16 Dabbagh and Kitsantas “Personal Learning Environments, social media, and self-regulated learning: A natural formula for connecting formal and informal learning”


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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2011.06.002.


A Personal Learning Environment (PLE) is potentially promising to:

  • integrate formal and informal learning using social media and to support self-regulated learning for students in higher educational contexts;
  • conceptionally connect the PLE to social media and to self-regulated learning, and
  • to provide the three-level pedagogical structure for the use of social media to generate PLEs that promote self-regulated learning.

The objective of this study is to evaluate studies that promotes that statement. Implications are given in this field for potential studies.

Learners can are active co-producers of content. They seek information to address a problem at work, school, or just satisfy a curiosity. To do so, they take advantage of digital and networked technologies not only to seek information, but also to share information. Additionally, learning in the context of social media has become highly self-motivated, autonomous, and informal, as well as an integral part of the college experience (McGloughlin & Lee, 2010).

Current higher education institutions focus more on traditional ways of teaching, such as course and learning management system. Most of the institutions did not pay much attention on pedagogical strategies such as applying social media and social networks to give learners the opportunities to create a better learning environment. This learning environment can help learners build connections and create their learning activities with peers.

Previous studies have demonstrated that social media plays the functions of assisting the formation of PLEs, helping learners share learning progress with peers, contributing collective knowledge generation, and working with their own meaning making.

The purpose of this study mainly focuses on how instructors use PLE to create a platform for informal and formal learning. In addition, this learning environments can be beneficial for self-regulated learning in higher education. The authors mentioned three aspects of the purpose of this study: (a) examine studies that support the statement and provide implications for future research; (b) explore connections between social media, PLE, and self-regulated learning, and (c) use three-level pedagogical framework to explain how social media can be applied to support self-regulated learning in in PLE.

The number of students who use social media has increased dramatically from 2007 to 2010, and the gap between younger students and aging adults use of social media has decreased (Smith & Caruso, 2010). According to the report from Educause Learning Initiative, Social media has been widely used in teaching and learning in four year colleges. In the classroom, some instructors used WordPress for portfolio development, Twitter for classroom conversations, and wiki software for collaborative projects ( Rosen & Nelson, 2008; Rankin, 2009; Hazari, North, & Moreland, 2009).

College students are incorporating social media in their learning in formal and informal ways, and the number of college students who used social media for collaborative project has increased (Dabbagh & Kitsantas, 2012). The authors also cited several ways of new learning and teaching, such as e-learning 2.0, pedagogy 2.0, student 2.0, faculty 2.0, and classroom2.0, with the suffix 2.0 characterizing themes such as openness, personalization, collaboration, social networking, social presence, user-generated content, the people’s Web, and collective wisdom. The authors conclude that all of these can demonstrate  transformation of practice in learning and teaching. All of these social media platforms can demonstrate that emerging technology PLE can influence teaching and learning.

A PLE is a new structure in social media-based e-learning literature and continually builds on e-learning as an efficient learning platform. The PLE’s in addressing learner monitoring and personalization issues often occurring in organizational e-learning LMS gradually become effective. PLEs can be perceived as both a technology and a pedagogical method that is student-designed around each individual’s goals or a learning approach “chosen by a student to match his or her personal learning style and pace”(Johnson et al., 2011, p. 8).

In the field of e-learning, PLE is progressively efficient in dealing with problems of learner command and personalization often missing in organizational LMS. Although the LMS was originally intended to provide a versatile structure for sophisticated teaching pedagogies, study has increasingly demonstrated that LMS plays a key role in promoting professional dissemination instruments via teaching instruments.

In social media, PLE is made possible through instruments that allow learners to acquire knowledge or expertise, to find examples and suggestions of how student interaction is approached by a school project or to go online. A main element of a PLE is that the student creates an internet image in which a custom-made teaching atmosphere sends messages that encourage the learner to communicate, to communicate, to communicate and to efficiently mix official and informal learning. Several researchers studied how students use social media to official and informal education.

Self-regulated learning can be viewed as a capacity in which learners should understand how to achieve objectives, what is necessary to accomplish them and how these objectives can be achieved. The three phases model of self-regulated learning seeks to clarify why and how learners perform in the academic field. The first stage is the preliminary stage. In this step, learners have a predefined collection of knowledge (for example, setting targets and scheduling) and self-confidence (e.g., job engagement, auto efficiency) in order to affect how they handle the job before taking part in the teaching assignment. The second stage, the stage of success, involves learners in the behavior needed to reach their objectives effectively. In particular, learners track their development and use certain approaches to conduct teaching duties. Students use self-monitored results to create judgements concerning their efficiency at the final stage, the self-reflection stage.

Key points

The authors created a pedagogical context for social media use centered on the rates of interaction that social media instruments allow to help teachers to develop their self-regulatory competencies in the development of PLE, including (1) handling of private data, (2) cultural communication and cooperation and (3) inclusion and administration of data

Self-regulated learning enables students to participate in behavioral and self-motivating processes in an independent and proactive way, these abilities will help the students to achieve the goals (Zimmerman, 2002). Self-regulated learning encourages students to set goals, take actions to achieve the goals and accomplish the goals. In particular, teachers should promote learners to utilize personal media, including websites and wikis, on stage 1 of the educational system to develop a PLE to enable them to participate in Zimmerman’s self-regulating teaching procedures in the foresight stage such as target setting and scheduling. On stage 2, teachers should encourage learners to use social media to participate in fundamental communication and cooperative operations. For instance learners can allow the comments function of the blog to allow the instructor’s and peer feedback. In this context, students use social media to promote informal learning communities around the topics of the course, extending the PLE from a personal area to a social place for learning. On stage 3, educators promote learners to use social media to synthesize and combine data at levels 1 and 2 to impact on their general teaching practice. Their role is to encourage them to use the social media.


This article examined the studies that supported this statement and outlined a three-level pedagogical structure that professors and teachers can use to enhance self-regulated learning by means of PLEs. While this three-level structure has not been empirically evaluated, the learners are encouraged to produce efficient and viable PLEs to produce required teaching results and to enrich their teaching environments as part of a self-oriented feedback systems with the assistance of the teacher and their colleagues.

Not all students have the ability to manage knowledge and self-regulate social media effectively in a way that customizes PLE to provide their desire for learning. Students can learn fundamental and complicated, personal knowledge management abilities to create, manage and maintain PLE through a multitude of social media to assist them become effectively self-regulated learners.

Discussion questions

  1. What is the usage of social media tools for collaborative learning?
  2. What is the impact of social networking sites on students’ social well-being and academic performance?
  3. How to create E-learning in higher inclusive education?

Additional Resources

  • Korhonen, A. M., Ruhalahti, S., & Veermans, M. (2019). The online learning process and scaffolding in student teachers’ personal learning environments. Education and Information Technologies, 24(1), 755–779. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10639-018-9793-4.
  • Kompen, R. T., Edirisingha, P., Canaleta, X., Alsina, M., & Monguet, J. M. (2019). Personal learning environments based on Web 2.0 services in higher education. Telematics and Informatics, 38, 194–206. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tele.2018.10.003.
  • Prestridge, S. (2019). Categorising teachers’ use of social media for their professional learning: A self-generating professional learning paradigm. Computers & Education, 129, 143–158. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2018.11.003.



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Online Learning Toolbox by Evrim Baran is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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