This is a somewhat late consideration of the UK’s new MOOC platform/project – Futurelearn. It was announced in mid-December 2012 amidst a flurry of managed announcements (dubbed an example of “churnalism” by several edubloggers).To review a list of the initial press coverage, check out OUseful.Info, the blog… post OU Launches FutureLearn Ltd.) The quote in my blog heading was drawn from Doug Clow’s thoughtful post about Futurelearn in Futurelearn may or may not succeed but is well worth a try.
I only tripped over it a week ago (thanks to George Siemens presentation video from last year) but I’ve been poking around because I was curious to see what their MOOC-model of delivery would be. After all, OpenLearn, the “open” (in the true sense of the word) learning arm of the Open University, has been offering a wide range of courses and learning tools for years. What might change with this embrace of the MOOC-model?
I have to say I was very disappointed when I went and explored the site. Just over three months since the flurry of articles, interviews, and social media coverage and there is nothing on the site yet. If you check under FAQs, the answer to the question:
What is the launch date?
We anticipate that the first Futurelearn courses will be launched later this year.
So the initially cautious (and somewhat acidic) commentary in the blogosphere at the time of the original announcements in December 2012 is proving to be the correct response. Was the announcement simply to draw in additional supporters/partners and to raise investment capital? What kind of MOOC will it be? A for-profit model but with open access for some part of the content? Open access with a fee for accreditation or some kind of digital badging? Who will determine the course mix? Will it be cohort-based or will students set their own pace?
Despite the involvement of the British Council, the British Library and 17 UK universities, and Martin Bean, Vice Chancellor of The Open University, the initiative still seems somewhat empty. A recent (March 21st, 2013) Times article Futurelearn’s boss on breaking into Moocs reported on the vision of the team lead by “launch CEO” Simon Nelson:
In three years’ time we hope to be offering a level of online learning that we can’t dream about at the moment. ..rather than hanging out on Facebook of an evening, people will feel they can hang around in the Futurelearn product.”