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…]

14 comments

  1. Pingback: elearnspace › Finally, alternatives to prominent MOOCs
    • Tony Hirst

      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….?)

      • Marc Eisenstadt

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

  2. Richard Sweet

    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).

  3. Pingback: Futurelearn may or may not succeed but is well worth a try « Doug Clow's Imaginatively-Titled Blog
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  5. Tom Roper

    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?

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