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AbstractLearning management systems traditionally
provide structures to guide online learners to achieve their learning goals. Web 2.0 technol-ogy empowers learners to create, share, and or-ganize their personal learning environments in open network environments; and allows learners to engage in social networking and collaborating activities. Advanced networking mechanisms, UGC, flat-structured architectures, RSS, and so-cial tagging, permit online learners to define their own learning structures. This article reports an online course built within multiple Web 2.0 tech-nologies designed to empower learners to con-struct their own personal learning environments within open network learning environments. Lessons learned, examples, and critical issues are discussed. This paper concludes that effective instructions should prepare online learners to become network or open network learners.
Keywords: Connectivism; Open Network Learning Environment; Personal Learning Envi-ronment; Social Network Learning; Web 2.0
eb 2.0 has become synonymous with a more interactive, user-generated, and collaborative Internet instrument. Sie-
mens and Matheos (2010) suggested two trends in education; learners have freedom to access, create, and recreate their learning content; and
they have opportunities to interact outside of a learning system. Educators focusing on social, open, and network aspects have integrated various Web 2.0 technologies to support their existing online instruction in a learning man-agement system (LMS) because integrating multiple tools simultaneously is the best strat-egy for learning (Dede, 2008). Many argue that the new possibilities these social networking tools possess result in a fundamental shift in the way students learn, consume, and produce new artifacts. In fact, Mott and Wiley (2009) argued that LMS are incapable of delivering ef-fective online learning. Educators perceive the instructional value of integrating Web 2.0 tools include autonomy, diversity, openness, and con-nectedness (van Harmelen, 2006); yet, they find multiple technologies daunting, which may af-fect their attitudes toward online learning. The integration of multiple Web 2.0 tools has cre-ated frustration among educators and students because they lack knowledge of the tools (Lee, Miller, & Newnham, 2008), difficulty learn-ing different tools (Weller, 2007), conducting multiple authentications (Suess & Morooney, 2009), visiting multiple sites for different tools, etc. This phenomenon results from a lack of un-derstanding of the social networking learning paradigm and inappropriate integration. Typi-cal online learning delivered within an LMS re-
The Integration of Personal Learning Environments & Open Network Learning EnvironmentsBy Chih-Hsiung Tu, Northern Arizona University, Laura Sujo-Montes, Northern Arizona University, Cherng-Jyh Yen, Old Dominion University, Junn-Yih Chan, National Chin-Yi University of Technology and Michael Blocher, Northern Arizona University
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quires fewer learner-centered skills, creates con-straints on learning environments and learning continuity (Mott & Wiley, 2009) promotes a culture of dependency rather than autonomy for students (Powell, 2008), static resources, de-contextualized tasks (Harrington et al., 2005) and limits focusing on technology develop-ment; whereas, Web 2.0 technology integration requires a high level of learner-centered skill to create a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) and Open Network Learning Environments (ONLE). This is a new dilemma that educators and students face because Web 2.0 integration requires a shift from a more teacher and institu-tion centered mindset to more distributed, per-sonalized efforts and collaboration. To resolve potential negative learning impact with Web 2.0 integration, educators should create an effective ONLE and invite students to build their own PLEs to achieve effective open network com-munication, interaction, and collaboration. This case study discusses a pilot, online course that delivers the entire course instruction on mul-tiple Web 2.0 tools that integrate the concepts of Connectivism, PLE, and ONLE. The purposes of integrating PLE and ONLE are more than re-playing an LMS through exploring and exam-ining effective design methods and strategies to support effective learning.
Personal Learning EnvironmentsNew technologies enable individuals to per-
sonalize the environment in which they learn, by creating and managing a learning network and appropriating a range of tools connecting people and resources to meet their learning interests and needs: these are called Personal Learning Environments (PLEs).
PLE is an emerging learning concept that allows learners to control and manage their own learning processes and provides support to (a) set their own learning goals; (b) manage their learning; managing both content & process; and (c) communicate with others in the process of learning and thereby achieve learning goals (van Harmelen, 2006). A PLE is composed of mul-tiple subsystems, tools, or technologies. Siemens (2007) felt that a PLE is a collection of tools, brought together under the conceptual notion of openness, interoperability, and learner con-trol. Therefore, learners are required to apply a personalized portal to organize multiple tools in one central location to create a more open network learning, such as iGoogle, Google Reader, etc.
Personalization and appropriation of tech-nologies and learning goals are necessary to PLE. Personalization and a sense of control are key factors of the successful use of Web 2.0 tech-nologies. Importantly, if students did not find the technology or platform provided by their institu-tions useful they are now in a position to bypass it in favor of their own personalized approach and preferred tools (Conole, 2008). However, if students are not clear with their learning goals and are uncertain how to appropriate relevant technologies to achieve these goals, an effective PLE would not occur at all. A PLE is more than just technology; Educators should focus on the values of a PLE connecting people, tools, and resources. Clearly, a PLE requires learners with competent self-regulatory skills.
Open Network Learning Environments
To allow learners to build PLEs, Open Net-work Learning Environments (ONLEs) must be established. ONLEs are digital environments that empower learners to participate in creative endeavors, conduct social networking, organize/reorganize social contents, and manage social acts by connecting people, resources, and tools by integrating Web 2.0 tools to design environ-ments that are totally transparent, or open to public view; the same architecture can be used to design the degree of openness users feel is neces-sary to the situation. PLE and ONLE emphasize the fundamental shift from information con-sumption to information creation and partici-pation, from individuals to more specific social interaction, and from individual constructions to more collaborative co-constructions. Social constructivism emphasizes the need for co-construction of knowledge and supports a more learner-centered approach. ONLE copes seam-lessly with a complex and changing knowledge domain; fundamentally ONLE recognizes no individual as expert, rather everyone is part of a social network. ONLE permits learners to build their own PLE through open, social and network learning architectures.
PLE and ONLE Design ConceptsPLE and ONLE design concepts used for
the course developed integrate Connectivism (Siemens, 2005) and Constructs for Web 2.0 Learning Environments (Tu, Blocher, & Rob-erts, 2008). Connectivism observes learning as a process that occurs within nebulous environ-
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ments of shifting core elements (Siemens, 2005). Connective learning is the process of establish-ing connections that enable learners to acquire knowledge and learn more. This focus recognizes the fact that learning is based on rapidly altering foundations . . . currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learn-ing activities (Siemens, 2005). Understanding how to connect learning resources is as impor-tant as learning content because to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today. This is what Siemens claimed: the pipe is more important than the content with-in the pipe (Siemens). Constructs for Web 2.0 Learning Environments are grounded in socio-cultural learning, which is in a constant flux of cognitive development with the force of dynamic social interaction. Cognitive learning focuses on learning processes and development through creating, editing and remixing learning content, socially and collaboratively. Social aspect guides network learners to project appropriate digi-tal and social identities in the individual, social and cultural environments. Networking provides open and network learning architectures to con-nect tools, humans, and environments. Integra-tion emphasizes social and collaborative com-munity activities in ONLEinstructional strategies
In this pilot online course, multiple Web 2.0 tools intertwined as ONLE to nurture individual learners PLEs to deliver course instruction. Each tool is integrated to serve single or multiple in-structional functions (see http://bit.ly/lFuD7E).
To achieve effective PLE/ONLE, a wide-range of ONLE instructional strategies are in-tegrated: UGC; aggregations; mashups; social content sharing; remix content; RSS; participa-tory web; social tagging; mobile learning; social networking; and cloud computing. These strate-gies are integrated into the course to achieve the functions of learning management, communica-tion, content creation, collaboration, distributed resources, and social networking. Below are a few highlighted PLE/ONLE instructional activi-ties to enhance network-learning experiences. PLE setup
Effective PLE requires students with compe-tent self-regulation and meta-cognition skills to create their PLE on iGoogle as the first instruc-tional activity to manage multiple required and optional course Web 2.0 tools by adding gadgets to their iGoogle. iGoogle is a customizable personal web portal to build PLE. Students are permitted to use web portals other than iGoogle, such as
PageFlakes or Netvibes. However, PLE setup is critical because this course integrates multiple Web 2.0 tools. Students are mandated to create a new iGoogle tab, named PLE, and to add re-quired course gadgets to tabs, such as Twitter, Google Calendar, Google Docs, VoiceThread, Delicious, Google Reader/RSS etc. while stu-dents are required to add optional gadgets. Almost all Web 2.0 tools feature RSS feed ca-pability. With RSS feed subscriptions, students are able to organize, manage, and monitor their learning content, activities, and resources on Google Reader without visiting actual web sites. After the setup, students are instructed to visit their iGoogle account regularly to manage their course activities and determine whether any course instructional activities need attention.
Students are required to apply mind map-ping tools to create their PLE diagrams to vi-sualize and update/manage PLE and share with the class by tagging them on Delicious. Stu-dents are required to review others diagrams, make any necessary updates, and reflect on how they may use their PLE to support their open network learning. At the end of the class, students are required to discuss their PLE ex-periences on the value of gadgets and tools ap-plied, describe how they used their PLE and their overall experiences etc.Tagging to Build Community
Social tagging architecture is designed and applied to support students and teachers as they organize and share their network learn-ing resources to build a network community, such as Delicious, Diigo, tools with tagging features, etc. Social tagging engages students in fundamental learning skills; analysis, contextu-alization, and conceptualization. Course social tagging architecture stratifies into two tagging strategies: Organization Stratum and Sharing Stratum. Organization Stratum tagging strat-egies utilize different types of tags to embody human knowledge and cognition. It includes Community Tags (course number); Content Tags, Instructional Activity Tags (Assignment1; Module1 etc.), and Private Tags. Sharing Stra-tum uses collaborative tags to share resources with different functions of communities in net-work environments, such as community of in-terest, purpose, passion, and practice. Students are required to apply course-tagging schemes to their course assignments, activity resources and references. Tagging design allows students to search learning resources of previous students
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through tags. The course itself is gaining con-text-rich learning resources when students tag to share resources. With effective social tagging architecture, community-community interac-tion is facilitated seamlessly to assert communi-ty learning in temporal and spatial differences; therefore, upcoming students and instructors are able to start with profuse learning resources rather than an empty course shell; the tagged re-sources are available after students complete the course. This strategic social tagging architecture is effective in achieving the authentic concept of open educational resources (OER) and global digital learning.Collaborative Textbook Creations
Student groups, utilizing social-construc-tive learning are required to select a lesson topic and collaboratively develop the lesson content to preserve as course textbook chapters on a wiki for current and future students as required learning content, thus creating a new edition of the course textbook each semester. Based on the concept of OER, these different editions of textbooks are available for other global digi-tal citizens. This activity engages students in meaningful and authentic learning in UGC, and community-community interaction. Stu-dent groups are asked to develop the course textbook chapters based on readings, instruc-tors guidelines and lesson discussion resources, etc. Students are encouraged to aggregate, and to remix their chapter content from creditable network resources and the chapter by previous students with appropriate references. Relevant references and sources are shared on Delicious with required tag schemes. The course content UGC textbooks residing on the course wiki can be accessed at Mobl21 on mobile devices to fa-cilitate mobile learning. Network Discussions
ONLE discussions are not limited to text-based threaded discussion format. Creative and effective network discussions can be imple-mented through single and multiple communi-cation and collaboration technologies to express other ideas and knowledge.
Open network discussion forum. Open network discussion forum is similar to LMS threaded discussion boards; however, they are displayed as a chronological, flat-structured format that contains RSS features; therefore, students are required to master their self-regu-lation skill to manage flat-structured discussion feeds to their RSS readers, such as Google Read-er, or on mobile devices, to monitor discussion
activities without visiting actual discussion sites. Additionally, flat-structure discussions feature tagging of the discussion topics. After replying in a discussion forum, students are required to add new tags/keywords based on their new post-ings to tag fields for discussion topics or Sub-ject fields of postings. Applying tags to organize network discussions is an effective way to sup-port distributed cognition and to enhance criti-cal thinking in general (Schellens Van Keer, De Wever, & Valcke, 2009).
Multimodal network discourse. Network discussions are not limited to text format. Voi-ceThread is a multimedia commenting tool that allows students five different ways (text, audio, video, telephone, and audio files) to post their comments to a discussion topic, images, docu-ments, or video. Based on dual-coding learning theory, students are allowed to use any preferred posting method to participate in the network discussions. Students can monitor the Voice-Thread discussions on their iGoogle without vis-iting the actual discussion site.
Ubiquitous discourse. Twitter is a micro-blogging tool and is not designed as a forum tool. It can be integrated innovatively to sup-port network discussion in informal, reflective, brainstorming, and resource sharing tasks etc. Students include a required hashtag in their tweets to participate in the collaborative Twit-ter discussion. Because Tweets are limited to 140 characters students must be concise. Students are able to contribute their postings from mobile devices or any available tool at anytime enhanc-ing context-rich learning. Students subscribed to RSS feeds on the discussion hashtag, allowing them to monitor the discussion without navigat-ing off-site.
Multi-dimensional discussions. Thinking is multi-dimensional. Typical online discussion tools focus on one dimension at a time with more formal threaded posting. Mixed types of postings in single dimension discussions may result in losing a sense of communication and interaction and other types of postings may dif-fuse content. Open network multi-dimensional discussion integrates multiple tools to allow students to participate in discussions based on different types of thinking. Students are empow-ered with multiple network discussion forums, Diigo, Delicious, Twitter, wiki, RSS, iGoogle etc., and engage in multiple dimensions of in-teraction to mimic their non-linear, networked thinking. This integration potentially enhances learning through deeper thinking in cognitive responses. When students think formally they
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can contribute to wiki content or a flat-struc-tured discussion board. When students prefer to comment on specific wiki content, they can an-notate a specific location on the web page with Diigo postings, which can become a new dis-cussion topic. When students wish to engage in more informal reflection or chat, they can tweet it with the required hashtag. If students prefer to share learning resources, they can apply required tags to share on Delicious. Multiple tools may require students to visit multiple web locations to complete network discussions; but RSS feeds for each discussion tool empowers them to monitor the discussion as it occurs in multiple dimen-sions. Network linkage capability permits learn-ers to manage multiple discussion forums from one central location, such as Google Reader or iGoogle, despite forum tools being scattered. These postings become students digital cogni-tion prints (Campbell, 2008) and digital social identities, and allow them access even though the course is completed. Students and instructors can participate in discussions via mobile Apps, and RSS on mobile devices. Cloud Collaboration
ONLE streamline assignment submissions and collaboration are through cloud comput-ing. In this course, all assignment submissions are completed via Google Docs. Based on so-cio-constructive learning theory, students may submit them by sharing them with instructors, teammates, or classmates as collaborators with editing privilege, or simply as viewers. Instruc-tors use Google Docs commenting feature to provide feedback, comments, and grades. This submission process, utilizing cloud-computing concepts, eliminates downloading and upload-ing. Both students and instructors can access documents anywhere and anytime without re-quiring software installation, since they are browser-based tasks. Additionally, students and instructors can publish their documents as web pages to advance distributed learning to another level of OER learning.Information visualization (InfoViz)
InfoViz refers to information design, uses picture, symbols, colors, and words to commu-nicate ideas, illustrate information, or express relationships visually (Emerson, 2008, p4) and is able to reduce cognitive load based cognitive psychology. InfoViz is integrated to support net-working in network discussions, course sched-ules, etc. Word and tag clouds created on Wordle are generated every 3-4 days by student modera-tors to support network discussions in InfoViz
architecture and to avoid the typical weaknesses of online threaded discussions, i.e., less synthe-sis, losing sight of the discussion topic and frag-mented understanding, etc. Because InfoViz enhances learning in online discussion in the aspects of memory and processing capabilities, information search paths, pattern detection, critical information, inferences, and data ma-nipulation (Card, Mackinlay, & Shneiderman, 1999). A course schedule, generated on Dip-ity, is integrated to enrich course management by students through visual and timeline-based tools, rather than adhere to the traditional text-based course schedule.
StrengthsBased on the practices, implementations,
and experiences during three semesters from this course, the strengths are discussed from both students and instructors perspectives. Overall, students felt a PLE empowers them to make their learning more personal, connec-tive, social, networking, and open. Students indicated ONLE allows them make their PLEs more personal by permitting them to develop more and better personal and team-centered content and to select their preferred tools from wide range of tools. Connective design allows students to share and to connect to informa-tion more socially, effectively and efficiently by linking multiple tools easy to manage a PLE. These personally selected tools are not limited to those selected by the instructors. Social net-working design enables students to build au-thentic network learning community through context-rich social interaction rather than con-tent focus only. Students were able to project more positive social digital identities to become network community learners. With network design, cloud computing distributes ubiquitous learning to support learning anywhere and anytime. Students who utilized smartphones or mobile devices truly appreciate that they can actively engage in learning whenever and wher-ever they prefer. With personalized seamless authentication, a portal approach (e.g. iGoogle) resolves multiple tools and account signing in issues, even when not using ones own device. With OER design, students appreciate the abil-ity to access learning course materials after fin-ishing the course. They can continue learning from the courses open resources and their digi-tal content creations and contributions become their digital cognition print.
The instructors truly value the design of a networked, collaborative learning community.
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ONLE facilitates community learning that sup-port community-community interaction that allows the community/course to learn course after course. Students take on more learning responsibilities and learning decision-making individually and collectively because students were engaged in content creating and contribut-ing for other students. ONLE experiences align better with effective community and collabora-tions instructional designs. The instructors in-dicated that students become true global digital citizens by creating, sharing, and collaborating learning content and resources ranging from in-dividual, and course levels to a global communi-ty. Students develop the understanding that they are fundamental to making a global digital com-munity a better environment for all learners.
IssuesIntegrating PLE and ONLE to support
learning raises critical issues to be resolved as the design improves. Several issues emerged from the students and the instructors experi-ences: self-regulation, competency, perceptions, supports, and privacy issues.
Some students lacked self-regulation skills in learning organization because students are accustomed to being told what to do and what to learn, rather than to determine and to manage their own learning. Additionally, PLE/ONLE requires students to shift mental models. Many students are accustomed to director/hierarchy type of learning (mental models) rather than flag-structures with RSS and social tagging. Students are assured of seeing everything. It is similar with instructors because PLE/ONLE requires them to understand and be competent in this new learning paradigm. Both students and instructors could be frustrated by manag-ing a wide range of tools; requiring integration of multiple tools for learning and being con-stantly connected.
Both students and instructors perceptions are the common potential negative factors. Some are uncomfortable with social media be-cause of its negative reputation. Because stu-dents are acquiring more power to direct their learning, PLE/ONLE were perceived as more in-formal learning. Both students and instructors wonder if learning should be formal only. Due to incorrect perceptions, PLE/ONLE is viewed as tool-based learning. More critically, instruc-
tors hesitate to try any emerging technology and fear failure will produce negative impacts on their teaching evaluations. Integrating multiple tools resulted in non-centralized technical sup-port from the institution. The OER raises con-cerns by both students and instructors regarding security, privacy, confidentiality, and intellectual property. In fact, a few students requested to ap-ply pseudo identities and not to participate in OER activities to protect their professional iden-tities and intellectual property.
These issues occur from a lack of under-standing social learning paradigms and inap-propriate integration. Effective integration re-quires students and instructors to comprehend the social learning paradigm: learning is more than content; learning is to create and share ef-fective learning environments. An innovative social learning paradigm is to engage learners to become competent global digital citizens.
ConclusionsTechnology disrupts learning while PLE and
ONLE disrupts LMS. Online learning should use reflections from the past and look to the future to establish online learning for the future. PLE and ONLE afford learners the opportunity to learn in a learning environment; thus requiring interaction to accomplish their learning goals. The tradition of teacher-centered instruction moves to a more interactive level where teach-ers invite students to share their own individual learning and performance environments, and to interact with others through open social net-work activities. Social networking collaboration is as strong as its learner-base. Effective learn-ing should prepare shifting online learners to network or open network learners. The con-cepts of PLE and ONLE empower learners and educational institutions to prepare competent global digital citizens to create, to share, and to collaborate digital learning content and resourc-es in global communities regardless of their so-cioeconomic status and geographic locations. Is the goal to replace LMS with PLE and ONLE? Perhaps this is not a proper question to ask. It is more important for educators to think that LMS should have the ability to incorporate the entire great Web 2.0 tools. Siemens and Matheos (2010) pondered what value does an institution provide society when educational resources and processes are open and transparent?
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Note A list of all integrated web 2.0 tools in this
course can be located at: http://delicious.com/tag/PLE-ONLE+Tools
A list of the references can be located at: http://delicious.com/tag/PLE-ONLE+References
If readers wish to contributed learning re-sources to this article, please tag PLE-ON-LE to share: http://delicious.com/tag/PLE-ONLE
Chih-Hsiung Tu, Ph.D. is a Professor at Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ and an educational/instructional technology consultant with experience in distance education, open network learning, technology training in teacher educa-tion, and online learning community.
Laura E Sujo-Montes, earned a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with emphasis on Learning Technologies at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM. She is currently teaching Educational Technology courses at Northern Arizo-na University. Her research interests include online learning environments and online professional development.
Cherng-Jyh Yen, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Educa-tional Research and Statistics at Old Dominion University. His main research interests are in the applications of research designs and statistical analyses in educational studies.
Junn-Yih Chan received his Ph.D from University of Man-chester (formerly UMIST), Manchester, U.K. Dr. Chan teach-ers in Department of Mechanical Engineering of National Chin-Yi University of Technology in Taiwan (R.O.C.). His research interests are in integrating emerging technology into the engineer teaching and learning.
J. Michael Blocher, Ph.D. has served on the Educational Technology professor at Northern Arizona University. His research interests include learner engagement in online learn-ing environments, technology integration into the curriculum, and technology-based instructional media.
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The Integration of Personal Learning Environments & Open Network Learning EnvironmentsAbstractPersonal Learning EnvironmentsOpen Network Learning EnvironmentsPLE and ONLE Design ConceptsPLE setupTagging to Build CommunityCollaborative Textbook CreationsNetwork DiscussionsOpen netwrok discussion forumMultimodal network discourseUbiquitous discourseMulti-dimentional discussions
Cloud CollaborationInformation visualization (InfoViz)