Sliced PLEs and Soft Peer review

I read about soft peer reviews on George Siemens’ blog and immediately went on to read more about the concept. I am very intrigued because of a discussion I had not long ago with an academician at a prominent university in India about the feasibility of starting an online journal based on intellectual property originating from within India. He was of the opinion that expert quality hard reviews are mandatory for the journal to become widely accepted.

So on the one hand we have a non-scalable, “final”, low volume nature of the traditional journal/learning places, while on the other we have the latest modes of collaborative learning 2.0 experiences.

Given the exponentially increasing volume of virtual places of learning (blogs, wikis et al) and conversations, it is extremely easy for a learner to spend enormous time in locating the right learning and get completely lost in a forest of endless clicks and irrelevant information. I end up doing that a lot (piecing together learning from a host of virtual learning places, sort of becoming an instructional designer myself) and it is going to get worse.

Cut back to PLEs. Let us say I managed to slice through everything in my PLE and gathered relevant information (posts, entries, discussions etc) around a specific learning area. Then, suppose I had the tools to order and sequence that information into a flow that seems intelligible to me. Then, suppose I somehow managed to add supporting information of my own that I would think people would benefit from (maybe a short quiz or an introduction).

Then I sent all that out to my community and said, why don’t you help me refine this…I would like to share my learning experience with others who may have a similar learning style? Suppose, through a process of soft peer reviews, I was able to improve on what I did. At the end, I could then submit the peer reviewed learning material (my shared PLE slice) to the community and let the community rate it. 

Suppose you wanted to learn about that particular area. You would go to the virtual learning place, search and find a large number of these shared PLEs with different community ratings. You could pick the one you like the most (i.e. find the most intelligible), import that slice into your own PLE (just like importing a SCORM based course into an LMS maybe, though I know people will dislike that analogy!) and maybe even rate it when you complete.

Lots of suppositions here. But what I am trying to do is think of a process that will allow the greatest flexibility and ease to the learner.

8 thoughts on “Sliced PLEs and Soft Peer review

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  1. Some thoughts:

    Rating is definitely a good way to know if what you are reading is widely accepted or not, but that may not ensure that what you are reading is what you need.

    Besides this each and every learner will have his own capacity to absorb learnings. It will be a challange to make a PLE intellegent enough to this level.

    Also the way PLE organizes content may also suite one but not other.

    It will be actually great if one could create different flavors of PLEs based on types of learners and also build a website which could profile a learner and show him the right PLE for him. Complex World it is, isnt it?

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  2. Sunil. Please appreciate that the mindset is different when we take this approach. It is a collaborative approach towards learning and not a traditional curriculum led method.

    The PLE is really an environment or framework, not a tool. Think of it as a framework where learners with different learning styles actually contribute to the community their learning experiences and the community rates them based on how effective or useful or close to their own learning styles they find them.

    In time, searches for these learning experiences could be tagged by learner profiles that have learning style information also embedded within them. This would make locating the most effective learning materials easier.

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  3. Interesting thoughts — to be able to take PLE slices and somehow convert them into SCORM objects.

    Wikis, RSS and a host of bookmarking tools that allow you to collaborate, rate and share your PLE slices exist. I am using my Google Reader’s shared items and my del.icio.us bookmarks to share my PLE with my community. I still haven’t completely figured Wikis out (I think they are too complex, but then, that my just be me), but I guess Wiki is your answer to create collaborative journals/knowledge.

    I think the killer app from an instructional design point of view might like you mentioned, the ability to create SCORM objects out of these existing tools. So I could create a learning path for the audience, with the content being mashed up from different sites, add evaluation to it, package into trackable learning object and viola, my course is ready!!! This of course is very different from exploratory learners who might be more adept in using the Web 2.0 tools themselves.

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  4. Thanks, Manish. I believe that this will come about for sure. There will be people who would like to share their PLE slices and they may want to, as you said, use SCORM or traditional Instructional Design to package that slice and share it with other learners.

    This will bring about a structure in the chaos that exists in the sheer volume of a web 2.0 world. I would however, caution against jumping towards the conclusion that it would necessarily be very different for exploratory learners who are more adept at using Web 2.0 tools.

    Exploration will need structure simply because of the sheer volume and inaccessibility of resources as the web expands exponentially. Communities will need to validate (peer review) structured exploratory learning activities so that the new generation learners don’t spend too much time just contructing their world of knowledge and network of learning resources!

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  5. I hadn’t heard of PLEs before reading your post. Thanks for introducing me to the topic.

    I recently attended a panel discussion on Knowledge Management. One of the questions that they tackled was the future of the LMS. They talked about whether the LMS or the LCMS would exist in the future. Or would there be something else?

    I asked them what they thought about the idea of the PLE. Interestingly, all of them described something that was controlled by an LMS–a combination of skill assessments, competencies, and job roles suggesting which courses an individual should take.

    I imagined something more like a mashup where I have my favorite sources for learning at my fingertips. I control what is included and what isn’t.

    Their description sounded more like a “personalized” learning environment, while I think mine sounds more “personal.” Have you seen a distinction like this other places?

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  6. Thanks for visiting my blog, Stephanie! You have hit upon the main distinction here between PLEs and LMSs.

    PLEs are looked upon as environments that learners themselves control – that is why they are “personal”.

    However, this runs diametrically against a centralized LMS environment (based on traditional curriculum based learning) where the LMS is responsible for personalizing the environment for the learner based upon roles, competencies etc.

    The social constructivist understanding is that learning that occurs through collaborative construction mechanisms is vastly more effective compared to traditional learning. The debate is almost as wide-ranging and intensive as the debate between open source and proprietary software!

    I do not think either the LMS or the PLE will be separable entities in the future – rather a hybrid shall emerge that allows both to integrate seamlessly.

    Whether knowledge management systems can evolve to such an extent that they are useful in feeding performance and audit analytics back to LMS or PLE systems is still an area of research and debate for me.

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  7. Thanks for continuing the conversation about the nature of an individual’s participation preferences (learning style) when engaged in e-learning. It sounds like you are also exploring the manner in which the learner interacts with the network–individuals, groups, nodes and objects.

    If the stance is social-constructivist, then it would seem that the environment shapes aspects of the development of the learner and the nature of learning and the individual shapes the environment. It seems reasonable to say that learners create PLEs that enable them to control and direct their learning in purposeful and relevant ways when engaged in e-learning. While a LMS may offer a range of options for helping the learner to master the subject matter content and for helping the learner to participate appropriately when working on tasks with other members of a particular course/community, the learner needs to be free to develop a personal learning environment that is useful to the learner, and that meets the criteria for participation in another community of practice. That having been said, I have observed that the technologies that a learner uses to establish a personal learning network (PLE) may influence the quality and quantity of peer-feedback a person receives as he or she creates content. It may also determine who gets to contribute to the ongoing conversation. I wonder do people judge the quality of contributions people make through their PLEs in e-learning contexts in radically different ways that the way they judge contributions in other contexts? preference? accuracy? resonance? background? qualifications? utility? purposes? coherence? stance?

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    1. Thanks, Mary, for your thoughtful comments. A potential customer I met today talked about authenticity and control of what he called could fast become “tribal knowledge” if not moderated and become a pain rather than an advantage.

      He was talking in the context of collaborative network based learning and how people could run away with non-ideal or wrong ways to, say, follow a process or complete a task, if given the total freedom to do what they wanted.

      Now I have heard this before and I am not sure that the perspective is totally baseless. However I do believe that all the ways of judging contributions that you mentioned do come to pass in one way or the other in a networked learning environment. And not all ways may resonate with an organization’s or academic institution’s or even an individual’s definition of knowledge and certification requirement.

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