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Wasted resources. Why?

Posted on March 23 2004 by Professor Chris O'Hagan in reponse to blended learning

The failure of the UKeU (in terms of resources expended for a tiny expansion in access) is a classic example of throwing money at a new idea while ignoring the experts in the field who were already engaged in e-learning for both distance and blended education - regionally, nationally and internationally, including partnership with the private sector). Unfortunately these experts were largely in the new university sector, while the UKeU was orignally proposed as an elitist project. (This was softened following protests from the new sector, but other advice such as to support those already successfully engaged in expanding access through e-learning was ignored). It was already clear at the time the UKeU was launched that distance e-learning was either a niche postgraduate area where high fees were acceptable, or potentially a highly competitive low magins area for undergraduate programmes. I wrote a paper for the Technology Source arguing that global e-learning was an innapropriate zone for tradtional elite institutions, and 'elite' concepts of education, and that remains my opinion:

and put O'Hagan in the search engine.
It was also clear that expenditure on distance e-learning was only likely to be recouped if it covered the complete spectrum from campus-based to full distance passing through a full range of blended options. I called this concept the 'Cheshire Cat' university based on the cat in Alice in Wonderland, where Alice is the student and the cat the university. According to Alice's needs, a Cheshire Cat university can 'portray' itself in an appropriate mixture of the real (attendance) and the virtual (online), for her as an individual. Ideally, this can change if Alice's needs change from year to year even while she is enrolled on the same programme. It was a metaphor intended to provide a graphic guide for my own institution, which it did, I am glad to say.
I also think it unllikely that a single platform can provide for all e-learning needs of a university, plus it is a good idea not to get hooked to just one in case it goes pear-shaped or too expensive.
Will the experts be consulted for the soi-disant 'major restructuring', or will it stay the preserve of bureaucrats and technocrats? If the aim is genuinely to help those with a real commitment to using e-learning, it will be good - but class and snobbery still rule, even in innovation in universities.

But the waste of resources (I understood the platform cost around 22m, not 9m, by the way) is an outrage. Will anyone stand up and take the blame? I doubt it. But they know who they are.

Chris O'Hagan
Learning Consultant

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