A while back, a blog conversation between Mark Oehlert and Lee Kraus regarding how to knit together lots of embedded, widget/gadget like learning applications into a coherent picture of what and how learners are doing. To begin with, the idea they’re toying with is very similar to the LMOS but focused on a corporate market and workflow learning. What really got me thinking, though, was when they started talking about a dashboard somewhat like Google Analytics to track learner progress. (Those corporate folks sure do love their dashboards.) Something about this really clicked with me, but I couldn’t quite articulate how I would want to see this work in an academic environment.
VisitorVille lets you visualize a series of web pages (or even web apps) as a city, with each page represented as a building:
You can zoom down into the building and see stats on your visitors, who are represented by avatars:
Through game-style animation, you can begin to see how people get to these pages and move among them. For example, you can watch them arrive on “buses” that represent referral links:
Now here’s where it starts to get interesting. If you click on one of the avatars, you can get quite a bit of information about your visitor:
For starters, you can play back that visitor’s behavior, VCR-like, to see where (s)he has been and what (s)he has done. You can follow that person going forward through the “village.” You can call up a profile, or “passport:”
You can even pop up a chat window on that person’s screen, even if they don’t have any special chat software installed. If you imagine making this available not just to a teacher but to all participants in the class, then students and teachers alike could get much of the same high-bandwidth, high-fidelity information about what other participants are doing–and more, in some ways–than they would get in a live classroom. To me, this is much more interesting than building a classroom in Second Life because, rather than gratuitously working in virtual reality for…well…I don’t know why, exactly…you’re doing all the authentic learning activities you were already doing but using the visual metaphor of the physical world to make more of the data more intuitively accessible to the participants. You could see who is reading (or has read) what documents, how your classmates are navigating through the content and activities, and so on. And teachers, of course, could see many of the things that teachers like to see when they are trying to figure out who is actually reading the assignments, how and how much everyone is participating, and so on.
One of the remarkable things here is that it all seems to be accomplished with fairly generic web analytics tools. As far as I can tell, you just put a snippet of code on the pages you want to track the same way you would with, say Google Analytics, or Sitemeter. The difference is mainly in the visualization end of things.
Now imagine how much richer still this could be if you added on robust identity management. Imagine if those “passports” brought up not just whatever could be grabbed from your browser but a rich, full profile, including your name, a link to your blog or ePortfolio, etc. Imagine if you could attach an individual, recognizeable avatar into this world rather than the generic ones that VisitorVille generates.
It seems to me that what you’d end up with is something very consistent with the vision for Bodington.