In the last decade, Learning Management Systems (LMS), also called Virtual Learning Environments (VLE), have dominated the academic landscape of North American and European universities, and promoted a renewing of teaching in Higher Education. As a consequence, in Switzerland, all institutions of higher education have implemented at least one LMS. Yet in recent years, driven by numerous mutations (eg, lifelong learning) and educational reforms at the European level (eg, Bologna process), universities further moved away from a teacher centric approach and introduced the new paradigm where the learners becomes the main actors in the process of building skills and knowledge.
This new paradigm has given birth to a range of new eLearning tools focusing primarily on the learner. These tools, both formal and informal, can be aggregated in what is commonly called a "Personal Learning Environment" (PLE). Among them, the ePortfolio plays a key role as it regroups productions made by teachers and learners using user-centric applications.
The concept of PLE has emerged relatively recently and remains largely open. while it is not straightforward to provide a clear definition of what is PLE, mainly because many different interpretations of the terminology, it is possible however to identify the main features that characterize it.
Nowadays, most people need to keep on updating both their skills and knowledge to meet the challenges of everyday life. This has spurred new learning needs which exceed by far the formal courses provided commonly by institutions. Instead, it becomes increasingly accepted by the community of teaching experts that learning must also include more informal training in order to better address individual needs.
In turn, this personalization of learning process could stimulate a new form of teaching, more centered around the learner, which encourages learners to keep on developing their skills throughout life. Such an enriched environment allows students to benefit from more ressources than what is commonly offered by LMS, which are mainly focusing on distributing, monitoring and managing learning contents.