Professor Jeff Haywood of the University of Edinburgh talks about the partnership with FutureLearn.

You offer courses on other portals such as Coursera — how is FutureLearn different?

Futurelearn offers us the opportunity to explore a new online delivery channel, focussing on a different way to structure learning materials and learner support from that offered by Coursera. Additionally, we are able to work collaboratively with many of our peer universities in the U.K. who are not Coursera partners. We wish to reach young learners in U.K. schools, especially those who are educationally disadvantaged, and Futurelearn will be a good platform for that sort of educational outreach.

What kind of courses is the University planning to offer?

We will offer more courses at high school/ entry to university level, although there will be some courses at more advanced levels. The subject range will be wide and include biology, physics, bio-medical engineering, modern art, literature and history.

How do you think Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are transforming online education?

MOOCs are an experiment in open education, although very large numbers of people have enrolled and studied them, they are at an early stage and their impact on education is still to be proven.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of online learning?

The advantage of online education is the ability of the student to work, care for a family, re-skill in new areas, take courses from more than one university, interact with students worldwide. The disadvantage for some students is that they desire physical interaction with fellow students and teachers, the support and pressure to perform that the physical campus can bring, and so on.

FutureLearn, launched in December 2012, is the first free online learning portal founded in the U.K. It is also one of the latest learning platforms on the web. It is owned by The Open University of UK, which has maintained a legacy of distance education for over 40 years. By partnering with 21 Universities in the UK, Futurelearn aims to bring together colleges across the region and provide quality education to students around the world.

Futurelearn is unique because it has established partnerships with non-academic entities such as the British Council, the British Library and the British Museum.

It has recently expanded internationally by extending its wings to universities in Ireland and Australia.