You may have read or heard this morning about the launch of Futurelearn (http://www.futurelearn.com ) , the UK’s answer to Coursera, Udacity and other MOOC platforms. If so, you’ll have noted that Loughborough is one of the 21 UK institutions currently involved.
So, what exactly does this mean?
Futurelearn is offering a range of MOOCs, which stands for ‘Massively Open Online Courses’ – free, non-accredited courses that students can take over a period of several months and which have the potential to act as tasters for full accredited programmes. There is a strong social aspect to MOOCs, in part because the most popular MOOCs may have many thousands of students enrolled at any one time.
The MOOCs are hosted on a shared online platform developed by the Open University, which is co-ordinating the Futurelearn consortium.
Some commentators are predicting that MOOCs will have a transformative effect on Higher Education in the medium term and, while this is contested, it seems certain that they are here to stay. The UK government is strongly supportive of the MOOC agenda, with Universities and Science Minister David Willetts saying: “I encourage all our institutions to explore the opportunities offered by new modes of technology, such as MOOCs. This will keep the UK ahead in the global race to deliver education in worldwide markets.” Loughborough has decided that it is important to engage with this agenda and has signed up to membership of Futurelearn.
The first MOOC Loughborough is offering through the platform has been developed by the School of Business and Economics and is entitled Innovation and Enterprise. Led by Phil Wilkinson-Blake and Julie Holland from the Glendonbrook Centre, this course will be available from early 2014, running over a period of 6 weeks, with three hours’ study per week. Students can fit the study time around their existing work and family commitments.
The Innovation and Enterprise MOOC will be followed next spring by a ‘mini-MOOC’ currently being developed by the Mathematics Education Centre on Getting to Grips with Mathematical Symbolism. This is aimed at people who aspire to study science or engineering foundation courses but who currently lack the confidence and the knowledge to take this further.
Further MOOCs are in the pipeline.