British universities are switching to free online courses

Since Wednesday 18 September, around twenty British universities have been offering free courses on a shared internet portal, following a global trend that began in the USA. The goal? Make knowledge a common good, free and accessible to all, by putting several hundred courses online from universities around the world.

Within 24 hours, 20,000 people from 158 countries had already registered

Since pre-registration began on Tuesday, more than 20,000 people from 158 different countries have registered. Almost 23 universities as well as the British Council, the British Museum and the British Library are taking part in this initiative. Around twenty courses will be offered on the portal from September 18th, including a lesson from King's College London on the causes of war, lessons on climate change from the University of Exeter or two courses on cancer at the universities of Bath and Glasgow. The first course starts on October 14th and focuses on the secret power of brands, taught by the University of East Anglia. Each of these courses takes place over four to ten weeks with 3 to 6 hours per week.

The universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College, which are among the most prestigious institutions in the United Kingdom, have not joined the initiative. The University of Cambridge said it is already producing recorded lectures that are available online, but said in a statement that it was following developments in this area “with interest.” The University of Oxford also offers recorded lectures on its website that can be listened to for free.

Simon Nelson, CEO of FutureLearn, said he hoped these famous institutions would join the program. “I am very optimistic that they or other potential partners may be encouraged to consider joining us if they see the quality of what we have developed in such a short period of time,” he told AFP.

The trend that was born in the USA is going global

This phenomenon is very popular in the United States, where it is called MOOC (Massive Open Online Course, a collection of freely accessible courses on the Internet). The most famous portals include Coursera, whose partners are Princeton and Stanford universities, and edX, which brings together the teaching of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, Boston), Harvard, Berkeley, Wellesley College and the University of Georgetown, to only the most prestigious to call.

In France, universities and colleges are gradually following suit, and the Institut des Mines-Télécom was the pioneer. This fall, Polytechnique and the Sorbonne will make several courses available on Coursera, while Khan Academy, an online learning platform with 6 million users, is taking its first steps in French. We see that other online course portals such as Edunao or Thinkovery that offer express lessons are also flourishing.

(With AFP)

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