Persistent Personal Learning Archives

Digitally archiving most of your learning activity is now possible, which means you can share it later, out of context. As an example of how this might be problematic, suppose you present in an interview a short video clip of a classroom discussion on a controversial topic in which you demonstrate excellence and I appear to be incompetent or immoral – and I happen to be the next candidate facing that interview board.

This is now a plausible scenario, whereas a decade ago it was impossible. The transformation in digital media over the past decade has radically changed things which we formerly took for granted. I’m discussing this in my paper at PLEConf14 next week, but I wanted to bring out the central assumption here – that learners can create Persistent Personal  Learning Archives.

The initial issue is based on an assumption not widely stated – that learners portfolios are becoming persistent personal lifelong learning archives. There are two prime reasons for this – first, maintaining a personal learning journal, and second being able to present material either for RPL or as evidence of skills for employers or clients.

Ubiquitous use of digital learning environments, easy data capture and cheap storage make the creation of extensive Persistent Personal Learning Archives possible now in a way not hitherto possible. A consequence of this is that a students Persistent Personal Learning Archive will include not only evidence of that students own learning, but also text, audio and video recordings which include other students’ personally identifiable information, original intellectual property, and statements not intended for publication outside the ‘classroom’; some of which may reflect poorly on other students.

In the paper for PLEConf I look at examples of cases where this has ethical implications, but here I want to expand on the PPLA concept a little.

A PPLA does not have to archive every digital learning activity, although it could. As I see it, it would be an archive of significant learning experiences or outputs which the learner chooses to gather and keep together. For some learners, that will simply be a collection of academic transcripts in a trusted archive, for others it could be a much wider, rich archive of transformational learning experiences.

It is a natural outgrowth of the concept of a personal learning environment, and of the recognition that real learning is a lifelong activity. As we move away from an age dominated by institutional learning management systems to flexible personal learning environments, the learning portfolio becomes important for all disciplines. Formerly, portfolios were things arty people brought to interviews, but now every profession needs to gather, archive and present evidence of continuous professional learning to maintain professional certification.

A PPLA does not have to be a very sophisticated digital tool – a USB key or SD card could be your PPLA. It needs to be able to take in, hold and present a wide range of types of data. However, it could have certain other functions:

  • Alerts when data formats were becoming obsolete and materials needed conversion. A variant on this would be that when enough people are using a PPLA, perhaps provided by their university or the state, it then becomes worthwhile for the service provider to maintain tools to access older data formats.
  • Authentication of qualifications, either by internal electronic signing, or, possibly because the PPLA was a state or institutionally provided trusted repository. Students who have done primary and graduate degrees across several institutions know the hassle of collecting transcripts for future applications. As the variety of certifications grows from MOOCs to Micro-badges, this becomes more complex. If there was a international standard for the data archiving, a Europeana for qualifications, there could be advantage for universities in providing their undergraduates with a trusted lifetime archiving facility.
  • Automatic alerts of the need to update certain skills. This is simple with proper metadata, indeed, badge systems already provide the possibility of date stamping and setting an expiry data on qualifications.  This would also support not only CPD requirements but also emerging practices like researcher development frameworks in areas without formal CPD requirements. It could also extend to personal skills as well as professional – reminders that your first aid cert is 5 years old, or you haven’t participated in your wine tasting circle for months for people who embrace learning in its widest form.
  • A recommendation mechanism which would suggest new learning opportunities based on either need or simply interest matching.  This could be as simple as notifications of new courses or technologies requiring new training (‘Dear John, Visual Basic 45 for iOS is out; you might want to take an update course’) or if the user wished, a broader roaming of possible learning experiences. Like the update reminders, users could adjust the level of recommendations from core professional needs to broader interest related learning.
  • Scaffolding self-regulated and self-directed learning flows from the previous two points – which may be considered as one. As knowledge of SRL and SDL grows, PPLAs may incorporate increasingly sophisticated tools to assist life-long learners in managing their learning and finding new learning opportunities.
  • With text analysis tools and face and voice recognition tools, the PPLA platform could alert users when they archived materials that included other peoples personally identifiable information, and attach privacy or ethics metadata. This application f technology may become common in social media platforms in the future anyway – alerts when you upload images which in which other people can be recognised may become common, and would help to foster explicit awareness of privacy issues on the web.

The concept of Persistent Personal  Learning Archives has not been widely discussed*, but explorations in areas like personal learning environments and self-directed and life long learning seem to point towards a need to develop platforms to support this type of tool.

The idea of the PPLA is a key assumption in my PLEConf paper on privacy. The current version of that paper is here, but I expect to edit it after the feedback at the conference

* as of this morning (2104-07-04) I can find no reference to this concept online**

** Graham Attwells PLEConf paper includes discussion on the ‘White Folder’ which approaches archiving learning from a different angle. His paper in online at








One response to “Persistent Personal Learning Archives”

  1. Michael Kilkelly Avatar
    Michael Kilkelly

    Interesting stuff, Mick. In the highly regulated Pharma business that I find myself in, the issue of competency is constantly coming up during audits,etc. The regulatory bodies (HSA, EPA, IMB,FDA, insurance companies,etc) often request ‘proof of competency’ for example a contracted instrumentation technican who is calibrating a critical instrument. Providing a training cert is no longer deemed proof of competency. We are required to provide more detailed ‘meaty’ proof. I like your idea of the portfolio. You could make a nice sideline in the pharma industry setting up a learning platform like this.

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