Draft originally published at: Targhi, B., Ebner, M. & Kroell, C. (2012). Personal Learning Environment – Generation 2.0. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia andTelecommunications 2012 (pp. 1828-1835). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
education by the use of digital media. Furthermore the WWW offers services like YouTube (for sharing Videos),Flickr (for sharing pictures), Slideshare (for sharing presentations), Scribd (for sharing documents), Mendeley (for sharing publications) or Delicious (for sharing bookmarks). Each of them might be useful also for teaching andlearning but did not find place easily within the different LMSs. In the last years developers tried to offer embeddingHTML-code of different portals or provided a possibility to integrate such services via Web services and APIs(Application Programming Interfaces). Bearing in mind that a LMS is teacher driven who provides content in amainly structured way for students the integration of this services did not help in order to assist self-regulatedlearning.Today innovative educators are convinced that the power of the WWW is its freedom, where anyone canuse services he/she needs for his/her personal learning efforts. Besides teacher given content, each learner mustdecide for him-/herself, which learning content too fits best and which resource will help to increase his/her learningoutcome. Nevertheless also educational institutions should support the change from a teacher-driven to a learner-driven approach.Bearing in mind the rapidly growing number of applications intended for the above described purposes, anefficient management of these tools could become extremely challenging. Various studies on Web 2.0 usageamongst students (Ebner & Nagler 2010) underline that it is hard to follow these tools and even more to monitor them in an appropriate way. Therefore during the last years different research work has been done addressing thequestion whether so called mashups can assist to overcome this lack of management (Kulathuramaiyer & Maurer 2007). Tuchinda (Tuchinda et al. 2008) postulates “the possibility to connect different resources in one environmentshould help to maintain the overview of all activities. Mashups merge contents, services and applications frommultiple websites in an integrated, coherent way”. The combination of different tiny applications, e.g. in form of widgets within a framework and with strong relationship to learning is called Personal Learning Environment (PLE).Following the idea that the learner itself can manage these applications according to his/her needs a PLE is able tooffer a new form of personalized learning (Wild et al. 2008).This publication aims to describe an already running prototype of a PLE at Graz University of Technology(TU Graz). The PLE was launched in 2010 university wide (Taraghi et al. 2009b) and redesigned in 2011. Thereforea general description is given and what an innovative learning environment has to look like to attract learners.Finally, the first collected data about the overall usage is presented to show how the acceptance of such anenvironment in higher education is.
Personal Learning Environment – an Integral Approach
The main idea in using a Personal Learning Environment is that there are many resources distributed onWWW that are driven in the learning process of the learners directly or indirectly. Nowadays universities and higher educational institutions provide their students with many online services such as LMS to enhance the learning performance and simplify the sophisticated learning process. At Graz University of Technology, despite of centralservices for all students and teachers (Ebner et al. 2010) that are provided by Information Technology Services(ITS), there are many other online applications and services that are provided by each faculty individually. Due tothe high number of these services and fast growth of the applied applications in TEL it turned out to be sophisticatedfor learners and teachers to mange or come across the resources that they actually need. On the other hand theapplied applications from WWW and services of universities individually base on general user requirements and donot rely on users’ individual needs. Each individual learner acts differently in terms of his/her learning behavior.Different learners may need different resources, learning objects and tools customized to their needs to reach thesame learning goal with the highest possible outcome. A PLE is aimed to integrating all possible tools and resourcesthat a learner may need during his/her learning process in a user-centered customizable way (Schaffert 2009).At TU Graz a PLE was launched that relies on mashup of widgets (Taraghi et al. 2009a). Widgets representindependent resources, services, and applications that are all integrated within the PLE. Users can select widgetsfrom a pool of widgets (“widget store” or “widget boutique” in case of the PLE at TU Graz), arrange them as they prefer and configure them to their actual needs and interests. Ebner and Taraghi described the concept of the PLE atTU Graz in details and gave an overview on some widgets that had been developed at the time the paper was published (Ebner & Taraghi 2010). During the first year (2010) several usability tests were performed on the firstPLE prototype that based on common methods of Human Computer Interactions (HCI). The tests targeted the user-friendliness of the system as a whole as well as the client structure of the User Interface (UI) that is illustrated indetails (compare Taraghi et al. 2009b). According to the usability results we decided to redesign the whole UIstructure for a better performance and higher user friendliness that is going to be described in the following sections.