Last updated: 20.12.12

Open University launches new MOOC platform

The Open University (OU) has announced it is rolling out a new massive open online course (MOOC) platform to all UK universities, which will offer digital degrees free of charge.

Its new service - entitled Futurelearn Ltd - is to function as a single virtual destination through which various British institutions can distribute their own courses.

The company will be headed up by former BBC executive Simon Nelson, who helped to launch the iPlayer content streaming service.

Universities that have already registered for the OU's new platform include those in Bristol, Cardiff, King's College London, Leeds, Southampton and St Andrews.

David Willetts, the minister for universities and science, has praised the online learning platform, stating that UK needs to be at the front of developments in education technology.

"MOOCs present an opportunity for us to widen access to and meet the global demand for higher education. This is growing rapidly in emerging economies like Brazil, India and China," he added.

Although the technological specifications of the system have yet to be decided, Futurelearn is to be initially funded by the OU.

However, one spokesman told Information Age that it will be looking for new partners and while some universities have agreed to put money into the e-learning initiative, some will not and the government is also refraining from financially supporting the venture.

Not just crucial to the country's academic practices, online training is also popular among businesses that are seeking to educate their staff more conveniently and efficiently.

These companies can either roll out their own schemes or turn to e-learning providers to supply the education for them - one organisation to help firms with their employee development is Virtual College.

Offering courses in number of topics - such as Equality and Diversity in the Workplace and How to Manage Learning and Development - the online institution has a wide range of internet modules available for purchase.