Moocs have come to the UK and we’re surprised no one has coined the term ‘freelearn’ to described them (so far). A Mooc is a “Massive Open Online Course” that allows anyone to study a university level taster course for free. They have been offered by major American Universities of a year or two, but now the Open University has partnered with 12 other UK universities to create Futurelearn in order to offer Moocs.
Of course, what’s interesting to us is the rationale for this and how it will generate profits. The ‘student’ pays nothing, but setting up and running these online programmes has cost a great deal. As yet, no clear business model for getting a return on this investment has been put forward. But it is assumed that revenue will be generated in a number of ways. First, users might so inspired by the courses they take, that they actually register to take a full programme at one of the Futurelearn universities. Since the Moocs are on the web, anyone in the world can study them, so this might generate extra international students for the universities. Second, revenue might be generated in the same way that other ecommerce operators do so – through selling details of the online users to marketing companies and through online advertising.