Elearning shambles in US school system: $1.3bn project goes awry

21/04/2015

A $1.3 billion iPad school project in the US is in turmoil, amid complaints that the scheme was incomplete and let pupils bypass security.

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The schools, based around Los Angeles, have sent letters to Apple and its project partners (including publisher Pearson and electronics giant Lenovo) seeking refunds.

The project, which began in 2013, targeted to provide an educational curriculum to about 650,000 students.

However, it has faced problems when the lack of curriculum was revealed and students were found to be able to bypass the tablet’s security systems.

Pearson appears to be main target of the complaint, since it did not have curriculum content ready before the start of the iPad project, and never delivered everything promised.

In March an internal memo complained that only two out of 69 schools were using Pearson digital materials regularly, while the rest had "given up on attempting regular use of the app."

Officials have expressed a willingness to meet with the likes of Apple and Lenovo to discuss reclaiming cash from Pearson.

“While Apple and Pearson promised a state-of-the-art technological solution they have yet to deliver it,” stated in the letters.

Prior to sending the letters, the LA school district voiced their complaints and demanded that the suppliers improve their service.

The schools have now cut ties with the firms and lawyer representatives for the school district are also said to be considering legal action against the main suppliers.

Apple has so far kept quiet when asked for comment about the complaints, while Pearson has acknowledged the “challenges” in implementation but said that it is standing by the quality provided.

The LA school district initially bought 43,261 iPads loaded with Math and English programmes, which were designed by Pearson. In addition, another 77,000 iPads were bought to be used in standardised tests.

The FBI is now pursuing a criminal investigation into whether Apple and Pearson were given an unfair advantage towards winning LAUSD contracts. The debacle led to the October resignation of former district superintendent John Deasy.

Since last year the district has begun using other devices in schools, such as Chromebooks and the Microsoft Surface.

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