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We’ve been kicking around ideas about the future of Learning Management Systems (LMSs) at work, in various informal and semi-formal groups.

I think that one of the pressures on current LMSs will be from the aggregator. An aggregator is a leveling technology that can pull all the stuff in which you are interested into a common interface; sort of a do it yourself ‘portal’ without the stupid little boxes and the feeble ‘customize’ button.

One of the things aggregators will level is the wall around the ‘walled garden’ in LMSs; WebCT and Blackboard and the like.

Peter Albion, one of the folk we’ve been talking to, has blogged a couple of links on this in the last few days:

This one from Scott Wilson talks about the LMS becoming an aggregator. I think this is on the right track, but I think the point about aggregators is that they sit outside of any one domain, so I think it’s more likely that the LMS will become an aggregatable component. Anyway the Virtual Learning Environments he’s talking about include the browser as a component, so maybe we do agree.

I think the VLE of the future is going to be less like an information portal, and more like an aggregator. its going to be more like an editing and publishing tool and less like a browser. Its going to break out of the browser window and sit on the desktop. The VLE of the future will look less like a Content Management System or Intranet, and more like a cross between Shrook, SubEthaEdit,XJournal, Chat, iCal, and iTunes (well, on a Mac at least). It will be slick and minimal, and will actually be fun to use.

So when (OK, it is still an if) aggregators are used by everybody to pull together all the changing stuff they want to track: the news, the goss, the weather, the state of their orders from online vendors, their library loans, their friends’ holiday snaps, data from the life-support machine that the much-loved mongrel dog is hooked up to at the vet’s at $800/day, pix from the PI of spousal misbehaviour, the state of their phone bill once a day, specials at the local bistro, chapters of books they’re pretending to read, Nicole Kidman’s weight, new additions to the bill at the East Coast Blues and Roots Festival (warning, too much Flash, but see you there ok?), tide times, tasks, cricket scores, the kid’s reports, uni marks, positions vacant, email, when all that is in your aggregator do you want a ‘portal’ in your LMS? Do you want an LMS in your life? I don’t think so. Most people will live their online life in the aggregator + browser + ‘synchronous chat/alert system’ combo and things that don’t have feeds to aggregate will not be invited. You won’t go to the uni via an LMS. It will come to you, piecemeal.

I think that smart universities will offer not only email for life (like this one for people of high moral character, where “Messages sent from the account should be honoring to the Lord in content and tone”), but a Bloglines-like aggregator, integrated with mail, chat, calendar, addresses, and with bookmarking system like del.icio.us and some other stuff. Amongst the ‘other stuff’ will be the bits and pieces that make up an LMS:

  • Content authoring and consuming, including discussion items
  • Quizzing and assessment, integrated with the content.
  • Your portfolio of work.

Universities have a great opportunity here to create a home-place online that could be incredibly sticky. If Yahoo can afford to give me ultra-reliable email with 100MB storage for free for years in the vain hope that I’ll click the ads surely a uni can do it, safe in the knowledge that they can market lifelong learning services, as discussed here (Via Peter Albion) in the Melbourne Uni context by Dianne P. Chambers, to you for as long as they keep their offering compelling.

I know that alumni sites are already here, but are any of them aggregating? Have they heard that aggregator is the new black?


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