Are MOOCs the new evening class?

I see that FutureLearn have published some preliminary data on participation on the first eight of their MOOCs.  They’ve attracted a fair bit of interest with high enrollment rates. I was struck by some of the demographic data they’ve published, which I’ve embedded below.  80% of participants hold a degree or Masters and 70% are over 35 years old.

Are MOOCs really just like the traditional evening classes or adult courses that Universities have been offering their local communities for decades but now thanks to technology accessible to a global community?  Is this the disruption – delivering evening classes online to a global audience rather than an end to higher education as we know it?  I’ve not researched extensively but this preliminary data from FutureLearn seems to be similar to the demographic data emerging from Coursera MOOCs but happy to be be corrected if I’m wrong.

FutureLearn – UK HE Collaborating to Compete

futurelearnSo after asking the question a few months ago about whether UK universities were missing a trick with MOOCs it looks like the answer is no.  It’s clear that whilst Edinburgh has joined Coursera other UK universities have been working together following up on the recommendation from the HEFCE Online Learning Task Force report and are collaborating to compete and seizing the opportunity of online learning for UK higher education with the launch of FUTURELEARN.

One of the task Force’s recommendations was for investment to be made to facilitate the development and building of consortia to achieve scale and brand in online learning

Quality online learning is not a cheap option. Through collaboration, institutions can achieve significant economies of scale and more rapid development and adoption of technologies, for example in the development of learning resources or in sharing the risk of developing new forms of provision. This approach enables institutions and organisations (that are perhaps already collaborating in other areas) to exploit their joint brands and extend them into new markets, offering innovative, quality provision. Collaboration should embrace and harness the strengths of diverse institutions and organisations, across public-private and sector divides.

FutureLearn, headed up by the OU and with other UK university partners looks to me like one response to this recommendation.  Tony Hirst and Doug Clouw have already blogged about FurtureLearn and  I fully agree with Doug about FutureLearn being worth a try.  I was quite excited when I read the piece on Friday morning in TechCrunch and I look forward to seeing how FutureLearn develops.