What follows is a brief analysis of PLEs as an educational venture using De Coster and Butler’s (2005) model.
1. Technological and commercial risk: PLE management applications are not technologically complex, certainly not as complex as an LMS. However, they are disruptive to the Ed Tech field as they grant students more freedom and autonomy. Some instructors may see this as desirable, some not.
2. Level of product innovation: Some tools are dedicated to managing PLEs like Symbaloo or Ecto, a learning management system with spaces that can be personalized. However, many other free tools can be used to manage a PLE, depending on the taste of the instructor or learner. For this reason, any application meant primarily for PLE use needs to market itself wisely, showing strong time-saving advantages over free alternatives.
3. Market criteria: The market for PLE applications is immense, considering that they can be used in government, corporate, academic and personal learning. There is great demand for personalized learning at the moment and this demand is only likely to increase.
4. Product extensions: PLE applications have the potential for re-use and can become increasingly sophisticated at higher levels of education and then onto professional life. A PLE will change according to the learner’s instructional needs. To adapt quickly to new learning environments, users can take advantage of existing networks to collect useful links. For example, at the start of a new semester, students can do a search for tools and sites they think will be useful in their courses and share them with their classmates. Applications called recommenders are meant to facilitate this sharing. They are in development and could be an extension of PLE management tools (Mödritscher et al., 2011).
5. Entrepreneurial background: Any company that wants to launch a PLE application successfully will need to be led and staffed by people who are familiar with the needs of their particular educational market. A PLE application will likely be used differently in the corporate world than in primary schools.
6. Protecting competitive advantage: PLE management tools will have to be patent-protected, especially in these early days of personalized learning. As the market share of these tools grow, patent protection will become increasingly valuable.
De Coster, R. & Butler, C. (2005). Assessment of proposals for new technology ventures in the UK: Characteristics of university spin-off companies. Technovation, 25, 535-543. doi:10.1016/j.technovation.2003.10.002
Mödritscher, F., Krumay, B., El Helou, S., Gillet, D., Nussbaumer, A., Albert, D., Dahn I. & Ulrich C. (2011).
May I suggest? Comparing three PLE recommender strategies. Digital Education Review, 20, 1-13. Retrieved from: http://greav.ub.edu/der/