I believe that this is mostly due to the way that the VLE has developed, incrementally and with a great focus on keeping it the same. I feel that a lot of VLE developers stick the mantra that 'Big change causes big problems', in that making radical shifts in design or functionality can alienate users and make the transition period hellish, forever tarnishing the reputation product.
And whilst that is true, we must remember that the first bite is with the eye or to modify an another cliché, all users judge a book by its cover, Students are even more design focussed than ever before.
So how do we respond as developers? With Varying shades of grey.
If the aim of ICT is to engage the user, why is it that most educational software looks so bad?
Of course the function of the software is paramount but we also need to realise that our user has changed and that their expectations of what software should look like have radically altered.
I'm not advocating BOLD FLASHING COLOUR SETS THAT MAKE YOUR EYES BLEED, instead we should focus clean looking, intelligently designed layouts that enhance the content.
Are we missing a trick by designing the way VLE's look?
Who are we developing for? Students
Who develop the VLE? Staff
Who provides feedback? Staff
Seeing a pattern here? If VLE's are for students why are staff designing them? I'm not talking about a simple student consultation process, I think we should get students designing the look of our intranet.
Where else but in education can you have access to hundreds of developers, graphic artists and designers chomping at the bit for industry experience?
Students get a VLE that looks good, the designers get experience and accreditation and we as developers can ensure that we have the best VLE possible as it led not just by students ideas but by their actual hard work.
Now this isn't just a flowery idea, I'm actually putting this into practice. A games development student has come forward wanting to work on our new version of seeNet and so he is going to design the look and feel for seeSpace.
That's how we at South East Essex College aren't just talking about changing ICT, we're pioneering the use of student led design over large scale projects.
VLE's for Students, By Students.