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MOOCs Becoming Mainstream in Britain

Until recently, British higher education institutions were hesitant to offer free courses online through pre-existing Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) providers, like Udacity, edX and Coursera. In fact, of Coursera’s 35 institutional partners, only 2 are based in the United Kingdom. Neither edX nor Udacity work with any British partners.

However, earlier this month, 11 universities signed up to join forces with a new company called Futurelearn to provide online courses at no charge. Among the institutions partnering with Futurelearn are the University of Birmingham, Cardiff University, the University of Leeds, the University of St. Andrews and King’s College London. Futurelearn was formed by well-known distance-learning provider, the Open University (Open U).

Martin Bean, the vice chancellor of the Open U told the Chronicle of Higher Education that although the courses offered through Futurelearn will be based on some key features introduced by American MOOC providers such as Coursera and Udacity, there will also be additional and distinctive British components. It is expected that this British component will include online content from the British Library and British Museum.

Two of Britain’s best-known institutions, the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford have yet to show intention in joining the MOOC venture at this time.

It is expected that courses offered through Futurelearn will be ready to launch as of mid-2013. There are not yet any plans to offer academic credit or transfer credits when the courses are rolled out.