STELLARnet Podcast: MUP/PLE Lecture Series

This lecture series about Personal Learning Environments brings together a wide range of international experts from the field. The lecture series was recorded at the Podium of the Knowledge Media Institute of the Open University, UK.

Related link: Join the MUP/PLE group on TELeurope.

There are 17 tracks in this podcast:

Kai Pata: Meta-design principles for open learning ecosystems
In this presentation i will introduce the meta-design approach to open learning ecosystems. I will focus on the mayor gap between the need to control the learning design and learning process from the teacher's perspective, and simultaneously allowing learners to be self-directed and using their own personal learning environments in higher education courses for individual and collaborative assignments. An eco-cognitive view to learning serves as my major standing-point in describing how open learning ecosystems emerge and function. I will explain the accumulation of learning niches through the interaction of personal learning environments, assuming that the formation of learning niches in open learning ecosystems appears through accumulating affordances. I will describe how learning niches could be used to support self-directed learners. The meta-design approach is directed to the formation and evolution of open learning ecosystems through the end-user design. It suggests providing the teacher-created scaffolds and incentives for the learners' design activities that would foster the accumulation of learning niches. I will discuss the limitations of current tools in open learning ecosystem for providing sufficient support for the full application of meta-design approach. I suggest that there is the need for certain dynamic accumulation and monitoring systems for learning niche formation that could be used by each learner for benefiting from particular open learning ecosystem.
Erik Duval: The Snowflake Effect
Now that we are finally realizing a global infrastructure for sharing of learning resources, we need new ways to deal with the resulting abundance. To this effect, we apply the Snowflake Effect, a label we use for a widespread trend towards personalization, at a both deeper and wider level than ever before. Deeper, because personalization is no longer based on stereotypes that group us in clusters of people with the same taste, or learning style, or demographics: rather, technology now makes it possible to treat each of us as the unique individual that we are, with our personal characteristics, requirements, constraints and contexts. Wider, because it is possible to realize it in more contexts more often for a wider audience than ever.
Hendrik Drachsler: dataTEL - Potentials and Limitations of Educational Datasets
The growth of data in the knowledge society creates opportunities for new insights through advanced analysis methods based on information retrieval technologies. Educational institutions also create and own huge datasets on their students and course activities. But they make little use of the data when considering new educational services, recommending suitable peers or content, and improving the personalization of learning. Nevertheless, personalized learning is expected to have the potential to create more effective learning experiences, and accelerate the study time for students. In the educational world, only very limited datasets are publicly available and no agreed quality standards exist on the personalization of learning. The dataTEL Theme Team aims to address these issues by advancing data driven research to gain verifiable and valid results and to develop a body of knowledge about the personalization of learning. In this context, new challenges emerge like unclear ethical, legal and privacy issues, suitable policies and formats to share data, required pre-processing procedures and rules to create sharable datasets, common evaluation criteria for personalization and recommender systems in TEL. The lecture will give an overview about the latest developments in educational datasets research and give an outline how a dataset driven future in TEL could look like.
Fridolin Wild: Learning an ecosystem: networks, mash-ups, analytics
Within this talk, a new (small) theory of learning with technology will be presented, which is grounded in methodical culturalism and activity theory. The theory boils down to grounding the development of rich professional competence in sharing language through social interaction, mediated by tools. One model of putting this into practice is in using natural language processing tools to capture conceptual knowledge from learners’ communicative exchange, complemented by a represention of their practices of e.g. web interaction with a human-language-like mash-up scripting language. Using a potent combination of latent semantic analysis and social network analysis, the learning of individuals and groups can then be dismantled and subjected to (computational) inspection. A set of application examples rounds up the talk.
Scott Wilson: Widgets and Mashups for Personal and Institutional
Smartphones, tablets, set-top boxes, in-car systems, games consoles, interactive whiteboards: the range and sophistication of Internet-enabled devices that users are working and learning with has expanded dramatically in recent years, and when discussing personal and institutional technologies we now mean a whole range of form factors and features, some of which did not exist in usable form only 5 years ago. However we've also seen a convergence of the types of capabilities these devices bring to users, and in particular how a strong role is emerging for web standards like HTML5 in creating the next generation of software applications for all kinds of platforms. In this talk we'll look at the roadmap for flexible applications (widgets) based on current and planned work in W3C, and explore some of the challenges that have emerged in current projects for using widget technologies to deliver compelling mashups that take advantage of the features offered by today's - and future - devices.
Allison Littlejohn: Learning Literacies for a Digital Age (LiDA)
Current trends towards networked communities and digital citizenship, as well as workplace changes including distributed/collaborative work patterns and an (arguably) higher value being placed on 'knowledge' work, all make digital capabilities central to what postgraduate education can offer. While efforts are being made to support students' ICT and information skills – or at least bring these up to a minimum standard of competence – we argue that these are not being followed through the postgraduate experience in a coherent way, or integrated with the development of other capabilities critical to higher learning. Universities are typically not focused on producing researchers who can investigate, study and learn in technology-rich environments. In this session we will explores the nature of digital literacies and implications for researcher development. The presentation is based on a theoretical review of the literature as part of the Learning Literacies for a Digital Age study carried out by Allison Littlejohn, Helen Beetham and Lou McGill (available from
Marco Kalz: Structuration of personal learning environments. Theoretical foundations and research challenges
Despite promising example implementations the amount of empirical research about the use of PLE for learning is rather small. One of the reasons for this is that the concept of PLE is still fuzzy and that there is no shared research agenda for PLE research and development. The presentation will provide a short analysis of the current state of the art of PLE research and development. The Theory of Structuration by Anthony Giddens and successive technology oriented theories will be used to define Personal Learning Environments from a structurational perspective. PLE will be discussed in the light of self-organized learning, double-loop learning and reflection about learning. In addition the PLE will be discussed as an environment to capture learning experiences from different contexts. Current research challenges will be summarized and future research directions proposed.
Thomas Sporer: Reflection in action/on action for assessment: from the informal to the formal
Thomas Sporer will give a talk on reflection in experiential learning and the role of blended assessment to bridge the gap between informal and formal learning contexts. Key competencies are of crucial importance for an education systems that aims at life long learning and - as envisioned by the European Commission - a strategy of "smart growth" which builds on the capacities of research and innovation in a digital society.To foster the development of student's key competencies the traditional field of education (which is based on curricula and institutional learning environments to a large extend) needs to be expanded by more experiential kinds of learning and informal learning contexts. The emergence of the term "personal learning environment" - one component of this lecture series - indicates that shift from teaching (input-driven approach) to learning (output-driven approach).To set the context of the talk, the relevance of reflection for the development of key competencies gets outlined and the role of assessment with regard to experiential learning and informal learning contexts will be elaborated. This will refer to two strands of current research: namely personal development planning (PDP) and accreditation of prior learning (APL).The following example of a study programme at the University of Augsburg presents a learning design that tries to integrate PDP and APL. It bridges the gap between formal and informal learning contexts via a portfolio-based assessment approach ( The reflection of extra-curricular learning experiences thereby blends the assessment-of-learning with the assessment-for-learning: it serves the purpose of formal accreditation as well as the guidance of student's competency development.However, a learning design based on sound theoretical principles needs to be implemented in educational practice in a proper way. In this regard three challenges had to be tackled: The first challenge is of institutional nature and includes the configuration of the blended assessment approach according to the policy of the Bologna reform. The second challenge is of social nature. It concerns the successful introduction of this new kind of assessment approach to students and teachers. The third challenge deals with the technical implementation of the portfolio system and its design of social interactions - which addresses the the mashup component of this lecture series.
Denis Gillet: Social Media Models - Supporting Interaction, Recommendation and Trust
In this talk, underlying social media models will be discussed. Their potential to understand the interaction processes, to implement recommendation and to enforce trust will be illustrated. A special focus will be placed on capturing context in personal learning and knowledge management. An example showing how the 4A model proposed by EPFL supports the design and the implementation of PLE in Graaasp ( will be presented.
Steven Warburton: Identity: (re-)construction of a digital self
This presentation will examine identity construction in the age of social media. How do we practically manage our sense of [digital] identity when the boundary between our online selves and our real world selves becomes blurred. What ethical considerations do we need to take account of in the production of the digital self. These and other questions will be explored via a recent project on digital identity that has been using a pattern language framework to uncover and document digital identity related practices.
Martin Wolpers: Learning analytics - focusing on contextualized attention metadata (CAM)
The lecture will discuss ways to collect, share and distil usage information in order to enable personalized support for learning activities. After motivating the need for new ways of aggregating usage information, we will discuss a format to represent usage (meta-)data, discuss frameworks to collect usage (meta-)data and how such data can contribute to a personalized software intended for the support for learning activities.
Philippe Dessus: Loops, Gaps and Contradiction: Three Objects that Foster Learning in PLEs
This talk is about some core objects encountered in PLEs that can cause or even foster learning. Literature on PLEs often reports the features every PLE share. The following are worth mentioning among the most frequently reported: personalisation and malleability of the learning environment, its suitability for both formal and informal learning, focus on learner. Literature sometimes also reports the dimensions upon which any PLE can be analysed (Palmér et al., 2009; van Harmelen, 2006) or which processes are fostered in learning (Henri, Charlier & Limpens, 2008). Since reporting these features is sound from a technical viewpoint (even though problematic for some researchers, see Fiedler & Väljataga, 2010), they seldom are psychologically grounded and the question of how and why they can help or even trigger learning can be posed. This talk will address this question: to which extent a PLE can mimic some core activities involved in teaching, and through which functions or objects? In so doing, the view is not purely technical or functional but psychological. In a nutshell, a PLE that fosters learning enables learners:1/ to be engaged in several activity loops whose main goal is exhibiting some material for learning purposes,2/ in so doing, to realize explicitly or more implicitly, the gap between their actual state (epistemic or social) and their expected state (e.g., what what remains to be learned, with whom to interact);3/ in parallel, to have the opportunity to contradict (or at least negotiate) the feedback if it appears to be non-optimal, either from an epistemic or social viewpoint. The very specific combination and learners’ involvement or awareness on these three objects fosters learning. The talk is threefold: the presentation in more depth of the three objects, the illustration of these notions through some systems designed in our lab, and the listing of design principles for new PLEs to emerge from this view (Dessus, 2009). Beyond the explosion of PLE features, due to ever-growing research progresses lies the problem of their complexity and possible non-use (Norman, 2011). Grounding the design and development of PLEs with psychology-oriented principles may prevent this problem.
Hendrik Drachsler: Recommender Systems and Learning Analytics in TEL
Technology-enhanced learning aims to design, develop and test socio-technical innovations that will support and enhance learning practices and knowledge sharing of individuals and organizations. It is therefore an application domain that generally covers technologies that support all forms of teaching and learning activities. With the increasing use of Learning Management Systems, Personal Learning Environments, and Data Mashups the TEL field, became a promising application area for information retrieval technologies and Recommender Systems to suggest most suitable learning content or peers to learners. The renewed interest in information retrieval technologies in TEL reveals itself through an increasing number of scientific events and publications combined under the research term Learning Analytics. Learning Analytics has the potential for new insights into learning processes by making so far invisible patterns in the educational data visible to researchers and develop new services for educational practice. This lecture attempts to provide an introduction to Recommender Systems for TEL, as well as to highlight their particularities compared to recommender systems for other application domains. Finally, it will outline the latest developments of Recommender Systems in the area of Learning Analytics.
Traian Rebedea: PolyCAFe: Feedback and Support for Online Conversations
In most educational scenarios, the learners that use online discussions such as instant messaging and discussion forums never receive feedback for their conversations, especially due to the fact that such an analysis is very difficult and time consuming for tutors. This is the main problem that PolyCAFe is addressing by providing automatic feedback to learners and by supporting tutors in the analysis of their students’ multi-party online discussions.
Ivan Zuzak: Inter-widget communication
Inter-widget communication is one of the foundations for achieving flexibility and interactivity in widget-based environments, and therefore in MUP/PLEs. In this talk, systems for inter-widget communication in Web applications will be discussed. A software architectural approach is used to provide a practical design space for describing properties of and requirements for inter-widget communication. This design space is then used for describing several existing inter-widget communication systems, together with results of a broad analysis of the inter-widget communication ecosystem.
Matthias Palmér: Mapping the MUPPLE features of web based systems
This talk outlines an approach for mapping what various systems have to offer with respect to the MUPPLE perspective. The mapping is based on a wide range of features that can be supported by a system or not. Similar features are grouped into dimensions, like screen, data, social and runtime dimensions, to provide a better overview of strengths and weaknesses. The talk will present how a few representative systems compare visualised as spider diagrams.
Matthias Palmér: Widget Communication using partial semantic interoperability
This talk will introduce the approach of "partial semantic interoperability" to help widgets communicate and understand each other. An important requirement of the approach is how it scales to the current situation with hundreds of thousands of available widgets. Another important requirement is to not put a cap on innovation by limiting what can be communicated. A demo will illustrate how the widget communication can be used in a learning scenario.

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