Dabbagh, N., & Kitsantas, A. (2012). Personal Learning Environments, social media, and self-regulated learning: A natural formula for connecting formal and informal learning. The Internet and higher education, 15(1), 3-8.


Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) are an online environment used by an individual and personalized to meet their learning needs, which can be accomplished through the use of social media or Web 2.0 technologies. Dabbagh and Kitsantas (2012) identified three main purposes of this article to be (a) a review of research to support the claim that PLEs are a pedagogical approach for both formal and informal learning using social media and self-regulated learning in higher education, (b) identify the connection between PLE, social media, and self-regulated learning, and (c) provide a three-level pedagogical framework for using social media to create PLEs that support self-regulated learning for students. According to the authors, a PLE can be controlled by a student based on his or her formal or informal learning needs, but not all students have the necessary skills to effectively use social media to customize a PLE to get the learning experience they desire. With the three-level pedagogical framework, instructors can teach students, through scaffolding, to become self-regulated learners and acquire the skills that are essential to creating, managing, and sustaining PLEs using social media. PLEs allow individuals to seek and share information with others through digital and networked technologies, which allows them to be more actively involved in their learning.

 Key Points:

  • Web 2.0 technologies, such as social media, allow students to take charge of their own learning.
  • PLEs are an outcome of what social media allows learners to accomplish through creation, organization, and sharing of information.
  • A PLE can be controlled by a student according to his or her formal and informal learning needs.
  • Self-regulated learning is the student’s ability to engage in learning activities to attain a goal.
  • “PLEs are individualized by design and will differ from student to student” (Dabbagh & Kitsantas, 2012, p. 7)

 Design Principles

Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) serve as platforms for integrating both formal and informal learning and fostering self-regulated learning.

Zimmerman’s self-regulated learning model:

  1. Forethought Phase- Students predetermined beliefs impact how they approach tasks.
  2. Performance Phase- Students complete tasks to achieve goals.
  3. Self-reflection Phase- Students self-monitor outcomes and make decisions based on their performance
  4. “Self-regulated learners engage in a cyclic feedback loop until the successfully achieve their goals” (Dabbagh & Kitsantas, 2012, p. 6)

The pedagogical framework of social media:

  1. Level 1-personal information management
    • Educators encourage students to use social media to create a PLE  that allows them to engage in self-regulated learning.
  2. Level 2- social interaction and collaboration
    • Educators encourage students to use social media to engage in basic sharing and collaborative activities.
  3. Level 3- information aggregation and management
    • Educators encourage students to use social media to synthesize and aggregate information.
  4. This framework can be used by instructors to scaffold student self-regulated learning using PLEs.


Example Work

Figure 1 is a sample personal learning environment incorporating formal and informal learning taken from Personal Learning Environments: Challenging the dominant design of educational systems by Wilson, Liber, Johnson, Beauvoir, Sharples, and Milligan (2007, p. 31).

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do the authors define Personal Learning Environments (PLEs)?
  2. How does the research say students use social media to construct PLEs?
  3. How is self-regulated learning connected to PLEs?

 Additional Resources:


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Learning Environments Design Reading Series Copyright © by evrimb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book