I have to admit that I am not an expert in Personal Learning Environments. I really don’t follow much of the thought on them, not because they aren’t important, but mainly because I tend to focus on other areas of education. But when it comes to the “New Vision for Learning Management Systems” discussion, they are very important… so I want to talk about where they fit in the New Vision equation.
In many ways, the Learning Management System is the antithesis of the Personal Learning Environment. So, as we talk about creating a new vision for the LMS, are we talking about something that competes with or super-cedes the PLE as well as the LMS?
I hope not, and here is why. The New Vision for LMS is not meant to create a new way of managing learning, but rather it is meant to get rid of the current idea of an LMS totally and go in a different direction. That different direction would take the focus off of a centralized learning management system and place the focus on the personal learning environment. The difficulty of that is the personal part – what you personally choose to use might not easily interface with what I choose, or might require a lot of work for me to find. Then multiply that by 30 (or more) for the instructor. We want to begin to think of the LMS as a PLE aggregator. The main reason for this is to make it easier for instructors to track student learning and to assign grades or give feedback, but another good reason is to also help other students track each other more easily. Sure, there are systems now (such as RSS feed readers and bookmarks) that can help us track everyone’s personal stuff, but these weren’t really designed for educational purposes. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of cobbling together stuff that was made for other purposes in to a franken-monster collection of good ideas that kind of works. I want something made by educators, for educators!
Of course, even though we are working on a sample idea of how this would work (built on top of Moodle), we also envision that this will not take on the form of one “New Vision LMS” program that everyone would have to use. We would like to start seeing all LMS solutions drop the LMS label and go for the SLE (social learning environment) approach. We would like to see an SLE built on top of Google Wave… and as plug-ins for WordPress… and as a whole host of options that aggregate PLE in different formats, so that you can choose which SLE design works best for your class.
Ultimately, we don’t just want to see the students get a personal learning environment – we want to see teachers get to choose a personal teaching enviornment. Wouldn’t it be great if, someday, your institution doesn’t have to choose a program for delivering classes online? As an instructor, you choose the one you want, plug-in a custom code from your school, and then your Personal Teaching Environment (where ever it resides) would be plugged in to your school? Students would be automatically enrolled, grades would be ported back and forth, etc.? Student authentication / log in would be handled by a central program on your school servers maybe, but clicking on the link for your class takes them to your class where ever you choose to host it. Maybe it is in a Google Wave, maybe on your own website where you self-installed your own program, or maybe even on a third party hosting solution. The technology exists to do this now – we are just trying to get it all put together. Just wish that it didn’t take so long to get the first Alpha release out there!