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Academic credit now an option for FutureLearn MOOCs

Students will now be able to take credit bearing programmes from top universities in the UK and around the world on MOOC platform FutureLearn. Eight higher education institutions have developed courses for this year that can be assessed for university credit.

Photo: FutureLearn

"We haven’t necessarily been able to provide that sense of progression"

UK-based FutureLearn, which is owned by The Open University, will be offering programmes, compiled of a series of courses, which will count towards academic and professional qualifications.

“It’s long been our desire to move from just delivering single courses to delivering a series of courses that build up to more meaningful qualifications”

Currently, 13 programmes are offered online from institutions including The University of Leeds, Queensland University of Technology and the British Council.

The Open University, RMIT, Middlesex University Business School, National STEM Learning Centre, University of Birmingham and St George’s University of London, are also running credit-bearing courses.

Rolling out this year, the move marks the next step for the online learning platform, said Simon Nelson, CEO of FutureLearn.

“It’s long been our desire to move from just delivering single courses to delivering a series of courses that build up to more meaningful qualifications,” he told The PIE News.

The participating universities and educational institutions are already existing partners of FutureLearn, however, these new programmes enable them to “start to unbundle their offers and deliver more flexible modular approaches to building up an academic or professional qualification”, commented Nelson.

Many of the courses currently offered on FutureLearn are standalone, and not part of a series. “We haven’t necessarily been able to provide that sense of progression”, said Nelson, adding that “we felt that moving to this type of approach was critical”.

The new courses, which like others on the platform, have a start date, but users can work at their own pace and take the courses in any order.

The courses are offered for free and learners can pay for certificates of achievements on completion of each one, followed by a final assessment on some of the programmes.

Nelson added there is space for more universities both in the UK and around the world to move towards more modular, opening and flexible methods of learning.

“Many people at the beginning of the MOOC movement over-emphasised the impact that MOOCs themselves were going to have in the short term”

“I think many people at the beginning of the MOOC movement over-emphasised the impact that MOOCs themselves were going to have in the short term,” he said. “However, I think what they underestimated was that MOOCs were only one part of a digital transformation of the sector.”

The largest MOOC platform, Coursera, has also established revenue models that offer students credit for assessed courses. In March it announced the second full post-graduate degree programme hosted on its platform for the University of Illinois.

Since its launch in 2013, FutureLearn has hosted 3.7 million users from over 200 countries around the world.

At the end of last year, The Open University announced that it will invest a further £13 million into the platform.

FutureLearn has also recently launched its first course with UCAS, after announcing them as a partner a few months ago.

Tailored for school staff and advisors, the two week course, Smart Advice: Broadening Your Students’ Horizons, is designed to show the choice of higher education study options in the UK.

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