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Anecdote 4. Online Education Obituaries Successful online education should be sustainable. It is therefore of great concern that much of the online education that has been offered so far has been transient, unsuccessful and far from sustainable. A lot of it has been supported by external funding and ended when the external funding stopped. It is also disturbing to observe that there are many online education projects supported by Scandinavian councils and agencies (e.g. the Norwegian SOFF, ITU, NFR, the Swedish Nätuniversitetet, and the Danish CTU) that have come up with high quality products that are not used after the project period. Enormous amounts of money have more or less been wasted. It is therefore important to study initiatives that lack sustainability and understand some of the reasons for this. A first attempt is provided in this article, which discusses five types of online education ventures and points out some conspicuous, high-profile initiatives that hardly could be characterized as sustainable. The reader should be aware that these issues are controversial and that the analyses may be characterized as subjective and one-dimensional. However, they introduce some very important issues that need to be discussed and analyzed in further details. 1. Many governmental online education initiatives have not been sustainable. These initiatives are often very visible and expensive. Some reasons for the problems might be inconsistent policy due to changing governments and political disagreements. Compromises and lack of market knowledge may also contribute to sub-optimal decisions as indicated in these examples: Winix was an LMS system that the Norwegian Ministry of Education initiated in 1988. According to a 1994 article in Computerworld Norway4, the Office of the Auditor General (Riksrevisjonen) showed that the project spent more than € 10 million in the nineties. In 1992, it was clear that the project had failed. The software was not finished on time, and several companies that depended on Winix lost much money. The Danish Ministries of Education and Research initiated a Danish Virtual University in a mission statement on March 27, 2000. The € 5 million budget for the period 2000-2003 was intended to support the development of Web-based courses and provide information about the courses. The next government shut down the initiative, partly as a result of lacking support from the affected institutions. The only remaining result seems to be a portal providing information about further and continuing education (www.unev.dk) that was initiated by the Danish University Rectors’ Conference and scheduled to open in August 2003. Distum (page 251) was established by the Swedish Ministry of Education in July 1999 with the aim of supporting the development and use of information technology in distance education. But it takes time to make an impact at national level, and the necessary political patience was not available. Distum was discontinued after three years when the Ministry decided to support a new political initiative named Nätuniversitetet. 4

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Online Education and Learning Management Systems  

Global education in a Scandinavian Perspective

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