Four more universities join Futurelearn

Four more universities have announced plans to offer massive open online courses via the UK-based Futurelearn platform, taking the total number of higher education institutions involved to 21.

May 3, 2013

Loughborough University and the universities of Sheffield, Glasgow and Strathclyde are the latest to partner with the Open University-owned company, which is due to start offering courses from affiliated universities, free of charge, later this year.

In addition, the British Museum has signed up to work with Futurelearn, following the lead of the British Library, which partnered with the Mooc provider in February, and the British Council.  

“We are delighted that more of the UK’s leading universities, along with one of its most popular cultural institutions, have agreed to work with Futurelearn,” said Simon Nelson, chief executive of Futurelearn, who told Times Higher Education in March that more university partners were set to be announced.

“We are committed to removing the barriers to education by making learning more accessible, inspiring and useful to people, no matter what stage of life they are at.

“These partnerships will enable us to open up access to the best academics from world-class universities and cultural institutions and deliver new forms of social learning at large scale,” he added.

Frank Coton, vice-principal for learning and teaching at the University of Glasgow said partnering with Futurelearn would allow the university to “reach out to a whole new group of learners”.

“The prospect of doing this through the innovative delivery platform that Futurelearn has developed is a very exciting one that we hope will inspire and engage those who choose to study with us,” he added.

Paul White, his counterpart at the University of Sheffield, said: “The digital world is the future. Online education provides a means for the University of Sheffield to engage with learners from around the world and in circumstances we would otherwise never be able to reach out to.”

Details of what courses are to be offered on the Futurelearn platform have yet to be confirmed.

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Reader's comments (2)

Two points to: 1. I think we have to move beyond the over-simplistic assumption behind MOOCs that higher education can be opened up to the masses simply by making it massive, online and open. MOOCs, if implemented correctly, do have opportunities to open up access, but we have to recognise as a starting point that education is a complex mix of inter-related processes. A MOOC course can remain effectively as inaccessible to my neighbour in a council house in Glasgow (lowest level of educational qualifications in the UK; lowest level of secondary school achievement in the UK; lowest level of broadband access in the UK) as does an on-campus degree course at an elite university (presumably where the 'best academics' are?) 2. Simon Nelson's use of the phrase "social learning" is interesting, even innovative. Is Simon suggesting a move away from the connectivism of cMOOCs and the behaviourism of xMOOCs? Having taken both types of MOOCs recently, I can say that there was very little opportunity for 'social learning' in either, where knowledge in these MOOCs was either crowd-sourced (cMOOC) or transmitted via the content (xMOOC). If Mr Nelson is referring to the adoption of a social constructivist pedagogical approach, I would be interested to know which framework for such an approach does not include active facilitation, guidance and intervention by an instructor?

It will indeed be interesting to see what kind of courses appear on Futurelearn. For all the impressive figures (number of registered students etc) many people have been critical of the way some of the Moocs appearing on the big US platforms operate. Is listening to a recorded lectuer and then answering some tick-box questions too dated a form of pedagogy? And if the alternative is a cMooc, how do you ensure a strong sense of community, and peer interaction? I look forward to seeing what approach the Futurelearn partners take. It will also be interesting to see what the British Library, British Council and British Museum make available on Futurelearn. Lots of questions still to be answered...

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