Lifelong Learning: The Need for Portable Personal Learning Environments and Supporting Interoperability Standards


Olivier, B. & Liber, O. (2001). Lifelong Learning: The Need for Portable Personal Learning Environments and Supporting Interoperability Standards. Bristol: The JISC Centre for Educational Technology Interoperability Standards, Bolton Institute. Retrieved February 19, 2010 from

Work data:

Type of work: Working Paper


e-Learning and Instructional Technology | Education




This paper argues that, if we take the needs of lifelong learners seriously, they challenge the current paradigm of the Web server-based learning environment. In particular this architecture does not meet the lifelong learners’ needs for a consistent user interface; their need for a learning profile of their own that is necessary for (co-)managing their learning career; nor does it meet the need to be able to carry on learning while temporarily disconnected from a remote learning server.

In order to meet these needs, we put forward the concept of a Personal Learning Environment. We illustrate this with Colloquia which presents a radically different, peer-to-peer, architecture which has no central server.

We then show how the strengths of these two opposing client-server and peer-to-peer models can be combined to provide a new architecture which presents a way forward for the future of eLearning.

This approach, which integrates institutional learning environments and personal learning environments, will depend on standards to enable their intercommunication. Existing and currently developing learning technology standards already go a long way towards defining the information that needs to be exchanged and we sketch out what would be needed for an additional specification to support the transfer of this information to the PLE and to return data and outcomes back again.

We also note that such an architecture will enable much better use to be made of the capacity of the learner’s own system, enabling more sophisticated learning systems to be developed without the server becoming a bottleneck, by effectively load-balancing between the two.