I Am the Institution: A Personal Learning Environment

I Am the Institution: A Personal Learning Environment

Matthew Montebello (University of Malta, Malta)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9304-1.ch018

Abstract

The way adults pursue their education through life is changing as the technology around us relentlessly continues to enhance our quality of life and further enhances every aspect of the different tasks we set out to perform. This exploratory chapter looks into how every adult can embody a comprehensive set of academic services, platforms, and systems to assist every individual in the educational goals that one sets. A combination of three distinct technologies are presented together with how they not only come together but complement each other around a person in what is usually referred to as a personal area network. The network in this case incorporates an intelligent personal learning environment providing personalised content, intelligent wearables closer to the user to provide additional contextual customisation, and a surrounding ambient intelligent environment to close a trio of technologies around every individual.
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Introduction

Tertiary education has been going through a difficult time as universities and higher education institutions are besieged by competition, rising costs, and diminishing student numbers. This is also reflected in the current state of higher education as different methodologies had to be adopted, new programmes introduced and traditional one adjusted, additional incentives and duties for academics, as well as the introduction of novel learning theories and philosophies proposed and integrated (Glass, 2014). As a matter of fact it had already been pointed out (McAleese et al., 2013) that higher education institutions are in dire straits of modernisation to survive within a digital reality, and that the “pedagogical models designed for small institutions catering to an elite few are having to adapt, often under pressure, to the much more varied needs of the many, to greater diversification and specialisation within higher education, to new technology-enabled forms of delivery of education programmes, as well as to massive changes in science, technology, medicine, social and political sciences, the world of work, and to the onward march of democracy and human and civil rights discourses” (McAleese et al., 2013, p. 12).

This situation was further exacerbated by the intensive effect of technology and the digital reality that has taken over modern life. Academic institutions worldwide have had to accommodate and power-up their resources, courses, services, as well as staff training and professional development to ensure they offer an added-value service and keep up with the competition. This did not match with diminishing student numbers and dwindling retention rates as the learning process did not meet the expectations of the digital learner (Yorke and Longden, 2004). E-learning is a typical example of how universities attempted to maintain control of higher education courses as the online medium gained popularity and was established as a safe and convenient way to provide academic services. However, the focus of the institutions is on the technology rather than the educational impact and the philosophical connotations of the digital medium. This focus is mainly attributed to the institutions’ priorities to provide superior technological services in an effort to attract students, as well as ensuring to highly rank amongst top universities in order to secure funding. Studies (Macfadyen and Dawson, 2012; Park-Woolf, 2010) have shown the inability of higher education institutions to develop clear objectives for learning technologies because of their emphasis on technical issues rather than learner and academic needs during the planning process. Furthermore, software applications have been reported to fall short of expectations as they fail to address the learners’ needs within a digital education learning situation. Throughout this digital escalation the learner has evolved respectively together with the academic needs, pedagogies, media, and methodologies, and thereby requires a focused and distinctive analytical attention, research enquiry and inquisitive study. In this chapter the learner is at the centre of a proposed methodology based on the digital realities that are characterising the educational domain. The smart personal network presented brings together a trio of concepts that take full advantage of the digital while banking on the new affordances that the same digital has enabled. The rest of the chapter is organised in an incremental and sequential way as technologies and methodologies support and build on one another. The next section covers all the background information required to appreciate how the characteristics of the three aspects provide the required functionality and added-value as they complement each other to form a complete and functional learning environment. The first aspect covers the smart technologies employed that include hardware devices, software required, as well as artificial intelligent techniques employed. The second aspect deals with the digital pedagogies deployed over the previous technologies that provide the tools to assist in the learning process. Finally, the third aspect is related to the aspect of intelligent personal learning environments that brings together a learner’s academic portfolio and a supporting learning network. These three aspects come together in the section before the last as the smart personal learning area network comes together to reveal how a learner can impersonate all an educational institution is meant to deliver within a digital model. The last section presents a number of recommendations, future work and conclusions.

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