Venture Houston 2018
Skip Content

17 December 2012

MOOCs: The British are coming

Futurelearn, a platform free-to-access Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), has been launched by a consortium of UK-based universities, led by distance-learning provider The Open University (OU).

Author: Gregg Bayes-Brown, editor

Twelve UK-based universities, led by distance-learning provider The Open University, have launched Futurelearn; an online platform which provides free-to-access higher education courses with an aim to take on US rivals such as venture-backed Coursera.

The company will be majority-owned by the OU, which is investing an undisclosed sum of seed-funding in Futurelearn, but will act independently of the University. The spin-out will also utilise technologies developed by the distance-learning provider for online education.

Futurelearn will provide Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), higher education courses that are provided free of charge with no prior requirements necessary for entry, which have seen a meteoric rise in popularity in the United States. MOOCs provider Coursera, a Stanford-led US-based consortium of institutions which has raised $22m in venture funding, has attracted 2m users since starting out earlier in 2012.

Martin Bean, vice-chancellor of The Open University, said: “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.”

The OU has 11 partners, which include Russell Group universities, which will begin to provide courses in 2013. Cardiff, Bristol, Exeter, Warwick, King’s College London, Birmingham, Southampton, East Anglia, Leeds, Lancaster, and St. Andrews will join the OU in developing the UK MOOCs.

Cambridge University has also expressed its support for the programme. Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, vice-chancellor of Cambridge University said: “Online education is becoming an important approach which may open substantial opportunities to those without access to conventional universities. This OU initiative is an exciting means to build on its established success and expand its mission.”

Futurelearn will be headed up by launch chief executive officer Simon Nelson, who developed several key online technologies for the British Broadcasting Corporation, including its online content platform iPlayer.

He said: “There has been rapid and widespread growth in open online courses but until now UK universities have only had the option of working with US-based platforms. Futurelearn will aim to bring together the leading UK universities to create a combined and coherent offer for students in the UK and internationally.”


[Disclaimer: Alongside working as News Editor for GUV, Gregg also works in the press room at The Open University.]

Copyright Mawsonia Limited 2010. Please don´t cut articles from or the PDF and redistribute by email or post to the web without written permission.

  • Linkedin
  • Mail
  • Rssfeed