Free courses with online universities announced


The UK's biggest online university project has been launched by FutureLearn, with more than 20 universities offering free courses in so-called Moocs - massive open online courses.

Moocs allow students in any country to sign up for a course through the FutureLearn site and study for free.

Universities minister, David Willetts, said that the FutureLearn partnership would help to serve the unmet demand for university courses, particularly overseas.

The launch of FutureLearn sees 21 UK universities, plus Trinity College Dublin and Monash University in Australia, offering courses that are taught and assessed on the internet.

The UK universities include Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Nottingham, Warwick, Bristol, Reading, Southampton and the Open University, which has headed the project.

The British Library, British Museum and British Council will make material available to students.

MOOCs are already popular in the United States where there are a number of established hubs, including Coursera, which carries classes from top Ivy League universities such as Yale, Princeton, Columbia and Brown, as well institutions in other countries, like the University of Amsterdam and Peking University.

Open University vice-chancellor Martin Bean said: "Time and again we have seen the disruptive impact the internet can have on industries – driving innovation and enhancing the customer experience. I have no doubt MOOCs will do the same for education – offering people new and exciting ways to learn. This is why we took the initiative to join forces with a range of university and cultural partners to create FutureLearn – spearheading the UK's response to the rise of MOOCs and offering students a new and innovative way to access courses."

In total 20 courses have been listed on the site, one of which is Reading University's programming course which will teach students to build a mobile game.

Other courses include: The Secret Power of Brands (East Anglia), The Mind is Flat: The Shocking Shallowness of Human Psychology (Warwick), Web Science: How the Web is Changing the World (Southampton), England in the Time of King Richard III (Leicester) and Improving Your Image: Dental Photography in Practice (Birmingham).

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