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MOOCs set to earn degree credits thanks to new collaboration

Massive Open Online Courses will be included as degree credits which count towards a final degree.

Safeera Sarjoo
08th June 2016
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We had to do a double take but the exciting partnership between FutureLearn and two well known universities means students now have the option to take an online course which will count towards their final degree.

The University of Leeds, a member of the elite Russell Group of universities will be taking part in this project along with the Open University, which is known for their array of distance and open learning courses.

Sir Alan Langlands, vice-chancellor for the University of Leeds, said ‘The University of Leeds is very proud to be the first Russell Group university to launch a credit-bearing online course on the FutureLearn platform.

‘It signifies our ongoing commitment to widen access to higher education, desire to offer flexible and inclusive education and showcases our excellence in research-based learning.’

Simon Nelson, CEO of FutureLearn, believes that this step is a huge step in the right direction when it comes to creating flexibility within higher education and giving more control to the learner.

He said, ‘Allowing people to take part of a degree course with the flexibility offered by our platform means that they can achieve meaningful qualifications whilst still being able to work and manage the other important parts of their lives.’

So how will it work? Well a Guardian article explains that ‘To take a programme learners must complete a series of short open courses and buy a certificate of achievement for each.

‘To complete programmes that attract an academic credit or offer a qualification, students may have to pay and pass an assessment module. Universities will award credit against the grade achieved which will then count towards a degree.’

This move comes at an excellent time following the release of the recent Higher Education Whitepaper where Jo Johnson, the Minister of State for Universities and Science said that we should have an open and diverse higher education sector. This includes embracing ‘innovation and in which the excellence of the teaching matches the excellence of the research.’

FutureLearn recently reached an astonishing three million users from approximately 211 countries. It’s clear from this that the appetite for online learning is there, but there’s been no collaboration with the wider educational sector until now.

One key issue that has plagued the growth of online education is the quality of content that is taught. However if a university like Leeds is to partner with FutureLearn, the first thing they will want to ensure is that the content delivered within this particular course is up to the standard of the rest of the modules that make up this degree.

In addition to this it’s important to note the importance of a competitive market. As the Whitepaper states, ‘competition between providers in any market incentivises them to raise their game, offering consumers a greater choice of more innovative and better quality products and services at lower cost.’

This collaboration, if implemented by more universities, will result in a shift in fees which is something that has often been contested by students after they were raised some years ago.

Peter Horrocks, the vice-chancellor of the Open University, praised this innovative approach and hoped it would extend the quality of education to a large amount of people. He said: ‘This innovative offer of credit is a clear demonstration of the disruptive potential of MOOCs in offering more efficient, competitive and learner-focused study options.’ 

We think this is a great development when it comes to integrating online courses into the wider educational landscape. If we truly want an innovative educational sector, we have to be open to the various teaching routes and we’re excited to see how this programme pans out and if other universities follow suit.

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