LMSs get used for all sorts of things - storing content, providing structure, learning outcomes, a common learning space for learners and faculty, scheduling, testing, learner progress, record keeping and more. LMSs have a place in education for delivering a common look and feel to learners, normally distance learners, and as a common location for all learners regardless of the delivery methodology to interact and learn together. LMSs are centrally administered and the course materials in them are traditionally created by faculty.
Then there is the personal learning environment or PLE. In a PLE learners take control of and manage their own learning including:
- setting their own learning outcomes
- managing their learning; managing both content and process
- communicating with others in the process of learning
This can be done using a combination of tools and technologies - presentations, lectures, discussions, podcasts, blogs, wikis, video, audio, and any other tool, technique or resources that helps a learner meet their learning styles and golas. The key here is that a PLE is developed, created, and managed by the learner and faculty provide a supportive, facilitative role. With new technologies, Web 2.0, and devices like Apple's iPhone (coming to Canada one of these days), learners now have absolute control over their learning environments and when, where, why, and how they learn.
So at face value it appears that LMSs and PLEs are at opposite ends of the learning spectrum - LMSs are organized and managed centrally by the creators and deliverers of learning and they are content-centric. PLEs are learner-centred and learner-organized, no two looking the same as they are developed and customized by their creators and users (the learner).
I think that there may be. If a learning institution adopts the PLE approach with its learners, it doesn't have to abandon any of its existing learning methods or tools, including any LMSs in use. In fact I believe that there is a role for a LMS to play in supporting and enhancing PLEs. Existing LMSs would provide excellent repositories for learning objects, data, tools and technologies that learners could access as part of their PLE creation and development, particularly as they are beginning the PLE development process and need extra support and facilitations. Institutions could use their LMSs in place to support the creativity of learner-created PLEs. As learners become more comfortable with the responsibility of creating and managing their PLE, they could then branch out beyond the LMS to find those tools and resources that work for their learning, and deposit the resources that they discover for other learners to use in the creation of their PLEs .
This way institutions and learners can transition away from LMSs and towards the use of PLEs without abandoning the investment made in LMSs. PLEs will require institutional support that the framework of existing LMSs can provide.
So LMSs and PLEs - friend or foe? Hmmm...