The strategic impact of the PLE in HE?
I was chatting to a colleague earlier on today about the state of learning management systems in UK higher education. My sense of the current situation goes something like this:
- The traditional virtual learning environment (VLE) market is now quite mature and largely sewn up by Moodle and Blackboard.
- Neither of the systems in 1 is viewed particularly positively, either by learners (because of poor usability) or teaching staff (because of limited pedagogic possibilities/flexibility).
- As a consequence of 2, some thought leaders (i.e. those people who write about such things in blogs, etc.) are suggesting a move towards unbundling current VLE functionality across multiple services (some of which are inside the institution and some outside) in the form of the personal learning environment (PLE).
- Conversely, institutional investment in one or other of the systems in 1 is pretty high, so there is a significant level of policy/strategic inertia to overcome if institutions really are going to change as per 3.
- There is a growing lack of clarity in marketplace as we see cross-over between VLE-functionality and repositories (e.g. IntraLibrary), e-portfolio systems (e.g. PebblePad), collaborative tools (e.g. Huddle) and blogging tools (e.g. Wordpress).
Is that a reasonable summary?
As a result of the conversation, I asked on Twitter, "is the PLE approach (unbundling monolithic vle fundtionality) having any significant impact on real institutional strategic thinking yet?", to which I got 5 or 6 responses, one of which one suggested that it is (Ravensbourne) while the others were somewhat more hesitent. Clearly, this provides nothing other than a snapshot that is both random and partial! Heather Williamson of the JISC also suggested that their User-owned Technology Demonstrator projects might be able to help with the answer in the longer term.
It's an interesting question to ask because it seems to me that there is a high potential for disconnect between those on the ground (so to speak) who are dissatisfied with current provision and feel able to articulate a better solution vs. those who hold the purse strings and who may feel that they are too far down a particular strategic road to turn back?