Thursday, February 1, 2018

Lessons from Victorian Government's Failed Ultranet Learning Platform

In 2006 Victoria announced the development of an online learning system "Ultranet" for all government schools. The project was abandoned in 2013, at a cost estimated to be $127M to $240M. In 2017 the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission of Victoria found corrupt conduct by pubic servants in the acquisition of Ultranet.

There are more than 150 scholarly works which mention the Ultranet project. About 100 of these, before 2013, are generally positive. Understandably, after the failure of the project in 2013, the tone of the later 50 or so papers becomes negative.

McShane and Dearman (2016) provide a brief overview of the project and suggest that in addition to design and usability flaws, the project assumed an unrealistic level of digital literacy and connectivity for both parents and teachers. Fitzgerald's thesis (2017) looks specifically at stakeholder engagement, finding teachers considered it a politically-imposed change. Interestingly, Fitzgerald found support for the idea of Ultranet from parents, but the poor implementation limited their involvement.

The history of Ultranet should be required reading for all those contemplating large scale IT based education initiatives.


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