Thursday, 21 February 2013

MOOCs Explained

If you want to study a subject with one of the world’s most prestigious universities, you probably think it’ll require a full-time commitment and cost thousands of pounds.

But what if there was a way to benefit from the expertise of lecturers and professors from universities such as Bristol, King’s College London, Leeds and Edinburgh, from the comfort of your own home, without having to spend a single penny?

Futurelearn, the latest initiative from NEC partner the Open University, is set to make this utopian-sounding idea a reality with the launch of a series of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, later this year.

Enabling access to courses from some of the world’s best universities for students from all over the world, MOOCs are the latest big thing in the world of learning. Combining different forms of content, including video lectures, discussion forums and wikis, they deliver education over the internet to up to thousands of people at a time.

Although Futurelearn is still developing its website and curriculum and won’t begin delivering courses to students until later this year, there are already a number of providers using the method.

US-based Coursera announced today that it would be adding 29 more universities to its list of providers, bringing the number of institutions delivering MOOCs through the service up to 62 including universities in America, the UK, Hong Kong, France and Japan. Coursera already has 2.8 million students enrolled, and that number’s sure to increase with the addition of so many more universities.

Although MOOCs are offered by higher education establishments, they don’t tend to lead to professional qualifications. Lasting weeks rather than months, MOOCs provide an excellent way to learn more about a subject without committing significant amounts of time and money.

The increase in their popularity reflects the growing popularity of distance learning as a medium. NEC has long advocated the value of learning at home without attending a physical classroom, as it allows flexibility and freedom to an extent unmatched by conventional teaching methods.

NEC’s publishing manager is currently studying a MOOC created by the Open University, the Institute of Education and the University of Greenwich. The Open Learning Design Studio MOOC, ‘Learning Design for a 21st Century Curriculum’, is a nine-week course requiring a commitment of between three and ten hours a week.

‘The course involves online collaboration with other learners – we form groups, read and write blog posts, share our ideas and get guidance from tutors via presentations,’ she said.

‘I chose to study this MOOC because part of my work involves designing courses, so having the opportunity to learn more about issues that could impact on this in the future and engage in discussions with other professionals is incredibly valuable.

‘I’ve been impressed with the course so far and see a lot of potential in MOOCs as being an engaging method of learning that bring people together online and really promote a sense of a learning community.

‘MOOCs are an exciting new addition to the distance learning landscape that align perfectly with NEC’s mission statement: to widen learning opportunities and break down barriers to education.’

To find out more about the distance learning opportunities offered by NEC, visit our website.

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