How literature review matrix works for me

When I decided to make the literature review (LR) or synthesis matrix during the LR process, I didn’t expect how this matrix would help me in writing the LR until the day I was working on my paper for submission during the writing workshop. My supervisor thought I needed more references in that paper and I needed to get the paper ready in less than an hour. I just opened my LR matrix on PLE that I made earlier, looked through it again on the different aspects that I’ve made notes on, then I easily added more references where I saw appropriate to my paper without the need to reread all the related articles. Within half an hour, I had the paper ready with extra related references. That’s when I realized my hard work and time spent on my LR matrix has paid off.

I’ve done a few matrices on different research topics for my literature review but my LR matrix on PLE is the most comprehensive because that’s my major research topic that I focused on. I basically divided my matrix into a few aspects that I wanted to look into, so when I was reading each article about PLE, I’d take note of these aspects.

These aspects were the common issues about PLE that I wanted to talk about in my LR. All these notes really helped me in writing my LR on the overview of my understanding about the topic. The cite-able notes are the most valuable in my matrix because these notes were the ones that I cited in my LR as references using my own words. So, basically I’ve at least one cite-able note per article and sometimes I’ve more than one per article depending on what I was writing for LR. In a glance, I’ve every article summarized nicely and neatly in table format. Whenever I’ve new article to read, I just simply add another column to the table and make notes on the same aspects like the others.

In conclusion, I’m speaking from my real life experience that LR matrix has helped me not only in organizing my literature review but in saving me time and effort writing my LR in the long run. Making the LR matrix is the best (early) effort ever in my studious life.


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.

Studious Network

Following the design and development of PLE, the web portal – Studious Network that is part of the dissertation has gone to the next level. Studious Network has a new domain name:

I found affordable local web hosting service and they have quite attractive package for student. I signed up with them and paid for one-year hosting fee that comes with 24×7 technical support. Migrating the trial site to the new domain had been another trial on its own. It took me 2 days to finally get the site up and running. Thanks to the support I got from the hosting service.

I’m very excited about the new domain name. Although I have been thinking a lot on the most proper name for the site, at the end I still feel Studious Network is suitable for the purpose of the site. I’m still planning on the evaluation phase but at the same time, I’m going to update the site more often with useful resources. I wish to maintain the site as close to its purpose as possible, though it’s just a dissertation project.

Anyway, feel free to explore the new site and let me know if you think of any improvement that I should do. I welcome any suggestion or comment. Thank you for your support.

Design and development of PLE

I’m now at the stage of implementing my development to test out my research ideas. Many have wondered what is actually a Personal Learning Environment (PLE)? How does a PLE look like? A system that is unique for individual? I have the same wonder for myself and these questions have been in my thought very early in this  research. Throughout the LR, I couldn’t find a single answer to any of those questions. In my opinion, PLE is just an educational concept that no one will agree on a particular system to represent it because PLE itself represents a lot of areas.

That’s why, my goal of design and development of PLE is not actually building a big IT system that covers everything but a web portal that people can openly access and learn without restriction or boundary. My own idea of PLE is a system where people can connect, participate and share in learning. That’s why I came up with the idea of Studious Network to promote learner autonomy because I believe autonomy is an important quality that can be learnt/practiced in the learning process. I also believe that learner autonomy is one of the critical success factors of PLE among many other factors.

This picture represents the general ideas of Studious Network. A learner should always read as much as possible before he/she can be ready to enter into discussions. However, sometimes it’s hard for certain learners to know what to read or where to find the resources. That’s one of the purposes of this portal – to provide some reading suggestions. Assuming when one reads more, discussions are sure to come with questions in need for answers. Discussion or conversation is a good way to learn from each other, especially from those with more experience. When one is confident enough  to make an argument, sharing one’s writing is the best way to disseminate one’s idea and hopefully to generate more discussions and more sharing. All these processes are made easy with the use of Web 2.0 applications (such as blogs, Twitter, RSS, etc.) that are already out there. When one knows what to do with his/her own learning, learner autonomy has been achieved. Ultimately, powered by learner autonomy, PLE will improve one’s learning experience with the help of Web 2.0 technology.

Learning is a continuous process and I hope this portal can facilitate this learning process among learners who are interested to learn on their own. It’s still at infant stage and I hope to make this works. The very least (at the end of this research) is to find out what doesn’t work. 

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

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

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.

Jenn’s Studious Tools

Word cloud created at Wordle

My research on PLE has exposed me to explore on many great Web 2.0 tools out there. Above are some of my essential studious tools that have helped me a lot along the way. Probably I can’t live without them now.

1) Mendeley – This has become my number 1 precious tool in my studious life. I collect and organize the articles I found for my research in Mendeley. I read all the articles on Mendeley Desktop and Mendeley iPad. Sometimes I read on Mendeley iPhone too but it’s just rather hard sometimes to read on a small screen. Anyway, I have truly gone paperless in my research now. Proud of myself. Hehe!

2) Gmail – Email is my main communication medium among my peers and supervisor. I think I have a syndrome of checking email too often. I’m  trying to refrain from doing so nowadays. Anyway, I’m so glad that email has been the door for me to meet new friends who found this blog. Truly appreciate your friendship and help. Just to clarify, I appreciate all kind of feedback and the door on my email is always opened. Feel free to drop me any email and I will be sure to reply. Hehe!

3) Dropbox – I keep all my precious documents for research in Dropbox and sync them on my desktop, netbook, iPhone and iPad. Dropbox saves my life from copying files all over places. These files are mostly my working chapters, notes, literature review matrices and final drafts. Whatever I see in the desktop in the office, I see the same at home or anywhere with my iPhone. I can easily pick up writing from any where with my files all up-to-date. The only problem is if only writing comes easy.

4) Google Reader – my daily reading resources, always keep me up-to-date with latest update from blogs that I follow… There are so many great blogs out there that share/discuss great topics. All you need is go find them and if you like reading them, add the link to Google Reader. No worry you will miss any cool new updates in the future.

5) Remember The Milk – keep me organize with my to-do list that I can access anytime on my iPhone.

6) WordPress & Tumblr – my blogging tools to share ideas and collect information. WordPress is still my primary blogging tool while Tumblr is more like a place for aggregating information I like or think it’s useful for more people. I’m so glad that I get to know more peers through my blogs.

7) Twitter – helps to keep the communication alive… A great way to publicize new information and connecting with great people out there to share knowledge.

8 ) Diigo – bookmarks websites that I need to refer and it’s easy for highlighting with annotation too… One of the coolest thing about Diigo is I can read other users’ annotations (if available) on the website that we all bookmarked. It’s useful to read what others have been thinking about the same topic.

There are also some tools that I have used occasionally such as Evernote, SlideShare, GoogleDocs, and Scribd. These are useful too in my studious life to collect and share information easily.

Have you been using any of the tools mentioned? Are they helpful to you? Do you have better tools that you love to use in your studious life? Do share! Thanks.


What’s PLE?

My research interest in PLE has been greatly influenced by some key papers that I have read during the initial stage of my research. I especially love the work of Mcloughlin & Lee (2010), Drexler (2010) and Attwell  (2007). Their works have given me inspiration to find out more about PLE. After reading more papers on PLE during my literature review, here is my take on what is actually PLE:

Personal Learning Environment (PLE) takes the advantages of the evolution of Web 2.0 technology that rapidly growing in everyone’s daily life. Web applications or better known as social software or social applications are widely used in creating personal voice about a particular topic through blogging, connecting people around the world through social networking, conversing with peers or experts who (may or may not meet in real life) have similar interest through Twitter, Skype, etc. There are so many more ways to engage actively online with social software today that it was not possible before the emergence of Web 2.0 technology. This trend is helping many people share and connect socially in daily life that it is believed to be beneficial the same way for learners in higher education.

PLE recognizes  the learner’s need in the learning process as personal and individual experience. Hence, PLE aims to create a learning environment where each learner is in control of his or her own learning goal(s), activity(s) and experience. PLE promotes self-regulation and learner autonomy, bridging the gap between informal and formal learning, eventually promoting lifelong learning that crosses the boundary of higher education institution.

I’m actually growing to love this topic as I see a lot of potential in changing the way we learn today in higher education. Especially with the use of Web 2.0 technology, that potential is endless. However, there are a lot of criteria or factors to take into consideration before we could make the leap to the next level.

More about the rationales and challenges of PLE next.


Attwell, G. (2007). Personal Learning Environments-the future of eLearning? eLearning papers, 2(1), 1–7. Citeseer. Retrieved from

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

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.