Okay, this is probably so obvious that everyone has already thought of it, but bear with me – Now I’ve gone over to Google Desktop (read ‘the dark side’ for some), I thought ‘why can’t my VLE be like this?’ Ie. a light client with dynamic panels that is always running. Just for starters here are the sections I’d have:
- Forum postings – any postings to forums I’d subscribed to (or been subscribed to automatically given my student role).
- Current content – links to the content that I am supposed to be working on. Especially if that content is wrapped in RSS or something similar so it can update dynamically.
- Related feeds – perhaps a mixture of feeds I had subscribed to and those automatically given me by the course designer e.g. all Psychology students get a news feed from the American Psychological Society. Not directly course related, but of academic relevance.
- To do list – maybe linked to a calendar so that central messages can be sent e.g. assignment due next week.
- Top tools – shortcuts to the tools I use most, or the default set provided by the university.
- Email – just give ’em Gmail.
As with GD you could expand any of these, and clicking on them would launch you in to the VLE proper.
Technically this wouldn’t be rocket science, but it would require a few changes in academic practice, such as producing content in appropriate chunks. What would be interesting would be the influence it had (if any) on the learner. Would it promote (for those of a nervous disposition I’ll refrain from saying ‘afford’) a learning strategy that breaks everything down in to small time slots? Would it help some learners to incorporate their education in to their everyday lives, for example if you are at work you don’t have to separate out a lot of the education, it is something you do inbetween other tasks? Would it help schedule work for learners? Would this mean a loss of flexibility? And so on.
It is often quite simple tools such as this that have a subtle influence on the individual and their relationship to the formal learning experience, so at the very least it would make an interesting research project.