FutureLearn Launches First Batch Of 20 Free Courses As It Chases Coursera, Et Al.

FutureLearn, a U.K.-led MOOCs alliance, has launched its first set of free courses, nine months after announcing its intention to jump into the Massively Open Online Courses space.

FutureLearn has grown in size and scope during that pre-launch phase. It now describes itself as “U.K.-led” MOOCs provider — having added a couple of international higher education institutions (namely Trinity College Dublin and Australia’s Monash University) to a list that began as a consortium of U.K.-only institutions.

The thing is, FutureLearn is late to the MOOCs party — playing catch up with the likes of Coursera and Udacity, to name just two of the U.S.-based pioneers in the space. So expanding its roster of course-providing institutions by casting its net overseas is one way to scale faster and start attracting a critical mass of students so it can shoot for profitability, down the line.

The full list of (26) institutions now signed up to create courses for FutureLearn is as follows: the Universities of Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, East Anglia, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Leicester, Loughborough, Kings College London, Lancaster, Leeds, Monash, Nottingham, Queen’s Belfast, Reading, Sheffield, Southampton, Strathclyde, Trinity College Dublin and Warwick.

Long time U.K. distance-learning institution The Open University is also a key player — indeed, it wholly owns FutureLearn. Plus the British Council, British Library and the British Museum have agreed to partner with the MOOC provider to “share content and expertise and collaborate in the development of courses through FutureLearn.com“.

FutureLearn’s website is launching today as an open beta which will run until early 2014. Learners can sign up for courses via the site, and their feedback will be used to shape its ongoing development, the consortium said today.

Pilot courses are being offered by 20 of FutureLearn’s partners initially, including eight courses scheduled to begin between October and December this year. Courses in the initial batch include:

  • Begin Programming: Build Your First Mobile Game, from Reading University
  • Web Science: How the Web is Changing the World, from Southampton University
  • The Mind Is Flat: The Shocking Shallowness of Human Psychology, from Warwick University

To date, learners from more than 165 countries have registered interest in taking a course on FutureLearn.