Personal Learning Environments: The Future of eLearning?
In the classrooms of the 90s, a new homework assignment often meant consulting with that one lucky friend with a family PC and a copy of Microsoft Encarta.
This virtual Encyclopaedia was invaluable in a pre-broadband internet era, saving many a schoolchild from those tiresome hours spent nose-deep in tattered textbooks.
Nowadays, students are much more equipped for learning resources. Internet access is widespread. Learning technologies are readily available in the Cloud. Yet Encarta still feels prophetic; proof that even before the internet, students felt enabled and empowered when allowed to use technologies resourcefully.
That resourcefulness might also be the reason why Personal Learning Environments are being discussed as the future of eLearning.
What is a Personal Learning Environment?
A Personal Learning Environment (PLE) is simply a virtual workspace for students. This could leverage a series of your institution’s technologies; a SharePoint full of useful files and resources, for example, or a private Microsoft Teams channel where students can contact tutors. A PLE acknowledges that each student learns differently, benefitting from more personalised resources and private tutor discussions.
How Does a PLE Work?
Be it via a personal device, or (perhaps more ideally!) a provided desktop computer, a PLE provides a learning environment at the user’s fingertips. Institutions can incorporate common Office software, such as Microsoft 365, or leverage existing Cloud education portals, such as Microsoft or Google Classroom. Tutors have access to stringent admin controls, meaning they can customise each student’s permissions, ensure they access only the appropriate resources, and remain on-task.
Yet a great PLE also allows students to work freely, letting them access the tools and resources that help them learn effectively. It gives students the freedom to learn, while keeping them focused within a controlled technical environment.
Why Would an Institution Adopt PLEs?
A PLE is more than just a technical benefit. Used correctly, it can overcome the challenges of one-to-one tuition, inequal learning opportunities and the manual grading process. Its application in the classroom not only brings a wealth of learning benefits, but helps resolve some long-standing challenges faced by tutors daily:
- A PLE provides a direct line between tutor and student – letting the latter communicate in confidence, whatever the reason.
- Students have instant access to an approved library of learning resources, one which can grow exponentially thanks to Cloud storage solutions such as SharePoint.
- Students can cooperate on projects in real-time over the Cloud – in and out of class hours.
- An online space for students’ work means they can log on from anywhere at anytime – ideal for setting coursework or homework projects.
- PLEs are customisable, secure and set up to your own strict administrative standards.
- PLEs allow tutors to access user devices and software as needed, assisting students or observing their productivity.
- PLEs give students the freedom to work to their preferred learning methods – without this disrupting their progress or others’.
- Tutors can share, access and amend work instantly and effectively over the Cloud, collaborating with students as they do so.
Is a PLE Right for My Institution?
For any educational institute, a PLE can prove invaluable: not least for those managing large classes, multiple projects or specific educational needs.
At Intergence, we specialise in both collaborative Cloud solutions and the educational sector – making us the perfect choice for any schools or colleges looking to further their teaching through technology. You can read more about our recent work in the education sector in our press release, detailing our new IT programme with the University of Sussex.
For more information, or for any other business technology needs, don’t be afraid to get in touch.
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