City at forefront of online learning

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A UNIVERSITY in the region will be one of the first in the country to offer free online access to lectures and tutorials when a new style of learning is launched in the UK next year.

Massively open online courses (MOOCs) are being launched by a company created by the Open University featuring their material and lessons supplied by eight leading British universities, including Leeds.

One website will allow visitors to sign up to and access a range of courses which they can then complete online.

It is hoped it will help widen access to higher education to groups who are unable to attend university. It has not yet been decided which subjects Leeds University will offer as MOOCS.

However academic Neil Morris told the Yorkshire Post it would offer an amazing opportunity for lecturers to reach a wider audience.

Dr Morris, who chairs a blended learning and technology innovation group at the university, said: “Academics do what they do because they want to share their excitement and enthusiasm for their subject.

“That is why we get up in front of a room full of students to give lectures. It is because we want to help the next generation to learn about our subject.

“A MOOC gives you the opportunity to do this to the world.”

The MOOCs will be co-ordinated by FutureLearn Ltd, a new company being launched by The Open University.

Other universities involved in the programme include King’s College London and the universities of Bristol, Cardiff, East Anglia, Exeter, Lancaster, Southampton, St Andrews and Warwick.

Professor Vivien Jones, Leeds University’s pro vice chancellor for student education, said: “I’m delighted that Leeds is part of this exciting development.

“FutureLearn will give people around the world the opportunity to sample some of the great education offered here. It will also mean that those unable to access a traditional university education will have the chance to learn from our world-leading academics.

“Our current students will have access to a rich, interactive set of resources, from both Leeds and our partners. In line with the Leeds curriculum, this will help give them a deeper and fuller understanding of their field of study as well as encouraging them to broaden their education beyond their main subject areas.”

Universities Minister David Willetts has welcomed the launch of MOOCs adding: “The UK must be at the forefront of developments in education technology.”