Guest author: Xavi Aracil
Learning Technologies – Universitat Oberta de Catalunya
Xavi is a graduate in Computer Science (Technical University of Catalonia 2002).
In his professional life, he has been a software engineer and has worked at the Learning Technologies Office of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) since 2004, where he has specialized in distributed applications and interoperability. He is presently the Product Manager of the Community Lab (ComuniLab), working on the evolution of the learning environment to a e-learning community.
The Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Open University of Catalonia, UOC) has been evolving its actual learning environment under the name of MyUOC. MyUOC is a modular open source online campus to help faculty and students design their own learning experience.
One the components of MyUOC is the main page, once shown when the user logs in (some applications call it Dashboard). The goal of this page is to show at a glance what’s happening in the Virtual Campus. MyUOC’s main page does a step forward being itself a widget container.
“Widgets are full-fledged client-side applications that are authored using Web standards” . They can be executed inside a web page, giving specific functionality. The most famous widgets web containers are NetVibes (http://www.netvibes.com) and iGoogle (http://www.google.com/ig). But widgets are not web only, there are widget containers for the desktop, like Yahoo! Widgets (http://widgets.yahoo.com/), Apple Mac OSX Dashboard (http://www.apple.com/downloads/dashboard/), Google Desktop (http://desktop.google.com/) or Windows Vista Gadgets (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-vista/features/sidebar-gadgets.aspx).
MyUOC’s main page enhances personalization and flexibility. Both students and faculty can organize their main page as they want, adding and removing widgets, dragging them around the page, minimizing them, change the background, etc.
The widgets’ directory is divided into three sections: UOC’s widgets (widgets created by ourselves giving information for the internal tools of the Virtual Campus, such as Calendar or Mailbox, Courses, etc), external widgets (widgets from other container such iGoogle) and subscriptions (a collection of UOC’s news). Furthermore, users can create their own widget giving the HTML code and they can add their own subscription to any RSS feed.
We’re working to make it multimodal. The core of MyUOC’s widget container is RSS (Really Simple Syndication), so we can create different visualizations of the main page specifically for the device we’re on (such iPhone, TV, eBooks, RSS clients).
MyUOC’s main page is available nowadays to UOC’s faculty as an option. It will be released to students this semester. You can find more information at http://macedonia.uoc.es/wordpressmu/edtech/my-uoc/1: http://www.w3.org/TR/widgets/#introduction