I set up two sites from scratch, and used default settings. One was in 3.1 (Clean theme) and one was in 3.2 (Boost theme). In the 3.2 site, I disabled (hid) all of the blocks. I then accessed each site from a desktop to see if there are any obvious problems.
Presently, as a teacher or student, the 3.2 dashboard doesn't have any real information without blocks. All you can really see is the Boost site navigation menu the same as on any other page. On 3.1, the dashboard shows the navigation menu as well as:
- Course overview with key information on courses I am enrolled in.
- Private files area.
- Online users.
- Latest badges.
- Upcoming events.
These are all blocks in 3.1 and are available in 3.2 if they are enabled.
In 3.2, "Private files" and "Calendar" can be accessed from the navigation menu, rather than an extra block. The only place I could access my badges is in the "Preferences" section of my account menu ("Preferences -> Manage badges"), so this might need some work. "Course overview" and "Upcoming events", which I think would be key dashboard information, require the blocks at this point. "Online users" likewise would need a block at the moment, although the importance of this may not be so great.
One thing to note as well is that without blocks, the "Customize this page" for the dashboard really does nothing.
On the course page, information provided by blocks that are standard in 3.1 that would be missing in 3.2 are:
- Forum search.
- Latest announcements.
- Upcoming events.
- Recent activity.
I don't think there are replacements in the Boost theme for these function as of yet. I re-enabled those blocks to get that experience back.
There are likely sites who don't care if that information is displayed, but there are probably more that would like this information available. Adding it to Boost would also require the ability to choose whether or not to display these bits. Blocks makes that easier now.
There was a comment above about "developers [wanting] to be able to insert anything they like into any part of the page", but I don't think that's what the key issue is. Its more about learning program administrators being able to ensure that the key information they require for their stakeholders is displayed at the proper places. If its not blocks, then its something else that allows information fragments in the page.
It is very important that the design makes the mobile experience better. But it shouldn't make the desktop experience lesser to achieve this. I just don't see how we can do that without blocks or a functionally similar replacement.