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Trying to find useful things to do with emerging technologies in open education

OU Launches FutureLearn Ltd

So it seems the Open University press office must have had an embargoed press release lined up for midnight, with a flurry of stories – and a reveal of the official press release on the OU site, partner quotes and briefing doc – about FutureLearn Ltd (Twitter: @future_learn)

Futurelearn Ltd log

Futurelearn original press release

Apparently, Futurelearn (not FutureLearn? The UEA press release uses CamelCase…) “will bring together a range of free, open, online courses from leading UK universities, in the same place and under the same brand.”

A bit like edX, then…?

future of online education

…only that’s for US unis… Or Coursera, which is open to all-comers, I think? Whereas Futurelearn looks as if it’ll be championing the cause of UK universities – apparently, Birmingham [UK universities embrace the free, open, online future of higher education], Bristol [UK universities embrace the free, open, online future of higher education powered by The Open University], Cardiff [Online future of higher education], East Anglia [UK universities embrace the online future of higher education], Exeter [UK universities embrace the free, open, online future of higher education powered by The Open University], King’s College London [Futurelearn – new online higher education initiative], Lancaster [Lancaster signs up for Futurelearn], Leeds [Leeds joins partners in offering free online access to education], Southampton [University of Southampton embraces the open, online future of higher education], St Andrews [news feed] and Warwick [Warwick joins other leading UK universities to create multiple MOOC giving free access to some of those Universities’ most innovative courses] have all signed up to join Futurelearn… (It’ll be interesting to see if HEIs that are trying out Coursera, such as Edinburgh, will joing Futurelearn, or whether exclusive agreements are in place? I also wonder about whether membership of any of the particular university groups will influence which “open” online course marketing outfit particular universities join?) [Other press releases: QAA: Open University launches UK-based Moocs platform]

[For what it's worth, the OU and UEA were the only press offices to break the story just after midnight. St Andrews is the last to release a press release. Birmingham and Kings were also tardy... I wonder whether some of the partners were waiting to see whether anyone picked up on the story before putting out their own press releases?]

Here’s some of the press coverage so far – I guess I should grab these reports and give each a churnalism score…?

Simon Nelson, whom I remember gave a presentation at the OU a few years ago when he was BBC multiplatform commissioner, has been appointed as CEO, so that could prove interesting… (FWIW, Simon Nelson Linked In page, directorships: Sineo Ltd, and I think Ludifi Ltd?) What might this mean for the OpenLearn brand, I wonder? Or for the Open University Apps, iBooks and Stores?

Structurally, “Futurelearn will be independent but majority-owned by the OU”, although as far as “partners” announced so far go, this “do[es] not constitute a partnership in the legal sense and the Parties shall not have authority to bind each other in any way. The term is used to indicate their support and intent to work together on this project.”

One possible response is that this is a playing out of an Emperor’s New Clothes marketing battle, but as with the evolution of any novel communication technology (seeing “MOOC’s” as such as thing), some of them do manage to lock-in… (And as George Siemens comments in Finally, alternatives to prominent MOOCs, “Even if MOOCs disappear from the landscape in the next few years, the change drivers that gave birth to them will continue to exert pressure and render slow plodding systems obsolete (or, perhaps more accurately, less relevant). If MOOCs are eventually revealed to be a fad, the universities that experiment with them today will have acquired experience and insight into the role of technology in teaching and learning that their conservative peers won’t have. It’s not only about being right, it’s about experimenting and playing in the front line of knowledge”.)

Futurelearn Ltd

Leagas Delaney, it seems, is some sort of brand communications agency. So much style on their website, I couldn’t actually work out the substance of what it is they actually do at this late hour (all I did was check my feeds quickly, just after midnight, as I was on my way to bed, and catch sight of the OU news release…).

PS No-one mention the warUKeU… (via Seb Schmoller (Futurelearn – an OU-led response to Coursera, Udacity, and MITx), I am reminded of Paul Bacsich’s Lessons to be learned from the failure of UKeU.)

PPS Now I’m wondering whether @dkernohan knew something I didn’t when he launched the MOOCAS/”MOOC Advisory Service” search engine a couple of days ago…?!;-)

[UPDATE: this was post was an early response that collated press stories released at end of embargo time. For a more considered review, check out Doug Clow's Futurelearn may or may not succeed but is well worth a try. Via @dkernohan, William Hammonds on the Universities UK blog: Are we witnessing higher education’s “digital moment”?]

[The views expressed within this post are barley even my personal ones, let alone anybody else's...]

Written by Tony Hirst

December 14, 2012 at 1:54 am

Posted in OU2.0

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14 Responses

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  1. [...] Hirst has compiled a list of articles (or churnalism as it appears to be). The logo of FutureLearn appears to be the byproduct of 2 [...]

  2. Good strong initiative; great and appropriate for the OU to be out in front on this one. Thx for all the link mining ;- BTW re exclusivity and the nature of such ‘deals’, a good source of info is the University of Illinois internal debate on joining Coursera, about which they published a handy document in their senate papers: http://www.senate.illinois.edu/120705courserataskforce.pdf

    Marc

    December 14, 2012 at 8:50 am

    • Hi Marc – thanks for that link…. I’d love to see more of these. I’ve often thought it’d make sense to build an alerter around public university papers…

      (Long time no hear, btw. How’s things? Are you involved with the F/L initiative at all….?)

      Tony Hirst

      December 14, 2012 at 9:38 am

      • Not involved in F/L… just v pleased to see positive moves! Tough environment, but this is a great addition to the evolutionary stew.

        Marc Eisenstadt

        December 14, 2012 at 3:37 pm

  3. Interesting initiative. On the one hand competing against the likes of EdX and (in particular) Coursera may be difficult, but in my experience Coursera has very significant weaknesses in its delivery model at present. If I had two suggestions as to ‘lessons to learn’ from Coursera it would be (1) Quality control prior to course delivery; and (2) student interaction/discussion, which is very messy (and of course OU have a lot of experience of).

    Richard Sweet

    December 14, 2012 at 9:13 am

  4. [...] familiar with the basic idea from the press release and related news stories. (If not, Tony Hirst has an excellent roundup. [...]

  5. [...] OU Launches FutureLearn Ltd [...]

  6. Maybe because I’m outside the charmed circle HE, but, hearing an exciting headline about it on the radio this morning, I looked around to see if there was anything concrete to see. I can find nothing, not even a date when it will go live.
    Are their media releases running ahead of the project, and by how much? Months? Years? Decades?

    Tom Roper

    December 14, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    • @Tom it’s a classic press launch – just a media release atm. OU press office starting to make a habit out of it… (eg see also “he Open University announces ‘mobile degree app’ OUAnywhere” [ http://www3.open.ac.uk/media/fullstory.aspx?id=24514 ] (the app is nowhere to be found until next year some time…)

      Tony Hirst

      December 14, 2012 at 2:21 pm

  7. [...] the OU and with other UK university partners looks to me like one response to this recommendation.  Tony Hirst and Doug Clouw have already blogged about FurtureLearn and  I fully agree with Doug about [...]

  8. [...] de Jaime Oyarzo) Para leer más… > Jaime Oyarzo Espinosa hrs. 12:32 Enviar por correo [...]

  9. [...] This is a somewhat late consideration of the UK’s new MOOC platform/project – Futurelearn. It was announced  in mid-December 2012 amidst a flurry of managed announcements (dubbed an example of “churnalism” by several edubloggers).To review a list of the initial press coverage, check out OUseful.Info, the blog… post OU Launches FutureLearn Ltd.) [...]

  10. […] By José Mota | 14/12/2012 – 10:03 | S/R OU Launches FutureLearn Ltd So it seems the Open University press office must have had an embargoed press release lined up for […]


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