The University of Southampton today (18 September) launches its first Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which will enable anyone to study online, for free, wherever they are in the world.
A MOOC is a free study programme which is designed to be studied online by large numbers of participants. To take part in a MOOC, no previous experience is required, there is no admission interview and no need to have ever studied online or even in higher education.
Professor Don Nutbeam, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southampton, says: “This represents an exciting opportunity for the University to be at the forefront of educational innovation in the UK and engage a wide community of learners.
“I have been deeply impressed by the enthusiasm that has been observable within the University community for MOOCs, much of it inspired by a commitment to improve access to world-class learning opportunities to millions around the world who otherwise would have little or no access.”
The first MOOC offered by the University is in the pioneering discipline of Web Science, which will start on 11 November. Web Science is a new subject area that Southampton is at the forefront of, which aims to provide a thorough understanding of the Web as a social and technical phenomenon, so very apt given the ambition of MOOCs.
The MOOCs will last between six and eight weeks, each requiring two to three hours of study per week. Participants can either choose to complete the whole programme, or elect to dip into particular topics of interest as and when time allows.
They will have recorded lectures, carefully selected readings, planned learning activities and online formative multiple-choice tests. There will also be a discussion forum based around weekly topics that promote lively debate and help build an online community around areas of interest.
For participants, the benefits of taking part in a MOOC are clear; they get an engaging educational experience that develops new skills and understanding. In addition, there is no cost, no travel and the timing is flexible so that they can fit study in around their work and other activities. Although there is no official academic credit awarded for successful completion, students will be recognised with a PDF certificate or a digital badge.
Professor Hugh Davies, Director of the University’s Centre for Innovation in Technologies and Education, says: “These exciting opportunities can be taken as a taster for further study or just to learn more about a subject of interest from a potentially massive international audience. The aim is to give people access to education without the need for prior subject knowledge, just enthusiasm and a willingness to engage around topic areas that interest them or may help them develop their skills.”
The Southampton MOOCs will be delivered by FutureLearn, a new company set up by the Open University, which will offer MOOCs by many of the UK’s top universities, including Southampton. By delivering the University’s MOOCs through FutureLearn, it will enable people all over the world to enjoy learning at Southampton through free courses accessible on mobiles, tablets or PCs.
If you would like to know more about MOOCs at the University of Southampton, please visit http://www.southampton.ac.uk/moocs/