The Open University and 11 other UK universities have announced today that they intend to launch a new platform for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), challenging the already established edX platform set up by MIT, Harvard and other US universities earlier on this year. Known as Futurelearn, it will be set up as an independent organisation but majority owned by the Open University, with the first courses being offered at some point during 2013.
Martin Bean, the Vice Chancellor of the OU is quoted today as saying:
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.
… which seems rather different from his warnings about “the irresponsible MOOC frenzy” when talking at Exporting Excellence: Capitalising on the Global Value of UK Education, a conference held in London on 17th October 2012 and subsequently reported by the Times Higher Education on 25th October:
Asked whether he thought universities should give away their content for free online, Professor Bean said: “I think there’s no doubt that this MOOC frenzy is irresponsible.” He warned that the MOOC model was just “one chapter” in how higher education would be transformed by the internet, so it was “irresponsible” to rush towards it.
Anyway, mixed messages from the VC aside, I’m rather excited to see exactly what the OU and their partners will be offering through this medium next year. I might even be tempted away from edX to try a course or two – particularly if they manage to find a good way of providing social science subjects through this medium.