FutureLearn announces first US partners

Expansion into ‘digitally advanced market’ confirms platform is ‘firmly on the map’, says chief executive

February 14, 2017
Online education
Source: FutureLearn

FutureLearn, the social learning platform owned by the Open University, has announced its first partnerships with US universities.

American University in Washington DC, Colorado State University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, have all selected to work with the platform, and will run courses throughout 2017. It brings the number of institutions working with FutureLearn to 70, across 22 different countries.

Simon Nelson, chief executive of FutureLearn, told Times Higher Education that the partnerships “bring a wider range of the world’s top universities” into the platform’s network in a “very significant, digitally advanced market”.

“We believe the extension of the new partners will help to accelerate our growth,” he said. “This expansion is an endorsement [from] possibly the key – or at least the most advanced – market in the world for online learning that we’re firmly on the map.”

Jonathan Harbor, director of digital education at Purdue University, said that FutureLearn’s principle of social learning pedagogy was a major draw.

“[It] allows students to learn in a social environment and connect them with other learners around the world. Many of our faculty have been developing and using active learning approaches in their teaching,” he told THE. “We saw this partnership as a way to extend that active learning approach into the online space.”

He added that the partnership would be beneficial for Purdue’s on-campus students.

“Embedding a massive open online course (Mooc) into a [programme] for our traditional students, as a way of bringing them into a global conversation, [is appealing],” he added. “Faculty are planning to use Moocs not just to benefit that online audience, but to enhance the quality and impact of our on-campus students as well.”

The new partnerships follow the news in December that Deakin University, in Australia, would deliver online postgraduate degrees through FutureLearn, the first digital education provider to do so. Mr Nelson believes that we are witnessing an “acceleration of the digital transition” of the global sector, partly driven by some of the “uncertainty around the world” and the difficulties facing universities in some of their “core activities”.

“One of the messages I delivered to all our partners: we no longer want to be seen as just their Mooc platform but their partner in that whole digital transition,” he said. “[The] Deakin [partnership is] a trigger point for many of our partners to say there is an opportunity to transform the way we recruit students...into our domestic markets, but also [to] reach out into international markets and take our service straight to the learner.”

john.elmes@tesglobal.com

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