World of MOOC platforms expands with U.K. consortium

Despite reaching thousands of students all over the globe, the world of massive open online course (MOOC) platforms has remained a pretty small one.

FutureLearn is attempting to treat collaboration as a vital component of MOOCs.

The courses are primarily taught by American faculty on platforms almost entirely created in Stanford or Cambridge. Now, nine months after bringing together 12 U.K. universities to create a consortium of online courses, FutureLearn has officially launched a platform that will offer a bevy of British MOOC options.

“The launch of FutureLearn is an exciting development for U.K. learning,” David Willetts, Britain’s universities and science minister, said in FutureLearn’s announcement. “MOOCs provide the opportunity to widen access to our world class universities and to meet the global demand for higher education.”

In addition to being the first U.K.-led MOOC platform, FutureLearn will differ from established providers in its approach to interaction.

With a few exceptions, U.S. MOOC platforms have struggled in finding reliable ways to foster collaboration between peers and their instructors. A course taught at the Georgia Institute of Technology in February had to be suspended after an attempt to organize its 40,000 students into groups using Google Docs devolved into confusion and technical difficulties.

It’s a problem so prevalent in existing online course platforms, that a MOOC accessory cottage industry of sorts that specifically deals with the issue has begun to emerge. Like NovoEd, a recent addition to U.S. MOOC platforms, FutureLearn is attempting to treat collaboration as a vital component of the online courses, not an afterthought.

See Page 2 for how FutureLearn encourages interaction among its users.

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