The Challenges of DLE in Education
By Hayley Phillips
The purpose of the DLE within the context of a school setting is to engage, enable and empower (Wheeler, 2015). Students engage with digital tools, technologies and resources, enabling them to have access to an abundance of information presented in a variety of formats, and empowering them to develop their Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) and navigational and analytical skills to source and select valuable resources (Wheeler, 2015). However, there are many challenges involved in developing, implementing and maintaining the DLE in educational institutions (Jenkins, Clinton, Purushotma, Robison & Weigel, 2006).

Each individual school setting would experience a variety of challenges based on the school community’s demographic, including:
  • Curriculum
  • Access
  • Ethics


With the introduction of the DLE to the school setting, arose the challenge of the “Collaboration Age” (Richardson, 2008). Collaboration plays a key role in the DLE’s successful function in a school setting to benefit students’ learning and development as digital citizens of this society, however, the challenge remains in establishing a balanced learning platform in a rapidly, advancing digital age (Lindsay & Davis, 2012). When technology first emerged in the educational landscape, it was “incorporated” into certain lessons as substantial precedents determined it to be beneficial for students to be “exposed” to digital tools (O’Connell & Groom, 2010). Now however, it is identified as an integral part of developing key, foundational skills learners will apply throughout their many roles in life (O’Connell & Groom, 2010). While education departments are rapidly adjusting and re-designing curriculums for educators to empower learners in the digital age, the continual emergence of enhanced technologies and digital tools contributes to the constant struggle to remain relevant and produce authentic, quality programs (Richardson, 2008).


The two major challenges for the DLE in educational settings are “gaining access” and “restrictions to access” (Wheeler, 2015).

While some schools choose not to participate in online subscriptions to e-books or e-encyclopedias, other schools do not hold the funding for access to more digital tools and resources for the classroom, including e-books, laptops, iPads/tablets and enhanced versions of Smartboards (Evans, 2005).

Restrictions to access can also hinder the students’ engagement within the DLE, with an abundance of valuable digital resources such as Prezi, Twitter and Glogster including age restrictions that remove a considerable age group from utilising these tools (Montgomery & Kehoe, 2016). The use of the intranet in schools can also block valuable resources that are not recognised by the host IT server, creating challenges in sourcing authentic, relevant information within the confines of the intranet server to produce individually unique projects (O’Connell & Groom, 2010).


With strict copyright laws and licensing agreements for digital resources such as e-books and e-encyclopedias, gaining access or “subscriptions” to these for “multiple” users can become a challenge in a school setting (Evans, 2005). Some schools have avoided e-books for this reason, as it is difficult to maintain ethical use when you can’t loan them out like a physical copy (Evans, 2005). Depending on the e-book company, this can mean a school with one or two licenses for a children’s book could have 20-30 students accessing its contents at the same time, posing an ethical dilemma for the school (O’Connell & Groom, 2010).

Another issue that arises from the DLE in education is the abundance of information at the touch of a button, which adds simplicity to plagiarism during tasks and exercises utilising digital resources (Jenkins, Clinton, Purushotma, Robison & Weigel, 2006). It is imperative that teachers continue to address this challenge through modelling summarisation and making connections between valuing people and their achievements – from peers to internationally renowned figures – and valuing resources by acknowledging the individual who created them (Montgomery & Kehoe, 2016).


To gain a greater understanding of the challenges and possible solutions to support student learning, please participate in this short questionnaire on your school with four possible outcomes to assist you in your further designs, implementation and maintenance of the DLE in education.

Phillips, H. (2017). How can you support student learning through DLE?. Retrieved from


Evans, G. (2005). Developing library and information center collections (5th ed.). Littleton, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited.

Jenkins, H., Clinton, K., Purushotma, R., Robison, A. J., & Weigel, M. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century [White paper]. Retrieved from MacArthur Foundation website

Lindsay, J., & Davis, V. (2012). Flattening classrooms, engaging minds: Move to global collaboration one step at a time. New York: Allyn and Bacon.

Montgomery, A. & Kehoe, I. (Eds.). (2016). Reimagining the Purpose of Schools and Educational Organisations: developing critical thinking, agency, beliefs in schools and educational organisations. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing

O'Connell, J., & Groom, D. (2010). Connect, communicate, collaborate. Camberwell, Vic.: ACER Press.

Richardson, W. (2008, December 3). World without walls: Learning well with others. Edutopia.
Retrieved from __

Wheeler, S. (2015). Learning with ‘e’s: Educational theory and practice in the digital age. United Kingdom: Crown House Pub Ltd.