Distance learning courses are set to take off in a whole new way, as 21 universities in the UK prepare to launch their own “moocs” – massive open online courses, which have already seen considerable success in the USA. Leeds, Bristol and Southampton are among the institutions that will begin the courses this autumn, according to the Guardian, allowing thousands of people around the world to listen in on interactive lectures for free.
Moocs are pitched somewhere between taster courses and postgraduate level degrees, and it’s often mature learners who show the most interest in them. The University of Edinburgh, which ran the UK’s first moocs last year and saw 308,000 students from 167 countries take part. This new batch of courses will typically be eight weeks or less, and many will be themed around subjects that a given institution specialises in – for instance, Southampton University plans to offer oceanography and mechanical engineering.
While concerns have been raised about the concept of moocs – including the problem of evaluating academic achievement and ensuring students aren’t cheating or copying one another’s answers – their success has been seen as an example of the growing reach of the distance learning format, which allows people from around the world to complete courses from home.