UK Universities To Offer Free And Open Online Courses
Written by Sue Gee
Saturday, 15 December 2012
The UK's Open University has announced Freelearn, a new MOOC platform that will provide online educational offerings that are free of charge.
The past year has seen the term MOOC, standing for Massive Open Online Courses, become common parlance with prestigious universities across North America and many from Europe, putting popular courses online for anybody, anywhere with an internet connection to take advantage of.
For months we've been wondering whether, when and how the Open University, which has embraced internet technologies within its established curriculum was going to join in this trend and finally it has announced a new company, Futurelearn, that will give free access to students in the UK and around the world to content from the OU and other British Universities. So far the universities of Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, East Anglia, Exeter, King's College London, Lancaster, Leeds, Southampton, St Andrews and Warwick have signed up for this venture.
Announcing Futurelearn, Martin Bean, the Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, said:
"MOOCs represent an enormous development in higher education, one that has the potential to bring about long-lasting change to the HE sector. The OU has decades of experience in world-class distance learning – each year we teach around 250,000 registered students, with literally millions of others accessing our free, informal, online offerings. Futurelearn will take this proud heritage and work with some of Britain's best-known universities to write the next chapter in the story of British higher education."
The UK's Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, said: "The UK must be at the forefront of developments in education technology. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) present an opportunity for us to widen access to, and meet the global demand for, higher education. This is growing rapidly in emerging economies like Brazil, India and China. Futurelearn has the potential to put the UK at the heart of the technology for learning agenda by revolutionizing conventional models of formal education. New online delivery tools will also create incredible opportunities for UK entrepreneurs to reach world markets by harnessing technology and innovation in the field of education."
Although we're tempted to say that to be "at the forefront" this initiative should have been in place a year ago, this is still a really welcome addition to the MOOC scene.
There is still a lot of scope for "revolutionizing conventional models of formal education" and the Open University has a good pedigree both in delivering distance learning and in pioneering educational methods - and it has some excellent content to offer.
Whether Computer Science will be among the higher educational offerings remains to be seen when Futurelearn announces further details of its courses early in the New Year.