Now more than ten years after the dismantling of the UK’s e-University, Alice Bell revisits the much-maligned project and its notable place in the recent history of higher education and e-learning. With politicians and funders increasingly keen on e-learning, and a whiff of tech-utopianism still in the air, what can we learn from the story of the HE sector’s most high-profile dot-com bubble failure?
Quietly, imperceptibly, educational technology has become big money. A perception, fed by rising tuition fees and concerns about student satisfaction, that HE is not fit for purpose has transformed into a business opportunity so massive that even Rupert Murdoch is getting on board. When, in February of this year, Global Industry Analysts Inc suggested that e-learning would be a $107bn global market in 2015 (a little under half of the current UK national deficit), they were examining a sector that seems far from the “cottage industry” derided by Sir John Daniel (Commonwealth of Learning) in 2010.