Online Learning Is Not Groundhog Day, It’s Memento

Short follow-up to yesterday’s post. As many people do, I referred to the cycle of elite online learning iniatives as “Groundhog Day“. And from our perspective that’s probably apt.

But it occurs to me that from their perspective it’s Memento. MASSIVE spoiler alert here, but the premise of Memento is that the memory-damaged Leonard Shelby can’t handle the reality of what he’s done, so he falsifies key aspects of his personal history, which in turn he comes to believe himself, which causes him to repeat the cycle again.

How does that relate? A paragraph from the 2006 post-mortem of AllLearn really stuck out for me:

Oxford, Yale, and Stanford have kept quiet about the collapse of their joint e-learning venture…[h]owever, AllLearn’s closure could offer an unprecedented opportunity to step back and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the business model… Further research into the series of collapsed online ventures may shed some light on what makes a successful distance education program, and enable some of the surviving online providers to redefine their business models and marketing strategies accordingly

Of course they don’t delve into these things honestly, and as a result most people in these institutions are unaware of them. Like Leonard, the institutions alter the record of the past. They wake up the next day with amnesia, consult a set of dramatically altered notes, and wonder why no one has tried massive Ivy League courses yet. The PR push to cover one’s tracks ends up erasing the institutional knowledge that could build a better initiative.

As Teddy would have said, “Maybe it’s time you started investigating yourself.”


14 thoughts on “Online Learning Is Not Groundhog Day, It’s Memento

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