Monday, June 15, 2015

Eurozzzzone - a giant squeezyjet, tax-funded, city-break, gravy train

Have a look at this ELIG 2015 conference. Check out the speaker list. Notice how non-pan-European it is? Notice its almost complete focus on Germany and he fact that Microsoft & IBM are there but almost no one from the rest of Europe? Their slogan is 'We change the way Europe learns' - oh yeah!
Weird experience
A few years ago I was invited to attend a one week trip to Spain, paid for by some European grant. I was the UK rep and there were reps from each of the other 14 countries. It was a revelation, in that it was a complete waste of time. At the end of the fact-finding trip we got together to discuss our findings, which to paraphrase the discussion, showed that Spain was milking European grants like a starved piglet at the teat, but to no great effect in terms of entrepreneurial progress (the trip was about entrepreneurship). I was the only business person of the 14, and was politely told to forget the criticisms and write the report free from any negative conclusions. It turned out to be a massive fraud with ghost employees and huge sums extracted from the system. Many are now in jail.
It was a shocking introduction to the neverneverland that is the European Union. As the Euroland implodes in a sort of low-key rerun of the second world war, one wonders what all that money spent on ‘euro-learning’ actually brought us?
Answer - nothing. Academics have been sqeezyjetting around Europe for years to meetings that were little more than excuses for short-breaks or a nosh-up. The collaborative projects weren’t designed around competences or goals, merely a bunch of people who were good at form-filling. Then there’s that obnoxious group of middlemen, no better than street drug runners, who promise to get you a chunk of the motherload (for a fee of course). The whole sorry tale is largely one of useless research on useless projects set up by worse than useless hustlers. In practice, the real work was being done by hard-working people in real companies and organisations doing things with real people in the real world. European projects are like the Eurovision Song Contest, countries send their least talented people to a contest that is best known as a parody of the real world and the output is woeful. It used to be something to laugh at, now it’s a politicised, block vote idiotfest. I’m positive about Europe as a single market but sad that so much money has been spent with so little meaningful output. The real action is in hte commercial conferences, such as Online Educa, that genuinely try to attract a pan-European audience and do so with little or no government support. 
One market myth
Europe is not a single market in education and training because people learn best in their first language, and in the UK we don’t have a second. Almost all education and training in Europe is delivered by local and national suppliers. There has huge effort to create pan-European companies by supporting pan-European research, but it hasn’t worked. Giunti Labs seem to have been on some sort of permanent financial drip from Brussels, along with several other companies that would never have survived in the commercial world.
Let’s take the ‘E’ out of e-learning

ELEARNINGEUROPA, EU4ALL, ERGO, ECLO, ELIG, EDEN, EFQUEL, EIFEL, EMDEL and on and on it goes…..Dozens of crap acronyms all staring with ‘E’ and hundreds of administrators, unread reports, AGMs, meetings and conferences. When I ran an e-learning company I had absolutely nothing to do with any of these or any other European quangos. Have they delivered? I think not. We're far more likely to look to the US and the E-learning Guild, that attempts to dig deep into real practice, than any European organisation, wieghed down by beurocrats. Would the world miss them, I think not. Let’s take the ‘E’ out of e-learning – Europe that is!

1 comment:

Brian Mulligan said...

As a recent and late arrival to Euro funded projects this rings true. But then I did come across Donald Clarke at a Euro conference (eMOOCs2014). We built our online learning here in IT Sligo up to 25% of our student body without any funding. This had several advantages. We didn't have to fill out forms to get the money and report on progress. We didn't have to collaborate and accept all the associated compromises and waste of time. Finally, because we had little money, we build a system that was sustainable.