Mooc credit to apply even to students who fail to complete

Futurelearn boss says talk of drop outs ‘very annoying’

Courses offered through the UK’s first massive open online course platform, Futurelearn, will be designed to reward even those students who fail to finish them.

Martin Bean, vice-chancellor of the Open University, which owns Futurelearn, said it was “sad” that Mooc students who did not complete their course were often branded “failures and dropouts” by the media.

To address this, Futurelearn Moocs - the first wave of which are due to launch in the autumn - will be divided into smaller units, with “badges” awarded for each section completed.

Speaking to Times Higher Education at the Sunday Times Festival of Education at Wellington College on 21 June, Mr Bean said that any participation in education should be viewed as positive, and even students who decide against completing their Mooc should be applauded.

“As a vice-chancellor I get very annoyed when I see people who don’t complete [courses] described in negative terms. We’re trying to design Futurelearn pedagogy around a ‘mini-mooc’ model, shorter in duration and broken down into bite-sized pieces,” he said.

Estimates on current Mooc completion rates vary, although some studies have put the figure at lower than 7 per cent.

In a speech at the festival in Berkshire, Mr Bean said that Moocs were no longer a “fringe idea”, and that there was now a real desire from students to “take what they have learned in the world of Moocs and carry it forward into credit-bearing higher education”.

He added that universities had always found ways to evaluate education “from non-traditional sources” for credit, and asked why this should not be the case for Moocs.

“The argument we often hear is that Moocs can’t possibly be as good as…campus-based education,” he observed.

However, such opinions were formed on the presumption that university was for 18-year-old students leaving home for the first time, making the argument a “red herring”.

Pointing to the Open University’s own student base, he said that there was a huge market for higher education delivered online and targeted at mature students.

“These are not people who need to move away from their parents - many of them are parents themselves,” he said.

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