Law, Effie

“Responsive Open Learning Environments (ROLE): Sharing Experiences and Inviting Scientific Discourses”

Goal: To present the hitherto major outcomes of the project ROLE from both the theoretical and practical perspectives and share associated experiences with the aim of inviting feedback from external PLE scholars in the wider research community.

Background: Within the ROLE project consortium the core of the ROLE vision is to empower the learner to take control over their own learning processes. The challenge of ROLE is to develop and test a user-driven framework based on Web 2.0 technology. It will provide a collection of (already existing open source) tools and systems which learners can use to design their own (learning or working) environment. ROLE fosters the idea of PLEs that most learning takes place informally, in different contexts and scenarios, and that content is not provided by one single provider. PLEs create an environment where learners can access, aggregate, configure and manipulate digital artefacts of their ongoing learning experiences.  PLEs are made up of a number of different elements (known as widgets) including: production tools, collaboration and sharing tools, communication, storage tools, aggregating content/people and software, identity management.

Format and Rationale: An integrated activity combo is proposed:
1. Symposium (80 minutes)
2. Double Workshop (2*60 minutes)
3. Demonstration (90 minutes)
It is necessary to have this chain of activity because we aim to present a range of outcomes that we have produced during the first year of the project. Participants can then have a holistic understanding of the project work and provide relevant feedback.  The context of the PLE Conference is ideal for gathering such feedback, given that a number of PLE experts and workers will be present in the event.  The three activities are structured as follows:

1. Symposium (9:30 – 10:40): To debate the potential and limitation of the Social Requirements Engineering (SRE) approach for the design and development of PLE.

A panel of ROLE partners present the conceptual frameworks of SRE and proposed implementation approaches, their experiences in applying the SRE to elicit, capture, document and validate requirements for PLE. Lessons learnt focusing on the difficulties in engaging diverse user groups from widely distributed environments will be shared. The audience is invited to identify strategies and mechanisms to overcome the hurdles identified.

Break: 10:40- 11:00

2. Workshop (11:00 – 13:00): It aims to analyse the viability of the visions about different responsive open learning environments  to be deployed in three types of contexts, viz. formal higher education, workplace learning, and lifelong learning.

11:00 – 11:30: Presentation of the visions developed over time for the three different contexts;
11:30 – 12:30: Participants will be divided into three groups. Each group aims to achieve two tasks: (i) to discuss the viability of the vision in terms of theoretical and practical constraints; (ii) to identify possible means to refine and implement the vision;

12:30 – 13:00: Plenary reporting – each group is to report back their key findings and

Lunch (13:00 – 14:00)

3. Demonstration (14:00 – 15:30): ROLE Learning Services Bundle Prototypes
The project ROLE has developed different prototypes to implement corresponding use scenarios.  Specifically, three bundles are developed to address particularities of respective learning situations (i.e. test-bed environments).

In this session, demonstration of the prototypes will first be carried out (30 minutes). Then, hands-on activities will be organized when participants are asked to use the prototypes for testing, using a proposed scenario or based on their preferences (40 minutes)

Quick survey on user experience and comment on the PLE features will be administered (20 minutes).

Outcomes: Generally speaking, insights gained from the above activities will have significant impacts not only on further shaping the focus of the project ROLE but also on harmonizing the work of ROLE with other similar initiatives/endeavours.  Specifically, the participants will learn about the current development of the PLE infrastructure, the related pedagogical principles and technical skills. Networking with a group of active researchers on PLE will be beneficial for future collaboration.


Harris, Lisa; Harrigan, Paul;  Naudin, Annette ple2010_submission_12

“Integrating “employability” into the HE curriculum: case studies of online portfolio implementation in the UK”

In today’s global market place employers are seeking high level skills of communication, networking and entrepreneurship in their potential employees. Increasingly, these skills extend to online methods of engagement through social media. The idea of the ‘digital native’ suggests that students are able to use such tools effectively, having grown up with these technologies, but more recent research suggests otherwise.

We argue that a traditional university education does not in itself equip students for the modern workplace, and that effective integration of digital research, communication and creative skills into the curriculum is required. The implementation of what we have labelled a Personal Development Portfolio (PDP) can help to address this. At a time when the very validity of a university education is under the microscope, such initiatives are increasingly important.

Our study encompassed two UK universities and investigated the attitudes and capabilities of students with regard to technology-enhanced learning at the start of their course, and then tracked their progress through the academic year. Specifically, students were asked to describe their learning experiences in a personal blog throughout their course to supplement and complement monthly face-to-face meetings with personal tutors.

We used mixed methods (quantitative and qualitative) to explore the ways these social technologies could be effectively integrated into university education to encourage development of employability skills. An online questionnaire was completed at the start of the academic year, and in-depth interviews with selected respondents were carried out throughout their programme in order to assess progress.

Our findings suggest that the use of blogs encourages peer-to-peer collaboration and also improves the quality of face-to-face time spent with students by tutors, although the degree of commitment displayed to the task was very variable. Students’ perspectives on their experience are mainly positive, but concern remains about the variable levels of PDP acceptance by staff, and the absence of a strategic, unified approach is currently restricting effectiveness and wider take up.

Future research will examine how universities can implement a more strategic approach to prepare students for life and work in a digital society. This goes beyond consideration of employability in the digital economy, to cover the broader issues of participation, social justice, personal safety, ethical behaviours, and the management of identity and reputation.


Kahnwald, Nina; Albrecht, Steffen; Herbst, Sabrina; Stark, Annegret; Weller, Anja; Köhler, Thomas

“Informal learning in formal contexts? An empirical assessment of the potential role of PLEs in higher education”

Social Software applications have raised expectations in the context of higher education. Assuming that learners today are increasingly used to online communication, e learning researchers have envisioned how social software could stimulate forms of e-learning that are more motivating and engaging than those afforded by traditionally established e-learning systems. The PLE is expected to play a central role in this process, allowing learners to collect, organize and re-distribute information and resources.

Experiences with social software use in formal contexts indicate however that students’ media competence is less developed than required for the new learning practices and that students perceive their online learning spaces very differently from their personal online spaces. These observations call into question the application of PLEs in formal contexts of higher education.

This paper takes an empirical approach to identify the potential role of PLEs in university education. Departing from the assumption that higher education is too often equated with formal learning, it presents the results of ongoing research into the challenges higher education poses to students beyond their courses and into the informal learning practices (and social software applications) students employ to cope with it. Desk research and focus group interviews were used to assess the role of informal learning practices in the formal context of university studies.

To integrate the identified informal practices together with the formal practices into a process model of academic learning, we adopt the concept of a “student life-cycle”. It helps to depict the respective tasks and to identify social software tools that support students in solving these tasks. This theoretical approach to informal learning in higher education together with the empirical insights into actual learning practices will help to elaborate the concept of a PLE as a methodical-didactical concept and to specify its role in bridging the gap between formal and informal learning in higher education.


Ruskov, Martin; Seager, William; Sasse, M. Angela ple2010_submission_36

“Persuading Giants to be Wise: An Exploratory Study of Advice Sharing in Online Games”

This study investigates the effects of a browser game as a motivational factor for the sharing of short
written reflections. We have analysed 400 anonymous written reflections and conducted 10 interviews
in order to get a deeper insight of the game experience. This is an opportunistic investigation and the authors did not have control over the game environment. We have found that there is a predominantly positive attitude towards the approach taken by the game, and a significantly higher level of contributions from participants, as compared to a recent investigation of contributions in social awareness streams. A number of user contributions that clearly do not match the game intentions are being reported and discussed. We draw the conclusion that persuasive tools and techniques can be employed within personal learning environments in order to guide learning. The paper makes a strong argument by example for the use of browser games as a persuasive tool in informal online learning.


Torres Kompen, Ricardo; Edirisingha, Palitha

“Flight of the PELICANS: students experiences in Personal E-LEarning In Communities And Networking Spaces”

In this session, a group of students that participated in the PELICANS project share their experience in building Web 2.0-based PLEs, and the impact it has had in their learning process, focusing on three main areas: acquiring new skills, organising and managing content and information, and strengthening connections.
The PELICANS project is a joint effort based on Barcelona, Spain (supported by Citilab, i2Cat, Barcelona Tech – UPC and ESEI), and Leicester, UK (Beyond Distance Research Alliance, University of Leicester). The project is now in its second year, and approximately 60 students from more than 10 countries have participated in it. The PELICANS project is based on a proposed framework where four different types of Web 2.0 applications are proposed as hubs for developing PLEs: wikis, aggregators, social networks and browsers; a fifth approach, using a virtual desktop, is also shown by the student that proposed it, following her participation in the pilot study.
The proposed format will be a panel, where participants share their personal views and experiences developing Personal Learning Environments, showing examples, discussing advantages and disadvantages of the different approaches they took, and explaining how PLEs are integrated in their learning process and whether-and how- they will be carried on to their future workplace.


Torres, Luis; Gonzalez, Hugo; Ojeda, Jordi; Monguet,Josep

“PLEs from virtual ethnography of Web 2.0″

This article presents an exploratory research based on the virtual ethnography from an environment of research and learning including new technologies. The ethnography is a method of qualitative research of social sciences that is mainly used in the socio-cultural Anthropology, where it has its theoretical basis. The target was to explore the web 2.0 and its tools. The process of participant observation is by means of a blog, other tools and virtual communities. The result is a descriptive model of the web 2.0 based on a Personal Learning Environment which developed in the ethnographic experience.