18/02/2013

Prime Minister welcomes the growth of the UK’s mass-participation learning platform FutureLearn as the British Library becomes the first non-university institution to join

The British Library has announced its intention to join the UK’s Mooc platform FutureLearn Ltd, offering participants of its online courses access to the Library’s unique digitised resources. The Library will be the first non-university research institution to join the initiative, and is among five university partners announced today during a major business and skills mission to India with the Prime Minister.

The launch of the FutureLearn Mooc (or ‘Massive open on-line course’) stems from the growth of online degree-style courses in the USA, where companies such as edX and Coursera offer around 230 Moocs to more than 3 million students. The first ever UK Mooc, FutureLearn Ltd, was launched by the Open University last December and includes partnerships with eighteen UK universities. Existing Library digital resources will be made available on FutureLearn, complementing plans for large-scale participation in online lectures and courses which are due to start later this year. The Library’s freely available digital collections include over 800 medieval manuscripts, 40,000 nineteenth-century books and 50,000 sound recordings, and continue to grow each year.

Welcoming the news, David Cameron said: "Britain boasts some of the best universities in the world. This innovative new offer led by The Open University will mean that Indian students can access some of the best teaching and learning online from their home in Mumbai or Delhi. I'm delighted that Futurelearn is expanding to include more British universities and the British Library. I hope it will encourage many more Indian students to take the next step and study with a UK university."

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, said: “FutureLearn is an exciting development in higher education, with the potential to enable mass access to valuable resources and teaching anywhere in the world, for free. As the home of a growing set of unique and valuable digital resources, the British Library is looking forward to partnering with The Open University and widening access to our collections for even more researchers online worldwide as the initiative develops.”

Welcoming the new partners to Futurelearn, Open University Vice-Chancellor, Martin Bean said: “We’re in the middle of an exciting time for higher education in which anything is possible. I am delighted that these iconic institutions - the British Library and five top universities - have joined us on our journey to make Futurelearn the world’s best source of free, open, online courses. I’m convinced that Futurelearn will quickly become a great, innovative British export. We’re building on the country’s 800-year history of higher education to deliver a best in class teaching and learning experience that will benefit students all over the world”.

The HE sector has seen a lot of change in the past couple of years, but we’re coming out stronger and Futurelearn is evidence of that. I’m convinced that Futurelearn will quickly become a great British export. We’re building on the country’s 800-year history of higher education to deliver a very high quality product that will benefit students all over the world“.

Simon Nelson, CEO of Futurelearn, said: “I am thrilled that more of the UK’s top institutions have joined Futurelearn, which will bring the best of UK teaching to students worldwide. Until now, this market has been dominated by companies based in the US, but with 18 UK partners, we are determined to provide the smartest and most engaging online learning experiences and revolutionise conventional models of education.”

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The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - www.bl.uk - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.  



FutureLearn.com is the first UK-led multi-institutional provider of free, open, online higher education courses. It offers courses for people to access and enjoy wherever they are in the world on multiple devices. Courses will be created by the Universities of Auckland, Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, East Anglia, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Leicester, Liverpool, Loughborough, King’s College London, Lancaster, Leeds, Monash, Newcastle, Nottingham, The Open University, Queen’s Belfast, Reading, Sheffield, Southampton, Strathclyde, Trinity College Dublin and Warwick. In addition, the British Council, British Library and the British Museum have all agreed to partner with FutureLearn to share content and their expertise and collaborate in the development of courses through FutureLearn.com.

FutureLearn makes it possible to learn for life, offering unique access to some of the most inspiring learning opportunities from some of the world’s best universities and learning institutions – free of charge. The website went live as an open beta in September 2013, offering free higher education level study to anyone interested in learning, including current and prospective university students, working professionals and leisure learners.



The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.8 million students and has almost 250,000 current students, including over 15,000 overseas. The OU is rated the top university for student satisfaction in the National Student Survey, and has been in the top three universities every year since the survey began in 2005.  In 2011/12 it had a 93 per cent satisfaction rating. Over 70% of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and four out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses. In the UK’s latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008) The Open University was ranked in the top third of UK higher education institutions. More than 50% of OU research was assessed in the RAE as internationally excellent, with 14% as world leading.

 

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