemented in the learning process, especially the informal one.

Notes on Slide 8

The ultimate goal of utilizing the web 2.0 applications in the learning process is actually to help learners to become autonomous in their own learning process.Autonomy is defined as taking control of one’s own learning and it’s a combination of direct and indirect observable behaviors during the learning process. Personal autonomy is practices within the learning process where learners are actively participating in their daily learning activities.To become autonomous, a leaner must have the ability to become self regulated and willingness to take responsibilities for their own learning, hence the more responsible the learner, the higher their motivation in their own learning.

Notes on Slide 9

This figure depicts the progression from pedagogy to heutagogy in relation to the levels of learner autonomy and educator’s control. Pedagogy is the most commonly known leading and teaching theory – it concerns more about the transfer of information and skills between the educators and learners. The purpose of pedagogy is to build learners’ confidence (especially young learners) in the learning process. While pedagogy is a way to allow educator in control of the learning process and course structure, adult learners should require less educator’s control and structure as they have already built their confidence in early school years. With that in mind, the term andragogy, made popular by Knowles, is used to explain the theory of adult learning as an alternative to pedagogy. Andragogy is about learner autonomy and self responsibility in learning – let the learners decide on what, why and how to learn and at the same time maintaining their level of motivation to learn on their own. While andragogy promotes self directed learning, there is a more holistic approach called heutagogy as an extension of andragogy in promoting self determined learning. Heutagogy concerns about the development of learners’ capabilities and competencies to learn on their own with the desire to go beyond what is required in the learning process. In another word, heutagogy ultimately promotes lifelong learning capabilities to learners.

Ready for hardcover binding

I submitted my corrected manuscript last Monday and I got message from my supervisor on Friday that the internal examiner’s satisfied with my corrections. That’s fast! I’m just happy no more corrections are needed. That’s blessing enough.

I got the official phone call from the faculty yesterday, asking me to collect back my corrected manuscript. I went to the faculty office today for collection and I have been told that my manuscript is ready for hardcover binding. I let the feeling sink in for awhile and it’s so awesome. This is truly the FINAL step to complete my dissertation. I have reached the end of my journey. Somehow it’s unbelievable that I have spent the last 2 years working hard on my dissertation and wishing I could finish faster. Now the day has come.

Nearly 2 years work in 140 pages, getting ready for final submission…

This is my table of corrections that I submitted together with the corrected manuscript. Felt like a small kid again, getting it marked. Surprised to get a Good remark too.

Just glad that I corrected my data analysis to the examiner’s satisfaction. Thankful for her detailed comments for the corrections. This analysis part took me the longest time but the end result was so satisfying. I honestly feel that my manuscript is better written now than the one I submitted for examination. My hard work (though it’s very difficult at the time) is worthy effort and I’m so proud of it now.

Dissertation corrections

I have just sent off my first round of corrections to my supervisor today. It took me exactly 3 weeks to do the corrections, longer than I expected but I did it. Honestly, the process was rather exhausting. I put in more hours daily in doing corrections than I did while writing the dissertation. I even had dreamed about doing certain corrections on one of my chapters. Seriously, the dream was so real and I remembered most of the details. I just wished whatever I dreamed on working, would work in real life. That would save me time and effort. Hehe! Let me just dream on.

Just glad that the examiners’ comments provided a very good guide for my corrections. That made things a bit simpler to do. Surprisingly, I have some contradiction between my two examiners. My external examiner (EE) thought my “literature review was well written” and  my EE’s happy that I provided my views on the issues being researched. The EE also thought  my dissertation to be “Overall an excellent thesis that was easy to read and understand”.

On the other hand, my internal examiner (IE) gave me totally different impression. I got back my copy of manuscript with scribbles on most of the pages, from front to back. Not forgetting the at least 6-page long of comments left on my examination report. Okay, that’s not actually a bad thing. These comments were very useful guidelines for corrections. I only need to resubmit these corrections to IE before finalizing the submission, so I guess my EE was being very lenient with me, leaving my manuscript mostly untouched.

All in all, the correction process has provided me a good opportunity to reevaluate my research ideas and to make it better. I really try to maintain my motivation by not thinking how hard it is to do, but just think how far I have gone in doing it. Looking back to my manuscript, I actually feel proud that I have written so much and actually completed it even though it’s far from perfect. It doesn’t matter now because my new motto “Finished is better than perfect”  is just perfect for me 🙂

Unofficial result: Pass with minor corrections

I got a message from my supervisor last week, telling me that the examiners’ reports just got back to her and soon they would schedule a board meeting to discuss my dissertation’s result. I was excited to get that news. A little worried too. What if I fail? What if I need to do major corrections which require months of work again? So many what ifs…I have been enjoying myself too much lately after submitting the dissertation for examination that thinking about redoing every thing kind of scary. Then I fell really sick. I had been staying home for the better half of last week and I just got back to the office today. I totally forgot about my anxiety over the result.

Then this morning, I received a message from my supervisor, telling me I need to do minor corrections. Apparently she just came out from the board meeting and sent me that message. Whoa! I replied her asking if I did okay overall and she answered that I did all right overall but the examiners thought I was too ambitious. Too ambitious? That’s another first in my recent life. I have never thought myself ambitious before or have I thought to aim for the highest. Weird? My best guess is maybe the examiners thought my research ideas were ambitious and I was trying to do too much for just a Master’s dissertation. Just maybe. I don’t know for now. Soon I’ll need to make a trip to my faculty to collect whatever documents necessary for my corrections. I hope the examiners’ report will be given to me then maybe I can understand what they mean.

All in all, I’m truly grateful that I’m so close to the finish line now. I sincerely hope all my hard work pays off finally. Once again, thank you all for your support and for having faith in me to reach the finish line 🙂

Still waiting…

It’s nearly 2 months since I submitted my manuscript for examination but I still haven’t heard any news. I wish to say ‘no news is good news’ but eventually I will hear something, right? Either minor correction or major correction or fail totally. Hopefully not the latter two. Am I worried? Of course I am. Always but I try not to think so much about it. Play ignorance if I can.

I also haven’t heard anything about my journal article which I submitted in end of February. I can see the status of my paper in the journal online system and it still shows the In Review status. At first, seeing this status made me excited. However, the same status is there for the past few months. My excitement is dying off, replaced by worry. Nonetheless, nothing much I can do now except wait.

Waiting period is no fun but it’s rather inevitable in studious life, I guess.

Jenn’s PLE Conceptual Framework

One of the biggest challenge in concluding the literature review process is to able to come up with a conceptual framework that clearly shows the direction of the research. It took me many months and many iteration to come up with this PLE conceptual framework to encourage learner autonomy.

*Those highlighted in grey are the focus of my research

Regardless of the learning environments, their main purpose is to facilitate the teaching and learning process. Typically, in the physical, virtual, or blended learning environments, the role of educator or facilitator is to provide task scaffolding to assist learners in the learning process. Educator decides on the learning tools to use and determine the learning goals to be achieved.  Learner’s role in these environments is a consumer of knowledge with low level of learner autonomy.

On the other hand, higher level of learner autonomy is required in personal learning environment where the learner decides on what to do in the learning process, the learning tools to use, and the learning goals to achieve. Learner’s role becomes both producer and consumer of knowledge. Scaffolding is still essential to assist the learning process, although it may come from peers and experts in the community of practice instead of only from the educator. Being autonomous empowered the learners to set their own learning goals and be accountable to achieve them. Better learning experience is achieved when learners are personally motivated in the learning process where they can choose what and how they prefer to learn.

Learners generally perform these activities in the learning process: browse, collect, network, create, share, and communicate, regardless of learning environments. The difference is in the decision making process, either by the learners in the personal learning environment or by the educators in other learning environments. Similarly, the learning tools are generally categorized as non-computer mediated tools such as whiteboard, papers, etc., usually used in physical learning environments, computer-mediated tools such as word processor, projector, etc., in virtual or blended learning environment, and Web 2.0 applications such as blog, RSS, etc., in the personal learning environment. The choice of tools is either on the learners in personal learning environments or on the educators in other learning environments. However, Web 2.0 applications can easily be extended into other environments if advocated by the educators. With careful planning and support from the educators (especially if learners require scaffolding help), educators can allow the learners to make the decision in choosing the tools or the learning process in any learning environments.

I don’t expect this conceptual framework to be perfect or even the end of my research but I hope this is the stepping stone to grow my research further (if possible). Feedback is welcomed.