Digital Learning Environments

There is no doubt, based upon the overwhelming evidence, that the Digital Learning Environment is the dominant learning venue of this millennium. It expands access, improves learning, seamlessly integrates into life and work, sustains continuous improvement in individuals and organizations, shortens the time between knowledge development and implementation, improves scholarship, and changes virtually everything regarding learning system design and that means every aspect of a elementary, secondary, and post secondary or tertiary educational systems.

What is a DLE? Jarkko Suhonen, the senior Researcher from the University of Eastern Finland defined digital learning environments (DLEs) in his doctoral dissertation as technical solutions for supporting learning, teaching and studying activities (Suhonen, 2005). [1]

Digital learning environments is a term that refers to the total of digital resources (computers, software, storage, software, and systems) used to manage an academic enterprise and support, enable or manage learning. Their emergence and adoption has more to do with learning than technology, although technology developments have been essential in their evolution.

eLearning and Digital Learning Environments

I prefer Digital Learning Environments to eLearning as a header topic for all things digital and learning. This highly semantically oriented distinction is only raised here because the literature surrounding eLearning is a very sound foundation for understanding  the evolution, development, utilization, effectiveness, design and implementation of Digital Learning Environments. It is appropriate when beginning the discussion of DLE’s to focus on beliefs about eLearning versus what we know and demonstrate. See our latest eLearning Facts vs Fiction post.

Ebooks are emerging that bring more power from Digital Media to the textbook thereby advancing learning objectives. There are 10 great examples courtesy of the MacArthur Foundation. The books include articles, blog posts, videos, and interviews published between 2009 and 2013 at the MacArthur-supported Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning, an online publication that explored the intersection between technology and education.

From Socrates and Plato on education has had an issue with scalability. One initiative that explores it are MOOCs aka massive open online courses delivered over the web to potentially thousands of students at a time. If you wish to get a better understanding of what MOOCs are a great place to start is the EDUCAUSE Executive Briefing on MOOCs. MOOCs are being driven by some very heavy hitters in Higher Education. Coursera is a spinoff out of Stanford University. edX is a collaboration between Harvard, MIT, and Berkeley that is now forming partnerships around the globe. Another approach is to go directly to professors to engage massively online courses. Udacity and Udemy both open up the MOOC platform to the scholar/practitioner/faculty.

Another highly effective digital resource that has emerged is the Direct Access Curriculum Personal Learning System such as Khan Academy and Knewton. Knewton calls their system an adaptive learning infrastructure and have an impressive collection of collaborating organizations. While examining both the Knewton and the Khan Academy it becomes apparent that these operate at a more granular level and permit very specific focus on discrete information and learning objects. The emergence of these highly granular systems requires academics to rethink their view and model for the structure of their curriculums architecture. We cover the subject under Curriculum Architecture which is a parallel topic with DLE under Academic Planning Services


[1] Jarkko Suhonen, A formative development method for digital learning environments in sparse learning communities, Academic Dissertation, University of Joensuu, 2005

One thought on “Digital Learning Environments

  1. It becomes apparent that this operate at more granular level. I don’t understand. Can someone help please. However, I enjoyed the unit


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