Students from the around the world can now get a free taste of UK education right from where they are. Subject courses at FutureLearn have just started 18 September with the next course “The Secret Power of Brands” starting on 14 October 2013. As of the “school” opening and open beta launching date of the UK’s MOOCs provider, 18 September, there are 165 enrollees.
Massive open online courses or MOOCs are online courses which have the purpose of getting large-scale interactive participation and open access through the internet. In this learning platform, students learn not only from videos, readings and problem sets but also from interactive user forums which forms the social aspect of their learning experience. They interact with one another, professors and teaching assistants. It is the latest development in distance education.
FutureLearn’s going live on the world wide web is lauded by Universities and Science Minister David Willetts as an exciting milestone in UK education. The MOOC platform gives UK’s world class universities some more capability to reach out to a wider audience, diversify their student body and supply higher education to the global demand. Although the platform is still in its test run and courses are given for free, it is a venue to further showcase to the world UK higher education. The government fully backs the MOOC group as it contributes to UK’s leadership in international education.
Keeping Pace with Technology
The MOOCs provider has made the education more attractive and in pace with the technological advancement of the world by tapping the mobile device as an option for students in their learning. Students can access course materials and participate in activities through smart phones, tablets and desktop computers. Interested students can choose from a selection of diverse courses from their 21 member universities which are internationally renowned. Eight courses will be available this year. The learning will be provided on an open beta test format to capture feedback from learners while continually improving at the same time.
Keeping Grounded on Education
The founders of FutureLearn wants to make use of the social learning feature of MOOCs to bring more academic advancement to UK higher education and to the world. Open University vice-chancellor Martin Bean says that the internet have shown its “disruptive impact” on industries many times. He relates that it had driven innovation and added more value for customers and surely believes the same will be true with MOOCs on education as it will offer new and exciting ways to learn. Principles abided to in the design of FutureLearn’s website include effective learning as storytelling, discussion and celebrating progress.
FutureLearn is the first British provider of massive open online courses. It was founded just this December 2012 with 12 university partners who are no less than league table leaders. This MOOCs collaboration boasts of support from the British Museum, the British Council and the British Library and banks on the 44 years of expertise in distance and open learning of The Open University, its whole owner. It has 21 member universities now.
While their advantages and strengths are clear, what weaknesses and disadvantages can you identify? How can the government and the higher education sector continue to capitalise on the advantages and counter the disadvantages?