FutureLearn: Can they do it?

FuturelearnIf you’ve been away (for a long long time) you may not have heard about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). If you’ve been away for only a short time you’ll know of these things, but you may not have heard of Futurelearn.

In short, Futurelearn is the first UK-led “multi-institutional platform for free, open, online courses” whose aim is to “increase access to higher education for students in the UK and around the world by offering a diverse range of high quality courses through a single website.”

All good stuff so far. With the experience and weight of The Open University behind it, and partners including the British Library, the British Council and other leading UK Universities (Leicester, Bath, Warwick, Cardiff, etc.) it poses a significant investment of time and energy to ‘do it right’. Futurelearn

“believe there is great potential to change the way people access high quality higher education. With our partners, we are seizing the opportunity to create amazing new learning experiences, twinned with a clear pathway to qualifications for those that want them.”

In this article on the Times Higher Education website today – “Futurelearn’s boss on breaking into MOOCs” –  Simon Nelson (Futurelearn CEO) claims the course platform “has the potential to become a social networking site for the student community as popular as Facebook”.

Really? This is aiming very, very high.

I like the ideology behind Futurelearn – I like what I hear about what and how the materials and platform are going to be structured. I like the approach of “produce first, profit later” that will address the pedagogic requirements for online learning first and foremost. I like the inference that MOOCs will not replace traditional education but rather enhance it and even complement it. I also like the simple no-nonsense jargon-free way Simon talks about the platform. But is it enough?

As yet there have been very little details on how Futurelearn MOOCs will be run, about the platform, or how much flexibility each Institution/course will have on how materials are presented and how students will interact with it. There are even fewer details on what MOOCs will be available, and when. News of Futurelearn has certainly caused a big ripple in the discussion about MOOCs in general, now we wait to see if it can live up to it’s own hype.

What do you think … does Futurelearn have a unique selling point that will make it stand out from the crowd? Is there anything here that will set it aside from other platforms (Coursera, Udacity, etc.) or is just another bandwagon being jumped on?

Disclaimer: While I may work at the University of Leicester, and it being one of the original 17 partners, I do not have any inside knowledge of Futurelearn or Leicester’s involvement in it. I am as in the dark as everyone else, but I hope in time to learn more and, if possible, be involved. Until then I am just speculating … and hoping it can live up to my own expectations.