Circa Spring 2009 I took a detour in my dissertation research to investigate the question of time. After all, my research focuses on the central role of coordinating location and time in managing human activities, and what is a dissertation if not an opportunity to spend a couple of years either proposing the esoteric or proving the painfully obvious in excruciating detail? This research has been of some help so far in my teaching, though not as directly as I'd prefer. But it has provided added fuel to the fire about my Blackboard objections and added to the list of features I'd like to see.
Daniel Bachhuber of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism suggests that a learning management system (i.e. Blackboard, Boodle, et al.) should incorporate time as a central part of the interface. I like that idea. So much so that I'll push it to an extreme- a dashboard with a calendar, to-do list, and a newsfeed of sorts would be an improvement. Time management tools would be essential. One critical part of my earlier research in student retention and student success is the need to reinforce time management skills. Building a calendar into the LMS seems to be a natural way to remind users about class schedules and deadlines. And we all like feedback: use session data to monitor a student's performance history against peers (in aggregate) and instructor recommendations. Good to know if we're slacking relative to our peers, after all.
Where can such a thing live comfortably? I'd have to admit, this would sound like a logical step for the GMail / Google Docs application suites being adopted by school systems and colleges. After all, GCal and GDocs have the infrastructure and the APIs to support some interesting applications. Retool Google Reader, Google Analytics, and throw in some other Google Labs, and that would be a further step towards a Google-powered LMS. Or, learn from what these tools over and start fresh- there's another old saying in IT development, that you should build one to throw away before you start your real work.
One thing is clear though- rethinking a Learning Management System from the perspective of supporting learning and assessment is essential. Slapping a gradebook application on top of a decade-old Content Management System paradigm just doesn't help anyone much, and the paradigms have changed sufficiently in the past decade to justify a fresh start.