career development

Audit Your Personal Learning Environment

No doubt there are others like me who have signed up for, downloaded or acquired tools, applications and devices which make up our Personal Learning Environment. There is every intention to integrate these into our daily or weekly routines. Perhaps we just wanted to try them out, used them for a specific task or project or have used them only on an ad-hoc basis at most. It’s time to clean up!

In an earlier post, where I distinguished a PLN from a PLE, I hinted at my own definition of a Personal Learning Environment. There appears to be variations of a definition, yet two components stick out – tools and learning. Here’s my definition: –

A PLE consists of an individual, learner-oriented collection of tools, resources, services, and connections organised and used to gather and engage with information, reflect, and communicate and collaborate with others, in pursuit of continual learning and achievement of goals and objectives. 

The goal of a PLE audit (or mine) is to re-organise and co ordinate components to increase efficiency by minimising effort required to access and use each component. The outcome of this process is a more effective PLE, better suited to the achievement of learning goals and objectives.

I’ve taken three steps to audit and tidy up my Personal Learning Environment – stocktake, assess and organise.


  1. Gather all log in details for each tool, resource or service. I found this was the easiest way to identify what I’ve signed up to, tried, or use.
  2. Create a list of email subscriptions, web applications, wikis, software of your computer and devices. My list consisted of over 20 tools (!) including Gmail, Mindnode Pro (on my Mac), Dropbox, Twitter, Slideshare, Evernote and Skype.
  3. Divide a page into three columns – Tools/Devices/Resources, Use it?, What for?.
  4. Fill in the table as much as possible.


Go through each component and assess its role and contribution to your PLE. I created the diagram below to provide consistency and assist with the process.

(I understand the diagram can be hard to read. Click on the image to view a larger version)


Once you have identified the next steps required to re-organise your PLE components, ensure that you action them! If it will help, create a diagram or edit your list (created during ‘stocktake’) to show your newly designed PLE.  A visual reminds and assists me to see the ‘big picture’. I’m that sort of person, I guess.

Other Tips

  • Take stock of your PLE on a regular basis.
  • Include your online presence in this process. Which ‘presence’ (eg. LinkedIn, blog) is lagging, not being properly maintained that it’s potentially damaging your brand and identity?
  • Identify the role of each component by their function. For example, my Google Reader performs a collecting function and my blog is a thinking and contributing space.
  • Create (and stick with) consistent use of tags, vocabulary and folder structures across similar applications. For example, a project folder on my mac will resemble an arrangement of notebooks in Evernote.
  • If you use Instapaper, create an RSS feed for your “Unread” folder and add it to Google Reader. You’ll only need to look in one place for reading material and resources, not two.

The aim here was to prompt thinking about the effectiveness of a PLE and its components’ efficiency of use. The suggested audit process is intended to be a guide and is by no means exhaustive or absolute. I’m sure there are other ways to evaluate tools and ‘tweaking’ a PLE. This was just my approach. I hope it can be of use to others.

Resources for PLE definition: –

Attwell, G 2010, ‘Supporting Personal Learning in the Workplace’, The PLE Conference, ISSN 2077-9119.

McElvaney, J & Berge, Z 2009, ‘Weaving a Personal Web: Using online technologies to create customised, connected and dynamic learning environments‘, Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 35(2).

Educause 2009, ‘7 Things you should know about Personal Learning Environments‘.

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