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April 27, 2005

An old design for an eLearning aggregator

Not that I get time to actually write much code, I'm presenting below some mockups I created late last year for an aggregator of learning contexts, based around typical social software concepts. Feel free to take from them anything of use!

First up is a 'front page' summarising new posts and resources, by activity and by person. In a desktop application this could be more of a three-pane view as in a typical newsreader, but in this web site mockup we have more of a front page design. (note: click each image for a larger version)

Next, we have a view drilling down into an activity, in this case an informal one. Note that this isn't a read-only feed aggregator, it supports directly posting back into the original context, via the Atom protocol.

We also introduce the concept of 'private' posts and resources, which are only local to the user, and 'public' ones that get published to the originating site. Participants in the activity are shown down the right hand side.

I recently played aorund with the new 43Things API, so now I also know that creating this screen is actually possible!

Here's another activity, this time of a more formal type. The other participant here is a support service rather than necessarily a single person, and this is a self-paced individual activity rather than a social one - I did this example mainly to show how the approach can stretch to encompassing more 'traditional' content-oriented online learning, as well as the more interesting social and collaborative types of activity.

Note that information on contexts is extensible rather than hard-coded; different contexts will necessarily have different kinds of supporting information, and this would be very hard to standardize, so instead we have this expanding list of information categories dynamically created next to the activity name.

Finally, here's a tool for finding more activities to join, by a variety of methods including search and recommendations. Presumably there should be a way to create activities as well as joining existing ones, although that isn't shown here.

Looking back on this bit of work, I'm on the one hand quite happy with the simplicity of the overall approach, yet on the other I wonder what is missing. I think the essentials are there - people, context, communication, resources - the main difference with a more typical LMS is the locating of the site with the user rather than the context provider, enabling participation in multiple contexts from different providers.

One thing not exposed here is interrelationships within groups of people and resources, such as topic maps and friend lists, although the latter is implied in some of the screens, and in references to FOAF.

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