Tuesday, March 02, 2010


As illustrated in the table above, In contrast to Learning Management Systems (LMS), Personal Learning Environments (PLE) have the following characteristics:

  • Personalization: A LMS follows a one-size-fits-all approach to learning by offering a static system with predefined tools to a set of many learners around a course. A PLE, by contrast, is responsive and provides a personalized experience of learning. It considers the needs and preferences of the learner and places her at the center by providing her with a plethora of different tools and handing over control to her to select and use the tools the way she deems fit.
  • Informal learning and lifelong learning support: A LMS is not supportive of informal or lifelong learning. It can only be used in a formal learning setting, managed and controlled by the educational institution. And, in a LMS, learning has an end. It stops when a course terminates. A PLE, however, can connect formal, informal, and lifelong learning opportunities within a context that is centered upon the learner. A PLE allows the learner to capture her informal and lifelong learning accomplishment and develop her own e-portfolio. In a PLE learning is fluid. It continues after the end of a particular course.
  • Openness and decentralization: Unlike a LMS, which stores information on a centralized basis within a closed and bounded environment, a PLE goes beyond the boundaries of the organization and operates in a more decentralized, loosely coupled, and open context. A PLE offers an opportunity to learners to make effective use of diverse distributed knowledge sources to enrich their learning experiences.
  • Bottom-up approach: Within a LMS there is a clear distinction between the capabilities of learners and of teachers, resulting into a one-way flow of knowledge. In contrast to a hierarchical top-down LMS, shaped by command-and-control and asymmetric relationships, a PLE provides an emergent bottom-up solution, driven by the learner needs and based on sharing rather than controlling.
  • Knowledge-pull: A LMS adopts a knowledge-push model and is concerned with exposing learners to content and expecting that then learning will happen. A PLE, however, takes a knowledge-pull model. Learners can create their very own environments where they can pull knowledge that meets their particular needs from a wide array of high-value knowledge sources.
  • Ecological learning: A PLE-driven approach to learning is based on personal environments, loosely connected. A PLE is not only a personal space, which belongs to and is controlled by the learner, but is also a social landscape that offers means to connect with other personal spaces in order to leverage knowledge within open and emergent knowledge ecologies. Rather than belonging to hierarchical and organization-controlled groups, each learner has her own personal environment and network. Based on their needs and interests, different learners come together for a learning experience. They work together until the learning goal is achieved and thereby do not have a permanent relationship with a formal organization or institution. The distributed PLEs can be loosely connected to build a knowledge ecology. Unlike LMS- driven groups/communities, which are closed, bounded, structured, hierarchical, and organization-controlled, a PLE-driven knowledge ecology is open, distributed, diverse, emergent, self-organized, and learner-controlled.


Anonymous said...

hello mohamed
Do you envision that given LMS will evolve in their design through the integration of PLE solutions/tools and concepts?

Unknown said...

Hi Mohamed, so I guess PLE could include LMS. Sounds almost like real life, where you have (or should have) everything set up to fit your own individual learning needs, while at the same time also working with what is available through official channels, like school, social networks, clubs and associations etc.

ravenport said...

Hello, Mohamed,

I don't see the two environments as dichotomized as you describe them. I have been infused with top-down input in a "LMS,"(an on-line Meteorology Course) then went on to pursue the subject by reading a book on my Kindle (The Cloudspotter's Guide) to enhance my knowledge and to view it through a more poetic lense. Did learning stop at the end of the course? Every time the wind blows and I envision it as air moving from an area of high pressure to low pressure, I experience a deepening of the knowledge. Did I wish that I could control the pace and content of the information more. Yes. But I don't know if I would have worked as hard without the structure. I think it depends on the nature of the content being learned which kind of environment works best.

Anonymous said...

PLE versus LMS - Although I found the title of this blog a bit confusing - to me it seems to imply that one may be better than the other - I believe that the PLE and the LMS can not be mutually exclusive because we simply need both of them. If I think about most students' experiences, through the academic world, they have been exposed to LMS from a young age; the information was centralized, the expectations and goals were clearly defined, and for the most part knowledge was unidirectional with a beginning time and an end time. Basically they had to adapt to the system. On the other hand, with the proliferation of technology, PLEs - such as Google, Twitter, Facebook, My Space, YouTube, SlideShare, Google,...etc - are now very much accessible to users, and the beauty is that users do not have to comply to any system, they can select their own learning systems/topics/time and develop their own community, and network of knowledge sharing. In essence PLEs are flexible and completely "user-centric".
In conclusion, I believe that ideally incorporating some level of PLE into the LMS would be very appealing and beneficial to today's end users.

Lina said...

Hi, Mohamed
It seems that LMS is more like a traditional classroom which has a stable envrionment for studying, and knowledge is the context of textbooks. Teachers focus on the whole class rather than personal needs.In another words, teachers control the envrionment.However, once students apply blogs in studying, it seems they apply PLE in studying.

crookedknits said...

I have a great appreciation for your differentiation between the LMS and PLEs. In my current course of study, my school utilizes Blackboard, which I find very limiting. As you said, once the course is over, I cannot continue to have access to the resources that were at hand. No more videos, links, or even documentation of my submissions and online presence. It seems that professors put a lot of time and effort into making all of this available to us, only for us to lose it all at the end of the semester. Had my school used an alternate method for our learning community, us students may have the opportunity to make use of these resources throughout our studies and later in our professional lives.

Richard Jones said...

Nice blog. The difference you have mention is totally except-able, But I would like to add some more line in your article.
PLE and LMS both are important in daily life, one can not be exclusive and it will be not a good idea to give more preference to one than other. Both plays a major role. From LMS you will get aware about theory and rules and PLE will help to build your potential. learning management system is a traditional classroom which is having more stable environment, and in other word in school teacher has to control the environment, and to control first they have to create the environment.

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