I’ve reached a milestone, apart from some CSS layout bugs c_live is 99% done.This has been a big project of mine and although I’ve mentioned it here and there I haven’t really done a full blog post about it. I should probably start at the beginning, for the last year or so the Interactive Learning Strategies Team have been thinking about our long awaited upgrade to our bespoke learning platform, seeNet.
A lot has changed within education since seeNet’s inception in 1999, google was a relative unknown, there was no such thing as mobile internet and Apple’s ipod was just a twinkle in Steve Job’s eye.
The main problem of current VLE’s is they have, for lack of a better word baggage.
When e-learning was first being thought of, it was such a radical concept that people talked and championed and enthused and discussed and presented….. you catch my drift. This continual fervent chatter created the impression that e-learning was something in a box that you could just unleash and suddenly everything would just work. It didn’t and for a range of reasons that are probably best left to another blog post. The failure of e-learning create a deep suspicion of technology within the education sector, right at the time students started to expect it.
I finished my diploma at South East Essex College just before seeNet was switched on, so I was part of the last generation to go through a course without online ILP’s,Wikis, Courseplans, online collaboration even the internet was restricted. Compare that to now, you can access anything, anywhere, you can check your bank accounts whilst grabbing a cup of coffee from Starbucks.
Let’s look at our typical student (for now, lets assume there is such a concept as a typical student), they are comfortable with technology, they can happily surf the internet, chat with friends, share content, shop, use mobile phones etc. So we can comfortably say they know how most things work in an internet browser on a superficial level. Yet most in education are still stuck in the late nineties, especially our learning platforms, this got me thinking. If I was a student now, what would I expect when I logged on? Now I should preface this by saying I’m not talking about “College of the future” that wouldn’t even require the student to log on.
And so c_live was born.
I looked back to my college and university experiences to see what technologies and services would have made my life easier.
The one thing that always annoyed me is that you’re doing some research on campus and you find something really useful on the internet, so you do the sensible thing and bookmark it. Except that when you go home, you’ve forgotten the address and you can’t get at the bookmark as its stored on your user profile on the network. We’re almost through the first decade of the new millennium and our student has two options, trudge back up to campus, log on and email it to your home account or have the foresight to jot it down in a notebook?
We shouldn’t be making our students life harder, so to led a helping hand I created seeLinks, its a xml based web app that allows students to store useful links within the browser, all you need to do to access them is log into the vle, this can be at home, work, or even at starbucks.
Information overload, TMI are just a two terms demonstrating the problems of living in the information age. We get content fired at us from every angle and sometimes it makes it difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff. seeFeeds is a simple to use RSS feed aggregator, RSS feeds can help, instead of looking for the information, you can get your favourite websites to send information to you. This means that the information that will populate your c_live experience is tailored to you.
You remember I mentioned scribbling down the url when talking about seeLinks? This takes the same concepts and applies it to a notepad, got a deadline? note it down here. What about a study meeting with students from your class? Instead of jotting it down in margin of your book, you can write it here and you can be sure that it won’t be misplaced.
Seek is probably the biggest change in what we’re offering students. There’s been a lot of talk this past year of how online collaboration tools can help students. Twitter has been cited as an example of how we can quickly update and share information with friends and colleagues alike. Currently education has no such tool to offer, however giving students unfettered access to a micro blogging site is full of pitfalls and makes it hard to manage students use of it. So I took the quick microblogging features of sites like digg and twitter and developed an application that would enable students to interact with each other and share information whilst being in a secure and manageable space.
Blogs have been a big buzz word in education for a long time now, but they’ve always been an external application that students have to log into. I’ve given students the ability to create blogs and share them with the rest of the student body (subject to our approval) with one click. If students elect to share their the blog with other students, it’s published to a live feed that is available direct on c_live.
Look and feel:
c_live doesn’t look like your typical learning space, or any other learning software for that matter. That’s because instead of creating the application logic and interface myself, I posted on our student forums that I was looking for students to help shape the way c_live looked. A games development student offered to design the interface for c_live, I accepted and the design that he came up with was completely left field but epitomised the ethos of c_live completely:
Simple, effective and like nothing in education today.