THE future of Victoria's troubled online education network is in doubt, with many schools refusing to use it amid complaints it is clunky and outdated and the security wall does not provide a real-life cyber environment.
The $99 million ultranet, an online portal that was supposed to connect teachers, parents and students at state schools, has been dogged by cost blowouts, technical glitches and opposition from teachers.
Education Department secretary Richard Bolt confirmed on Wednesday the government was ''looking at the ultranet in its entirety''.
''It's a fact, and a well-known fact I think, that the level of take-up of the ultranet has been nothing like what was intended,'' Mr Bolt told principals.
He said that while the ultranet was liked by a small number of schools, it was not used much by parents.
Chaffey Secondary College principal Andrew Robertson asked Mr Bolt whether the department was committed to the ultranet, given Education Minister Martin Dixon had been ''evasive at best'' about it when asked in July. ''Or is it an opportunity or a time now to let the market produce some systems to do the job?'' Mr Robertson asked.
''What an exquisitely timed question,'' Mr Bolt responded. ''We have to ask ourselves fundamental questions as a government, what is our role in developing systems of this kind … I've asked your question, which is absolutely on our radar right now.''
The ultranet, promised by the former government before the 2006 state election, was designed to provide a state-wide, secure website that parents, students and teachers at every state school could access.
But in a scathing assessment late last year, Ombudsman George Brouwer said inadequate planning and a disregard for industry advice resulted in a failed tender that cost about $5 million, set the project back by a year and damaged the reputation of the ultranet. ''By June 2013, ultranet will have cost up to $38 million more than the $60.5 million announced by the then government in 2006 and it will have delivered less functionality than originally planned,'' Mr Brouwer said.
A disastrous training day in 2010, which left 42,000 teachers unable to log on when the system crashed at 9am, also delayed the rollout of the ultranet in schools.
Last year ultranet coaches were told their positions would be discontinued at the end of the year as part of budget cuts.
Australian Principals Federation president Chris Cotching said the review of the ultranet came as ''absolutely no surprise''.
It's considered a bit of a joke to be honest, people don't take it seriously.
''It's considered a bit of a joke to be honest, people don't take it seriously,'' Mr Cotching said. ''It hasn't got the confidence of the profession, people have found it slow and cumbersome.''
Heather Bailie, the ICT coach at Mill Park Secondary College, said the ultranet was a closed space which meant students could not be taught digital citizenship skills in a real environment. ''The whole point of Web 2 was communicating globally - this is completely within a walled garden,'' she said.