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Mass(ive) Learning

Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2013

Universities in the UK are partnering with a free online platform to take their courses to a wide range of students across borders and age groups. Ruchi Chopda reports

In keeping with the trend of MOOC’s, four more institutes, including Loughborough University, University of Sheffield, University of Glasgow and University of Strathclyde, have partnered with UK based FutureLearn, a multi-institutional platform for free, open, online courses. The universities will offer various programmes through the online site that was launched in December last year and already has partnerships with organisations such as the British Council and institutes such as the University of Leeds, Cardiff University and University of East Anglia.

Glasgow will initially offer two courses. Shares Frank Coton, vice principal for Learning and Teaching at the university, “Though we are currently going through the process of identifying which courses we will offer, it is certain that they will have a broad appeal. Courses will be set at a level that will allow learners to engage with them regardless of their academic background and will be accessible at a wide range of levels. It will allow us to connect with a whole new group of learners and offer them opportunities to develop as individuals.” 

Strathclyde will initially offer two or more courses over the first six months. The first will be ‘An Introduction to Forensic Science,’ that will offer a broad understanding of the subject to the students. Additionally, the university is also considering a number of other courses from academic areas across the institute.

Apart from universities that will pick from their individual range of academic programmes, organisations like the British Council, British Museum and British Library, too, have partnered with this new-age learning initiative. Says Simon Nelson, CEO, FutureLearn, “The site will try to bring these partners together with universities to create specifically designed, online courses linked to rich content archives.” He further adds, “Though the primary benefit that the platform will offer will be allowing learners to take courses from a range of institutions for free wherever and whenever they want, we are also looking at a number of potential options to allow people who complete a course to gain recognition of their achievement and certificates of completion. However, these will not be formal credit bearing awards from our partner universities.” 

At a Glance 

  • Partners include 21 universities and three organisations
  • Courses from across streams — arts, humanities, science and business — will be offered
  • Courses will be free and accessible to all
  • The level and duration of the courses will vary depending on the course provider


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