In contrast to traditional LMS-driven e-learning solutions, a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) takes a more natural and learner-centric approach and is characterized by the freeform use of a set of lightweight services and tools that belong to and are controlled by individual learners. Rather than integrating different services into a centralized system, the idea is to provide the learner with a plethora of different services and hand over control to her to select, use, and mashup the services the way she deems fit. A PLE driven approach does not only provide personal spaces, which belong to and are controlled by the user, but also requires a social context by offering means to connect with other personal spaces for effective knowledge sharing and collaborative knowledge creation (Chatti et al., 2007).
The Personal Learning Environment Framework (PLEF) supports the learners in taking control over their learning experience by aggregating, managing, tagging, commenting, and sharing their favorite resources (e.g. feeds, widgets, and different media) within a personalized space. PLEF differs from popular personalized start pages such as iGoogle, My Yahoo, Netvibes, or Pageflakes mainly in six important points:
- PLEF uses OpenID for authentication.
- PLEF supports commenting and sharing of all PLE elements.
- Access control is defined at both PLE page and element levels.
- Besides a traditional page view, PLEF provides a tag view of all PLE elements. Learners can add tags in order to be able to classify, categorize, search and re-find their PLE elements at a later time.
- PLEF provides a navigation sidebar where you can (1) drag-and-drop to move PLE elements between pages or change the order of the pages, and (2) click a tag to see its associated elements.
- PLEF supports full-text and tag-based search of PLE elements.
You can see here an example of a PLEF page I created to follow the ongoing distributed discussion on connectivism and connective knowledge.
Technologies used for the development of PLEF include Google GWT and GWT-Ext that I would highly recommend for your AJAX applications.
Please feel free to visit the project homepage and test PLEF. This is a first step toward a personal learning environment framework which should meet the requirements discussed here. I would dearly love to hear your opinions on the ideas behind PLEF and in particular your suggestions to supplement this work. If you would like to contribute a short report of your experiences with PLEF, report bugs, support the development of this project, or take on the development yourself, please don't hesitate to contact me.