Lots of good stuff to read here. I think I’m in the definition 2 camp and I don’t see why you would make a distinction for courses early in a program vs later ones. I’d argue all learners need to be parts of the community.
Awhile back we posted a thought about a “hub and spoke” model, where the institution might operate a hub for a course that the student would “dock” a PLE to for the academic term.
There might be some identity management issues with the institution addressed by this docking. There might be some institutional business (like grades). And there might be some quick community building and navigational aids that the hub would provide (perhaps even a feedbook).
But the learner owns the PLE and keeps the power relationship clear.
Now back to more reading of your comments