Woolf University – whither the blockchain?

via GIPHY

Some of you may remember a few excited announcements back in 2018 about Woolf University, a startup that was, and I paraphrase, going to blockchain the shit out of higher ed. The founder described it as “Uber for students, AirBnB for Professors”, thereby combining two terrible business models in one unholy mess.

David Gerard noted that by 2019 they had quietly dropped the whole blockchain tag, no longer describing themselves as The First Blockchain University. Founder Joshua Broggi had stated at the outset that “We literally could not do what we are doing without a blockchain,” so presumably it still figures in their system.

Looking at their site now, it’s hard to see what they do. They seem to offer courses from their own made up Ambrose College, and a couple of other institutions. Courses cost around $1500 each and offer personalised tuition with weekly video calls (attempting to replicate the Oxbridge seminar model). There are no student testimonials I can see. They haven’t tweeted anything since last October. In April 2020 the founder tweeted that “More than 20,000 universities have been forced online by COVID-19, and that has put Woolf in a unique position. So, after two years in development, Woolf University is now opening its platform to non-profit colleges and universities.”

I’m not sure what the ‘unique position’ is here, but it begins to look as though it may be a pivot to providing a platform for online learning rather than the world changing university model. That sounds kinda familiar from MOOC days.

Maybe Woolf are busy developing stuff and are about to launch in a new phase. I understand that this takes time and effort. But I would like to propose that when journalists run puff pieces on the latest thing that is going to kill the university, they are legally obliged to follow it up in 3 years time to see how it is all actually going. Maybe some more sober pieces might actually be useful in understanding how ed tech should, and should not, be implemented.

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