Futurelearn may or may not succeed but is well worth a try

So there’s a new kid on the MOOC (Massively Open Online Course) block: Futurelearn. (Or FutureLearn or FUTURE/LEARN – I daresay the capitalisation question is one that’ll be answered fairly straightforwardly, at least in letters terms.) I’ll assume you’re already familiar with the basic idea from the press release and related news stories. (If not, Tony Hirst has an excellent roundup. )

The first thing to say is that this is a PR and organisational coup. Hats off to Martin Bean (the OU Vice Chancellor) and all involved (which must’ve been at least a small group) to get this organised and agreed between so many partners. (As an aside, I chatted to the folks setting up to record his latest video message to staff (OU only, sorry) and they said they couldn’t let me see the transcript or they’d be shot. I was slightly surprised – huge secrecy isn’t a usual part of his management style – but now I understand why: his message talks about Futurelearn!)

The second thing to say is that I think this is a great thing for the OU to be doing. As I’ve argued before (https://dougclow.org/2012/11/12/moocs-oer-and-wikipedia-for-great-justice/), MOOCs could open the doors to higher education much more widely, and are therefore a Good Thing. The OU has a track record in this sort of stuff.

I’m not at all sure whether Futurelearn will be a huge success or a flash in the pan, same as I’m not sure whether MOOCs in general will be a huge success or a flash in the pan. But I am increasingly sure that it’s a great idea for the OU to pursue this wholeheartedly. If someone’s going to be doing it, I’d rather it was the OU, with its 40-year tradition and commitment to opening access to higher education, than a venture capitalist with a commitment only to making money.

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