What is a MOOC?
MOOCs (or Massive Open Online Courses) have become increasingly popular since they first emerged in 2008. Free and easily accessible online MOOCs offer large numbers of students the opportunity to study high quality courses with prestigious universities.
Whilst MOOCs don’t always lead to formal qualifications, they allow students to gain invaluable knowledge to support their careers, or their own personal learning goals. There are no entry requirements and students can take part in the courses regardless of where they live in the world or their financial circumstances.
Because they are online, MOOCs are highly scalable and thousands of students can take part in any one course.
MOOCs offer large numbers of students the opportunity to study high quality courses with prestigious universities.
How did MOOCs start?
MOOCs are a direct response to the digital, networked world where people have access to huge amounts of information online and where they form virtual communities with people who share their interests. MOOCs use these networks to enable students to connect share and collaborate with virtual ‘classmates’ across geographical and cultural boundaries.
So far, the US has been the main hub for MOOCs, with a variety of universities contributing courses and developing online platforms to host them. However, the concept of learning online isn’t new. The Open University has been offering open educational resources for years through its highly successful OpenLearn website, and via its courses on iTunes U. Futurelearn is building on this expertise to provide courses from a range of the UK’s top universities to learners across the globe.
How do MOOCs work?
Most existing MOOCs have a specific start and finish date and students sign up online. The courses are usually offered two to three times a year and tend to last for weeks rather than months. A student can use a wide range of media and interactive online tools to engage with other participants and learn alongside them. These might include video lectures, online discussion boards, blogs, wikis and social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. In addition to this online engagement some courses also include opportunities for students to meet each other face to face.
Due to the large number of students studying MOOCs, learning support comes from the online learning community rather than academic staff. Equally, assessment of MOOC courses includes peer-assessed written assignments and computer marked tests.
MOOCs attempt to encourage students to be independent and self-motivating. Students that really embrace the course are rewarded with authentic online networks and peer relationships that can continue beyond the end of the course.
A student can use a wide range of media and interactive online tools to engage with other participants and learn alongside them.
How is Futurelearn different?
Futurelearn is actively building on more than 40 years of Open University expertise in design and delivery of supported open learning, something which is not available to MOOCs. The success of Futurelearn will be measured primarily by the quality of the offering for students.
This is not simply re-purposing existing content. Futurelearn will pro-actively engage with people who are studying for self-enrichment and personal interest, as well as those seeking a more formal learning experience.
Central to Futurelearn will be a journey through joining a course, learning, rewarding and progressing. In addition, students will have opportunities to connect beyond the immediate course to a world of open educational resources, including The Open University’s OpenLearn.
Free, open online courses are an exciting addition to the Higher Education landscape – they challenge established views of how people access high quality university teaching. It is clear that there is a growing demand for this kind of study. In 2013 Futurelearn will respond to this demand with its first tranche of courses.
Free, open online courses are an exciting addition to the Higher Education landscape…
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