Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Portal Redesign

I just attended a preliminary research debrief of the 'rebuilding the Portal' focus group interview session that I participated last month. They gave me a $20 Robinsons voucher for my time. I'd have given them money instead if that meant that my two cents would be considered by them. The school portal as it stands, can probably be described as, at best, 'it works OK, I guess', or at worst, 'this thing is soooo bad.' What precipitated my interest was this interesting phenomenon of the technical people not really using, or aware of, what's happening in the Internet space these past couple of years. One of my social studies tutors wanted to do a wiki for us so that we could upload our stuff and share with others, and I believe the tech person he approached didn't know what a wiki was! Maybe I heard wrongly, or maybe there's a technical restriction, but it certainly is a weird situation when students can't make use of current technology to do their stuff. My classmate Billy has more on related issues. In my interview that they taped, I just let it fly after getting the assurance this was what they wanted. This is one of the most bizzare and unsettling portals I've seen. The first section is completely separated from the academic modules section. This makes absolutely no sense, it destroys the cohesiveness of the whole thing. Folks don't hang around in the Portal. Why? Because there is no stickiness. No, no, no, nooo, noooo!! Forums might have a chance to achieve that. Get the community going! Get the academics to share and talk with the students. Get the students to talk with students. And not just about pedagogy, about anything. COMMUNITY. There is none, or little of it, right now. But the forums are confusing. So many categories. This is what you must do. Take out this, this, and that. Put them into a single category. When the traffic goes up, then consider splitting them up. Too many features in each of the Blackboard module sections. No sensible and reasonable way to get to where you want to go or do what you wanna do. Now what can be done about this? Dump Blackboard! Yes, even if it hurts. Use another CMS, or create it inhouse. Integrate everything together, the modules and the rest of it under one Portal. Don't separate it, there's no logic to it. Bring in the rest of the things that everyone is using. Blogs. Yes, blogs, even if you have heard very bad things about it. And bring in the wikis too. Get the SHARING going... Anyway, the Siemens consultants get it. I was quite happy to see the some of the results of their interviews with staff and students, their recommendations, and their initial new mockups. The user interface designs look a lot better. It's still early days, but they are recommending bringing in the blogs, the wikis. They are making the whole thing much more open to the world, and they seem to be modelling it in part after the Stanford Wiki, and strangely enough, tomorrow.sg. Also, they feel that students' work/resources should exist perpetually even after leaving school, to be shared with future cohorts. I think things are really going to change, for the better...

1 comment:

Billy Tan said...

i tell u ah, definitely will have some higher-up veto-ing the redesign if it doesnt have enough sexy marketable features (to them, at least).
the portal has the most shite navigation menu i've ever seen too. i hope u really let them have it, man.
that site sucks balls.