With the cost of university being so high, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to see what you were letting yourself in for before committing? This is exactly what is being offered by the Open University and the University of Leeds in association with the online learning platform FutureLearn. Using the system of massive open online courses (MOOCs) potential students will be able to study for part of a degree or MBA course before progressing further. The system will let people try out programs for free, allowing them the chance to see what they think before deciding to pay for a certificate and final assessment that can go on towards their actual degree.
While this sounds like a great idea, there is still a cost with this proposed system, since FutureLearn ask students to pay in order to officially join a course, while there will also be a charge for programs and the final assessment.
However, this is an interesting development in how Higher Education could be handled by major universities. By offering a taste of what to expect, universities can ensure that students know what they are letting themselves in for, while also offering young people the chance to try out a course before fully committing to spending thousands on tuition fees and other costs.
If you were spending thousands on a car you might want a test drive first, so why not do the same with a university course? Paying your university tuition could be one of the most expensive decisions you have made (at £9,000 per year and set to rise in England and Wales), and chances are you won’t want to waste that money, and your time, on an unsuitable course.
The MOOC system is already in operation in the U.S.A. and this looks set to be the first time it has been tried out in this way in the U.K.
Not only does this system give you the chance to see what you think of a course, but you could also get started on your qualification without going to university. Offering such educational opportunities away from the university campus could also help democratise learning in the future, although some say online learning could be the death knell for traditional university in the future.
Open University vice chancellor, Peter Horrocks, said that their use of MOOCs to extend learning is a “modern illustration of the OU’s historic mission to extend quality education to the greatest number of people possible.”
There is potential for online learning to offer a more efficient, student-focused, flexible, and competitive way of earning a degree – with no need to compromise on quality either. If the best lecturers and courses can be gathered together and delivered online, then surely students can universally get access to the same high levels of teaching.
This democratisation of higher education may be some way off yet, but Futurelearn, along with Leeds University and the Open University have shown themselves to be trail-blazers in this bold new world of education.
However, for now, just the idea of being able to test out your course before you commit seems like a big step in the right direction.