UKeU legacy hampers growth in online learning

UKeU legacy hampers growth in online learning

OU optimistic multi-million project will prompt content sharing

The legacy of failed online learning scheme UKeU is preventing collaboration and content sharing in higher education, according to the man in charge of a leading-edge elearning project at the Open University (OU).

The £50m UKeU initiative was launched in 2000 to attract overseas students to study online at UK universities. But the first courses were delayed until September 2003, and the project attracted just 900 students, falling well short of the target of 5,600 before being wound up in 2005.

Professor Andy Lane, director of the OU’s open content project, says UKeU is having a long-term detrimental effect on higher education online learning.

‘UKeU has prevented sharing of materials across higher education,’ he said. ‘There’s no real collaboration and everyone is trying to create their own little area.’

The OU recently announced a £5.7m project to make a selection of its learning materials freely available to educators and learners around the world, supported by a grant of $4.45m (£2.5m). The OU will launch the web site in October 2006.

Lane says he is optimistic the project will encourage universities to collaborate again.

Last October’s Education and Skills Committee’s report into UKeU concluded that experts from the OU could have been consulted from the outset.

Lane says the university’s experience in developing online learning courses would have proved invaluable for UKeU.

‘We feel we did not have a central role in planning and it went off in a direction that was not helpful and was costly,’ he said.