FutureLearn: Our role, access to knowledge and public history

by Matt Crabtree, FutureLearn and Emily Webb, Manchester Metropolitan University

The last year or so has taught us many lessons. Amidst a global crisis on a scale few of us have seen before, we have learned about what is important to us, what we miss, and how precious life is. We have also learned to adapt, utilise technology, and take new approaches to aspects of our lives we may have taken for granted. Education has been one such area, and FutureLearn has been helping to make knowledge, including public history, accessible to all. 

Here, we take a look at what FutureLearn is, how it is helping people access education and its role in promoting knowledge in areas such as public history. 

What is FutureLearn? 

FutureLearn is a digital education platform founded in 2012. Jointly owned by The Open University and Seek, the company has partnered with hundreds of education partners around the world, including world-class universities, institutions, experts, and educators. 

Since its first course launched in 2013, FutureLearn has become a truly global platform, helping over 15 million learners reach their educational goals. 

FutureLearn has a range of course available across a variety of subjects, including History.

Promoting access to education 

One of the central values of FutureLearn is that everyone should have access to knowledge. Education can have such a profound impact on individuals and the wider world, and everyone must have a chance to learn. 

Throughout the pandemic, we have seen the importance of knowledge, both individually and collectively, to overcome difficult situations and continue to make progress. Educators have had to adjust to teaching online while students have been forced out of the classroom. During these times, digital platforms have become essential to the way education takes place. 

E-learning has fast become the top educational technology trend of the moment, and companies like FutureLearn are helping students and educators alike. Many of the short courses they offer are free to access and cover a broad range of topics. It’s even possible to earn a degree through FutureLearn, allowing users to learn flexibly online. 

This learning style and teaching will inevitably play a role in the future of education, and companies like FutureLearn can help promote access to learning for all. 

FutureLearn’s History courses will often take a unique approach to education

History beyond the classroom 

One area where e-learning platforms such as FutureLearn can have a particularly transformative impact is on public history. With over 60 history courses on offer, FutureLearn offers insights into a broad range of topics in this field. 

Many of these courses take a unique approach to history. For example, one course offers a virtual tour through a historically accurate 3D model of Rome. Other courses look at history through different mediums, such as art, film, science, and culture. 

Online learning gives a new perspective to the study and presentation of the past. Learners gain access to a global network of resources, academics, and institutions. Educators can convey information in new and engaging ways. For everyone involved, it provides more flexibility. Although it cannot replace certain methods of teaching history, it can certainly supplement them. 

MOOCs at Manchester Metropolitan University

Man Met released their first MOOC with FutureLearn in May 2018. We have since released eight courses, including, Poetry, Education, Health, Sport and Environment, reaching 50k learners worldwide, from those who want to develop professionally to some who want to develop a new hobby.

We are now adding History to our portfolio with two new courses being released in September 2021:

Sustainable Cultural Heritage: Applied International Practice

This course is aimed at learners seeking an introduction to the key practical, economic, political and ethical issues in cultural heritage management on the global stage. It will be of interest to those starting a career in heritage management, and those who want to develop a more decentralised international perspective in their heritage practice. The course will also be valuable to those wishing to learn more about the issues facing heritage professionals globally.

Digital Politics: Being Political in a Digital Age

This course is aimed at learners seeking an introduction to the key ideas and concepts in the field of digital politics. It will be of interest to those working in the NGO sector, public services, local and national government, or international charities or business, or considering starting such a career. The course will be valuable to those working, or considering work in social media communication. Finally, the course will also be of interest to anyone wishing to learn more about the rapidly growing field of digital politics, political communication and global digital economies.

We hope to see you on our courses soon.

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