The critical factor that Facebook has nailed is getting the user experience right. That is, even though users are not always content with Facebook's UI, it seems to be capable of consistently providing a personally meaningful reason to come back.
Moodle, on the other hand, is content specific and not primarily people specific. Instead of giving a few simple views with what is relevant to the person using Moodle, My Moodle has eight tabs, which seem to answer to the question "what possibilities could I find in Moodle to adapt them to my needs" rather than to a simpler "where could I get started with exploring". The name "My Moodle" also reflects this: well, you are sort of admitting it is about the user, but still you are talking about Moodle. For the user it is not about Moodle at all - it is about the user him/herself, and hopefully about the subject they are interested in. (The course the student is [to a degree] engaged in is what s/he tries to match his/her own interests to. It is not what counts to the student, except when it comes to the superficial goal of validating studies.)
That is, the ultimate user experience is the one where users' needs are understood and responded to before they start to actively look for anything.
Of course, on a course students need to be active to learn and to really build their own wholes. But it seems to me that to reach the social reality of users, we must, like Facebook, more actively create an user experience
, where users explore and click around without that much deep thought in the process of using the application itself. The depth comes from the subject matter and only it, while the user is immersed in the experience. Experiencing a social reality can create this immersion, and Facebook is currently one of the strongest examples of this.
So there is the question of how we want users to approach Moodle
- through courses (a reality based more or less on the teacher's perception of what is relevant) or
- through social interaction, a reality perceived by students as something more intimately their own (and their friends')?
Ideally we would combine them, drawing motivation from the social aspects and directing that energy (ahem) to learning. Not My Moodle, but My Experience (of Learning).
So I see the user's home page in Moodle as an alternative major access point to Moodle, in addition to the course front pages - not a separate corner of Moodle that nobody else is mostly interested in, but something deeply linked with everything the user does and what he/she is interested in everywhere else in Moodle. What might I do now, to go on with my Learning Experience (in any of my courses), that matches my current learning mode, interests (and even mood)?
Funnily, much of this is already present functionality wise - for example, if organized less technocentrically, the "Activity Reports" tab (/course/user.php?id=2&user=2&mode=complete) already tells what the user has done. At the moment, it still presents it in the context and from the point of view of the course and not of the student as an independent actor. What is missing is what those the user is interested in are doing, and what the user would probably be interested in engaging himself next.
Of course social constructivism
is an effective antidote to "just pouring information into heads". It still seems to me though, from the courses that I have seen, that the user experience does not reflect this holistically. If the student's personal learning experience is what counts, why does Moodle only communicate the course, a definition of what is relevant in the teacher's mind, as what's important to focus on. Still, the learning experience needs meaningful boundaries, so there is a balance to be found here.