Scholarships bolster MOOC offering

The University of Southampton will offer the first scholarships associated with a FutureLearn online course

Understanding Language: Learning and Teaching’, a free online course developed with the British Council, will give learners the opportunity to apply for a scholarship to cover some of the fees for the online MA in English Language Teaching, run by the university.

The four-week course on FutureLearn will provide an insight into some of the latest research and practices in language learning and teaching. Aimed at anyone with an interest in the way language is taught, ‘Understanding Language: Learning and Teaching’ will also investigate the case of English, as the most widely learnt and taught language in the world.

Learners who complete more than half of the course steps and all the assessments will be eligible to apply for a scholarship to cover the first year of study on the University of Southampton’s two and a half year online MA programme, costing £7,500 in total. Scholarships will be awarded by lead academics on the MA programme upon judging personal statements submitted by eligible participants in the FutureLearn course.

Simon Nelson, Chief Executive of FutureLearn said: “These scholarships from the University of Southampton are a fine example of potential of free online courses to create routes from informal to formal learning.

“As well as creating a pathway to the full MA programme, the course ‘Understanding Language: Learning and Teaching’ promises to give our learners around the world another high-quality learning experience as a part of FutureLearn’s English Language offering, and follows the resounding success of the first course from the British Council.”

Vicky Wright, Director of University Language Strategy at the University of Southampton, said: “The MOOC showcases a lot of the latest research and practice in language learning and teaching and in language use and we hope that many participants will want to move onto study these areas in more depth through the online MA which also gives them the perfect opportunity to continue e-learning with the University of Southampton and the British Council who have collaborated in the design and delivery of both of these courses. We hope that these scholarships will generate a lot of interest.”

The British Council’s first course on FutureLearn, ‘Exploring English: Language and Culture’ has been the biggest to date on the social learning platform, with more than 120,000 sign ups from 178 countries. At the end of the course, 86% of learners surveyed rated the course as either good or excellent, and nearly all (96%) said they would recommend it to a friend.

The course design, which featured videos, articles, quizzes and other interactive elements, also gave learners valuable opportunities to see and hear English language used effectively. 98% of respondents on the post course survey liked or strongly liked the videos featuring native English speakers. The same sentiment was expressed for the quizzes (96%) and reading articles as part of the course (93%).

FutureLearn’s social environment gave learners a supportive environment in which to practise their written English skills, with more than half (51%) posting comments and having conversations with one another. 67% of learners surveyed indicated that they benefitted from reading comments, reinforcing FutureLearn’s aim to also encourage learning through conversation, as well as vicarious learning by creating a rich source of user-generated material.

“We have been delighted by the success of our first course on the FutureLearn platform, and especially pleased that students have engaged with the material so positively. We look forward to building on this success with our new course, developed in close collaboration with University of Southampton,” says Sara Pierson, Head of English for Education Systems with the British Council.

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