_ +Laura Gibbs and I had a recent discussion based on her post about frustrations with the #bonkopen MOOC in Blackboard Coursesites, followed by other discussions with +Justin Schwamm and +George Station. The issue surrounded the lack of an identity within the system.

Adapting from the comments:

Having students establish their identify actually implies that the learner is at the center of the system design, as opposed to the course being at the center of the design with a list of students. In a legacy LMS, the student role is often defined as a permission type, and then you have courses to which you are a member. Then you can add profile stuff to various course registrations. The concept of 'identity' is not the core concept in a legacy LMS - it is a set of add-on features that hopefully will link between classes.

That's not to say that a legacy LMS could not put together the features on top of a course registration that give adequate identity, but it is much more difficult - especially for a free, non-customizable system like CourseSites - to provide these features than for a social-based system.

Blackboard Patent

To clarify this point, you can see the origins of this thinking in the Blackboard patent that was the basis for its lawsuit with Desire2Learn.

The summary of invention section is interesting, as it gives insight into how the system designers defined their own system and syntax and semantics that of the core system design. [highlights added]

A course-based system for providing to an educational community of users access to a plurality of online courses, comprising: a) a plurality of user computers, with each user computer being associated with a user of the system and with each user being capable of having predefined characteristics indicative of multiple predetermined roles in the system, each role providing a level of access to a plurality of data files associated with a particular course and a level of control over the data files associated with the course with the multiple predetermined user roles comprising at least two user's predetermined roles selected from the group consisting of a student role in one or more course associated with a student user, an instructor role in one or more courses associated with an instructor user and an administrator role associated with an administrator user, and b) a server computer in communication with each of the user computers over a network, the server computer comprising: means for storing a plurality of data files associated with a course, means for assigning a level of access to and control of each data file based on a user of the system's predetermined role in a course; means for determining whether access to a data file associated with the course is authorized; means for allowing access to and control of the data file associated with the course if authorization is granted based on the access level of the user of the system.

Related to MOOC

The point is, most everything in the system is associated with courses - courses are the center of the design. Students are not really unique identities, but rather belong to predetermined roles within a course.

What +Laura Gibbs is looking for is a true identity for herself and others (represented by profiles), and to be able to define unique access to her identity (subscribe to specific blogs, get notifications for some info, but not all by email). The problem is that she is not a unique individual with a true identity, in terms of how the core system operates. She is a predefined role with access levels within the course.

Nothing personal (pun intended).
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