Monday, 12 July 2010

H800: Weeks 21/22 – Activity 2 – VLEs & PLEs


• Sclater (2008a) ‘Large-scale Open Source E-Learning Systems at The Open University UK’.

• Martin Weller’s blog posting about his own ‘PLE’.

• Sclater (2008b) ‘Web 2.0, Personal Learning Environments, and the Future of Learning Management Systems’.

These readings covered the issues which need to be considered by educational institutions and by academic staff in deciding on the most appropriate online learning support environment. The readings basically distinguish between virtual learning environments (VLEs) and personal learning environments (PLEs). It was apparent that there are clear advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. A VLE is usually an off-the-shelf product such as Blackboard which provides a fairly standard structure for online support to courses. Other models include Moodle which is an open source system that can be customised to an institution’s own requirements.

As I have indicated in earlier postings, I am a regular user of Blackboard at my University to support the delivery of my modules. I believe that students do value a well organised online facility which can be accessed at any time. I don’t believe that VLEs and PLEs should be seen as alternatives. There is no reason why they cannot complement each other. The VLE can provide the centralised framework for delivery, but there is nothing to stop individual students developing their own PLEs to suit their particular needs.

I am enthusiastic about the idea of PLEs, and the diagram below indicates how I have mapped out my own PLE. I decided to distinguish between the various resources which I use for work, for H800 and for my personal life, though obviously there are some overlaps between these. I have also added in a separate aspect for mobile learning on my smartphone, since I find myself increasingly using this when I am away from a PC.


  1. Tony,
    please could you give some information on how you did the diagram of the PLE?
    I'm writing the ECA on mindmapping, and I'd like to know specifically if you made a deliberate decision not to use Compendium - and if so... why?

  2. Hi John

    Believe it or not, I produced that mindmap using PowerPoint. I must confess that I've never been a great one for mindmaps. I think I must be a bit 'linear' in my thinking and I've never really 'got' the attraction with mindmaps although I know a lot of people who use them regularly.

    I tried Compendium when we did the learning design activity earlier in H800 and I even produced a design using it, bit I didn't really like it. I found it unneccesarily complicated for my purposes and wasn't really willing to invest the time to become more proficient in using it.

  3. Thank you for this information. I'd never have guessed it was Powerpoint.

    I am going to write that this layout is clearer than what you could have produced with Compendium v1 which only allows straight lines between nodes. Version 2 automatically produces curvy lines that fan out in a similar way to the style you arrived at.