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Cardiff takes massive step

18 September 2013


FutureLearn, the first UK-led provider of massive open online courses (MOOCs), is from today offering learners around the world access to free, high quality courses from university partners including Cardiff.

Cardiff University's first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) will be 'Muslims in Britain: Changes and Challenges' delivered by the University's Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK, based in the School of History, Archaeology & Religion. The course will start in March 2014 led by Professor Sophie Gilliat-Ray.

The FutureLearn website opens today as an open beta, which will run until early 2014. Learners will be able to sign up for a selection of courses from FutureLearn's university partners, with learner feedback used to inform the ongoing development of the website. So far learners from over 165 countries have registered their interest in taking a course on FutureLearn.

Simon Nelson, CEO of FutureLearn said, "We wanted to make FutureLearn a fresh, different and enjoyable user experience. We have designed the website in line with principles of effective learning, such as storytelling, discussions and celebrating progress. We decided to go live with FutureLearn now, in an open testing phase, so that we can remain responsive to learners as we continue to develop the website."

Social interaction is central to the FutureLearn experience, enabling people to learn actively by engaging in conversations around the learning material, or vicariously, by following discussions. FutureLearn has also been designed to work on smart phones, tablets and desktop computers, so that learners can enjoy the same high-quality user experience, regardless of the screen size.

Professor Patricia Price, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Student Experience & Academic Standards at Cardiff said: "We were pleased to be one of the first universities to join Futurelearn and to lead the sector in Wales.

"We're now delighted to see this exciting initiative launch which provides further opportunity to extend access across the world to our high quality education experience. Cardiff's first MOOC will start in 2014 delivered by the pioneering Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK."

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said, "The launch of FutureLearn is an exciting development for UK learning. MOOCs provide the opportunity to widen access to our world class Universities and to meet the global demand for higher education.

"FutureLearn has the potential to revolutionise conventional models of formal education. I encourage all our institutions to explore the opportunities offered by new modes of technology, such as MOOCs. This will keep the UK ahead in the global race to deliver education in worldwide markets."

In addition to a strong social architecture and performance on a range of devices, FutureLearn's key features include:

  • Inspiring and rich learning material: Ideas are communicated in a variety of ways including video, audio and text articles. Many of these are designed to be shared and discoverable via web searches.
  • Community learning: Learner profile pages will help learners build a presence within FutureLearn, interact with and find out more about other learners, and follow and be followed in return. These features, based on the principles which underpin social networks, will encourage community learning.
  • Contextual feedback for learners: Quizzes are designed so that feedback and hints are given after each answer, to help learners spot gaps in their knowledge. Progress pages show how much of the course they have completed, their overall score, and how much they are interacting with others.
  • Course creator and analytics dashboard: we help our partners by providing a simple web-based course creation tool and up to the minute statistics on how learners are interacting with courses, to allow educators to respond to the needs of their learners.
  • Record of learning: All learners will have an on screen record of learning that they can share beyond the FutureLearn community. FutureLearn will be also be piloting paid-for statements of accomplishment and real world exams at local test centres later this year.

FutureLearn was set up in December 2012 as the UK's first provider of free, high quality MOOCs. Currently numbering 26, its partners and course providers comprise leading UK and international universities and cultural institutions including the British Library, British Museum and British Council.

Picture Credit: Peter Sanders