More people than ever, around the world, will be able to learn from Colorado State University — along with other top institutions like the University of Virginia and Penn State — thanks to a new partnership with FutureLearn, an international social learning platform that specializes in delivering online education at any scale.
FutureLearn, started by The Open University in the United Kingdom, works with more than 100 preeminent international universities and specialist education providers to offer hundreds of high-quality online courses.
Beginning with course offerings on water and the science of relationships, the move by the Colorado State University System and CSU Online, a division of the University in Fort Collins, will expand access to the expertise of its faculty, opening doors for lifelong learning to CSU alumni and friends as well as a large international audience.
‘A perfect extension’
“Working with FutureLearn and other world-class institutions is a powerful way for CSU to share information and expertise that’s both interesting and valuable for people who love to learn,” said Provost and Executive Vice President Rick Miranda. “Lifelong learning from quality institutions is increasingly important as people adapt to rapid changes in industries and careers, and FutureLearn is a perfect extension of our mission as a land-grant institution to engage with people in communities in Colorado and around the world as they extend their education and learning throughout the course of their lives.”
In addition to CSU, four other universities have become the first in the U.S. to join forces with FutureLearn: American University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University and the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.
“We know that many of our Colorado State students and alumni are interested in enhancing their lives — and their careers — through lifelong learning, and CSU’s partnership with FutureLearn will give them the opportunity to join with people from around the world who will be able to learn from this group of leading institutions,” said Amy Parsons, executive vice chancellor of the CSU System. “We recognize the need for CSU to provide high-quality resources for our students long after graduation, and we’re thrilled to be able to connect people who want to always be learning with our great faculty in this robust, diverse learning ecosystem.”
Since its first course began in October 2013, FutureLearn has attracted over 5 million registered learners to its courses from almost every country in the world. So far it has seen over 13 million course enrollments. Most of its courses can be completed within four weeks and can reach a huge scale — the largest so far was the British Council’s course “Understanding IELTS,” which attracted learners from more than 150 countries. Over 1.5 million learners have enrolled in that course over its five offerings.
In 2017, CSU Online will begin offering two courses through FutureLearn:
• “Science of Relationships,” in which students learn about what makes their significant other tick, why they’re attracted to certain people and how to best nurture a relationship or get through a breakup. It will be taught by Associate Professor Jennifer Jill Harmon from CSU’s Department of Psychology.
• “Water, Civilization and Nature: Addressing Water Challenges of the 21st Century,” which provides an overview of the interactions among water, people and nature, including issues like water scarcity, conflicts and disasters. About 14 CSU faculty members from departments across campus developed the course.
Elegance, ease of use
“We’ve had a chance to evaluate the various platforms that have emerged over the past several years, and we’re particularly impressed with the elegance and ease of use of FutureLearn’s approach,” said Associate Provost for Instructional Innovation Mike Palmquist, who directs CSU Online. “It’s particularly well-suited to use on phones and other mobile devices. In the coming years we’ll be rolling out courses on several subjects, from professional development in various commercial sectors to areas that CSU has particular expertise in, such as the life sciences, education and psychology.”
The FutureLearn approach is based on a social learning pedagogy that supports learning through conversation on a platform with an award-winning user experience. It works on any device with Internet access.
"We are delighted to be welcoming CSU into our stable of world-class institutions,” said FutureLearn CEO Simon Nelson. “The Colorado State University System, with CSU Online and the CSU-Global Campus, are U.S. pioneers in distance education. FutureLearn will help CSU build even stronger bridges to grow their international learner communities and enhance their existing pedagogy through the social voice of the learner base.”