So, FutureLearn, the new MOOC platform begotten of the Open University, has ‘gone live’ and opened the doors for people to sign up for beta courses.*
I’m impressed: they have gone from ‘good idea’ to ‘people can actually use it’ in just 9 months. That was by no means certain: it’s not unknown for high-stakes IT projects like this to run a teensy bit late, or even crash and burn completely before delivering anything. (Also in the news today is the prospect that the final bill for the disastrous NHS National Programme for IT will top £10bn – with nothing substantial to show for it.**)
More impressively, they have lined up contributions from 20 universities at launch, with more in the pipeline. The work involved in getting academics to do anything is considerable, and getting them to do something they’ve never done before is even harder. The partners have worked really hard to get some great-looking courses up there. Most of the feedback I’ve heard so far (noon on launch day, 18 September 2013) has been interest in the topics of the courses – which is as it should be.
I’m going to ignore the sexy content and look at the underlying stuff.
They’ve jumped two of the biggest hurdles: getting something live, and getting some decent stuff there. When it was announced, I said it was well worth a try. They’ve tried. In fact, it looks like they’ve tried really hard. They’ve delivered something. But how good is it?
I think it’s too early to tell.***
The most important question isn’t whether what they’ve done so far is good (though it has to be good enough): it’s whether what they’ve done so far can be developed to be really really good.