INTEGRATING PERSONAL AND INSTITUTIONAL VIRTUAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS
The present project aims to introduce the use of Personal Learning Environment, PLE, in the educational practices at the Post-Graduate of Educational Psychology. Currently, this Post-Graduate program uses a Virtual Community as a platform for the promotion of the relationship between teachers and students from the several promotions of Master degree and Ph. D. The program also offers virtual classrooms to support the face-to-face sessions for mandatory subjects and for the complementary curricular activities. Our next step will be to add a new level between on-line classrooms and the virtual community and offering students the opportunity to build their own PLE.
The main objective of our proposal is related with the use of a PLE platform in order to promote innovation in the design of higher education environments. The design should offering more flexibility and possibilities to combine the institutional (formal) virtual environment with a more customizable environment that the students should configured following their interests and preferences. In this way, students could have more control over managing their own learning processes. Using PLE platform, our aim is to encourage students to explicit and share with other some resources, services and online applications even to share their own network learning whereby they participate in different educational and professional contexts.
In this proposal we describe the first phase of the Project. The main focus of this phase has been a pilot study in order to evaluate Elgg, an Open Source Social Networking Engine, as the technological platform to allow the students configuring their personal learning environments. We detail the overall design decisions regarding the selection and configuration of Elgg’s tools or widgets for building PLE. From our perspective, PLE building should consider three different levels of resources or widgets: widgets for elaborating information, widgets for sharing information and widgets for publicizing information. The different widgets, at the three levels, should offer the possibilities to work in three levels of "activity”: personal level, small group level and the whole community level. In short, from of our point of view, building a PLE suppose decide how to create, organize and maintain both the personal network of resources for learning as the persons from whom to learn at any moment.
Finally, we analyze the structure of the PLEs configured by a group of 16 students over a semester and the effective uses of the possibilities offered by the several tools. We contrast too these results with the assessment of the students themselves about their experience in configuring and using these environments for learning.