Next Generation E-learning Systems?

In my last teaching semester I dipped my toe in the water of blog-based assessment. Masters-level students in my class had the option to create and maintain a blog over 10 weeks for a total of 5% of their assessment. Five students took up the option. They had to learn about regular weekly blogging and RSS feeds. One blog became a significant technical resource for the whole class. I hope to write up this experience in more detail soon.

It is interesting that blogs are being touted as the foundation for the next generation of e-learning systems generally being referred to as personal learning environments (PLEs). I have been reading James Farmer’s blog only for a couple of weeks or so but I was impressed by his entry The Inevitable Personal Learning Environment Post. In this article James provides a good introduction to what constitutes a PLE, other peoples comments and ideas, and quotes a major proponent of the idea, Stephen Downes. I have been reading (with some effort considering the deluge of entries) Stephen’s blog for a month or two. He has now actually constructed the beginning of his ideal PLE as Edu_RSS 2.0.

The PLEs envisaged by Stephen and James are essentially life-long blogs shared with and interleaved with all other people involved in an individual’s learning trajectory. These people include both peer learners and teachers. However these roles are predicted to be ever changing as the blogging activity is expected to contribute to both teaching and learning depending how the entries are aggregated, distributed and structured. These are exciting ideas that the existing LMS software like Blackboard et al could embrace with little technological change but would require a major change in the pedagogy.

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About Michael Rees
Academic in IT interested in Web 2.0 and social media

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