Iv’e been hearing a lot about the ‘long tail’ in various forums and readings- but this is a term I hadn’t come across before. A bit of self-directed study later my curiosity and personal needs led me to a new understanding…


From economics – the long tail refers to the long tail off of a products life – as initial enthusiasm subsides, but a small niche market of buyers remain, who for various reasons are still interested in the product – this long tail can far outstrip the number of sales achieved in the early days of the product.

In education this looks very similar:


Wilkins, D. (2010). E-Learning’s Long Tail: Leaving Walmart to Buy From AmazonLearning Solutions Magazine.

Instead of reaching 40 students with scheduled, expert created and expensive courses, the long tail of education would provide small numbers of students, but endlessly over time, with education on-demand – and at low or no cost. The learning is accessible at time of need and in a way that taps into the huge variety of available resources, often made by users. learning need not be permanent, since it is always available and easily accessible online along with a small community of other users.

This obviously ties in beuatifully with the Pedagogy of abundance (Weller 2011) which advocates the same principles and which underlies the concept of digital scholarship.

Weller, M. (2011). The digital scholar: How technology is transforming scholarly practice. A&C Black.

Wilkins, D. (2010). E-Learning’s Long Tail: Leaving Walmart to Buy From Amazon. Learning Solutions Magazine. Retrieved https://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/154/e-learnings-long-tail-leaving-walmart-to-buy-from-amazon