What, I hear you ask, is a PLE? Good question; I would have wondered the same thing until very recently. A PLE is a Personal Learning Environment. This stands in contrast with a V (virtual) LE aka an LMS which will be a system used by an educational institution to handle activities such as access to course materials, module registration, forums, assessments etc.
My stepson at secondary school, says that they use Google Classrooms at his school, which surprised me. This free part of the google offering (unless you are using it with a school/class in which case the school must have a G-suite account)was developed in 2014 and can allow for assignments, grading, discussion etc. He explained to me that all his students use it (even history and :Latin!) and that they post assignments and some share notes on the lesson which can be useful to catch up with.
I digress. Being vaguely aware of all this (the OU use a variation of Moodle BTW), I thought perhaps a PLE was some kind of weird app/software that you downloaded and used to handle all your notes and do your assignments on and stuff. But Martin Weller’s blog (I was going to point you to the post that I saw via the OU H800 material, but actually this more recent one summarises it nicely), points out to me that its just the tools and things that you use (and choose to use) in your studies.
There are some arguments that PLEs and VLEs are in direct opposition to each other. Nonsense. I have successfully incorporated the OU’s platform into my own PLE and have supplemented it with google docs for notes, Word for assignments etc (I won’t bore you with the whys and wherefores), Mendeley for managing references (though I am sure I am not really using it correctly), Twitter for searching and following academics blah blah. When I was studying FutureLearn and Chartered Management Institute (or is it CIM? Can never remember) courses, I did something similar but incorporated the FutureLearn platform (the CMI one was awful, I printed out some materials and then ignored it).
PLE use cannot be avoided; although I can submit my assignments via the OU’s LMS (well, I assume that is where the activity is taking place), I can’t write them in there. I also may reach out via social media to discuss or research some of my studies, just as, if I was at university before such things I would have – shock, spoken to other students about things, and used my own pens and paper.