Friday, April 14, 2006

Google Calendar and the CMS

This will be a quickie. I will get back to my personnel in K-12 posts soon.

Yesterday I was futzing with Google calendar, which requires a Gmail account to access, and I thought it was a nice app with potential broad use. On my campus we don't offer a calendaring tool to the students, so this would be useful for them and we relaly don't have a way for instructors to share their course calendars with class outsiders. It would be helpful in that vein as well.

So I started to ask myself how might the CMS accommodate groups of students to use a service like google calendar. We've had discussions internally about having a registry for student's "other email" address, but my sense is that this is a bit of a loser unless that other email is primary, because students maintain multiple personas online and change those with fluidity. We want the persona they'd like to use now, for this purpose, and that might not coincide with what is in the registry.

So I think we want a decentralized way to do mini-registries that are relevant only for the near term. The obvious tool in the CMS for this is the survey tool. It's fine for data collection of the sort needed for the group to share their calendars. But, as far as I know, the instructor would manually have to intervene to distribute the survey results to the students. That is a loser. We need for the instructor to decentralize the data collection and sharing, otherwise it won't happen.

One other point, this regarding the evolution of CMS functionality. We need the CMS, as I've argued earlier, but the rapid development of tools such as Google Calendar that operate outside the University enironment entirely and are seemingly more functional that tools within the CMS, suggests a need to carefully consider comparative advantage and where the focus should be in CMS development. I do think it is correct for CMS developers to cede functionality to the broader marketplace rather than to try to do replicate that functionality within. Then it needs to figure out how to make the two environments couple and I believe the guilding principle on that is to encourage this via decentralization, such as in the example above --- give the students the ability to use the CMS environment to build their own bridges.

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