Friday, December 08, 2006

Google=Next Generation Course Management System

The course management system as we know it is at a crossroads in its short history as an enterprise-level web-based learning tool. Even before the acquisition of WebCT by Blackboard, "CMS 1.0" users were often lamenting its shortcomings.

At the same time enthusiasm about the viability of CMS 1.0 has waned (though use of it by instructors and students is still increasing), many advancements and changes have occurred with Internet tools and services. The proliferation of portals, feeds and Ajax techniques--combined with consumers' love for creating, sharing, and storing personalized media and text (often at no or low-cost)--have ushered in a new wave of user-friendly web applications dubbed Web 2.0.

When Arizona State University announced they partnered with Google to provide university email service through the "Google Apps for Education" program, it wasn't the fact that they essentially outsourced a key function of their institution's central IT unit (though that in itself should have registered on the Richter scale) that is significant. More profound is what they will be able to accomplish in the (very near?) future. ASU's Chief Technology Officer, Adrian Sannier, describes the new technical development track ASU has jumped upon:

"At ASU we have recognized that the accelerated pace of technological change is outstripping the development capacity of internal university IT organizations. The cottage industry phase of the information revolution is rapidly approaching its end.

ASU recognizes that if we are to realize the full potential of this rapidly evolving technology, our internal IT organizations must somehow leave behind the provisioning of individual services and climb the value chain to focus on the application and integration of rapidly emerging capabilities to continuously improve the university’s core activities.

Which is why we are so excited by our alliance with Google — because the Google alliance not only provides a vastly superior capability for our students on the day we unwrap the box it places ASU on Google’s exponential technology development trajectory."

This is precisely why I look to Google for producing what we have all been waiting for...CMS 2.0, aka The Next Generation CMS.

Take a look at the current slate of Google's tools and how they compare with current CMS 1.0 tools:

Google Groups -- Course sites
Google Calendar -- CMS calendar
Gmail -- campus mail or CMS message system
Google start page -- My Home or CMS portal page

Can you see the similarities? Can you imagine the improvements a Google-based CMS might offer?

Take the next step and look at some of Google's other tools:

Google Search Appliance (UW is already using this. Does our current CMS offer a search mechanism?)
Google Images, Google Video, Google Scholar (Global leader in search and storage capabilities. Institutional repository?)
Blogger, JotSpot, and Google Page Creator (Leading tools for anyone to publish and collaborate. Our collaboration tools? Paralyzed in committees.)

How hard would it be for Google's rather large team of developers to integrate these into a coherent system? Hmmm...

There's a lot more to come on this topic, but for now, please leave your comments.

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