Online Education Is Now a Global Market (CHE)

OCTOBER 05, 2016

Back when colleges first started experimenting with teaching online, pundits mused that competition for college students would one day be global. A student would be able to sit down at a computer and take a course literally from anywhere.

It seemed like possibly a crazy thing to predict, considering that these early internet courses involved reading lectures that were typed out, doing some online discussion, and sending in assignments via email.

But the day of global competition for higher education is actually here, and interestingly, some of the world’s most famous universities were the last to get into the act.

That’s what struck me this summer when I met Simon Nelson, head of a company called FutureLearn. It’s a spinoff of the British Open University designed to deliver MOOCs, those free massive online courses. More than 60 universities across the U.K. and Europe have partnered with Future Learn to deliver their courses, mirroring trends of the growth of these online classes in the U.S. For better or worse, colleges now have to realize that they face competition from everywhere.

Hello and welcome to The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Re:Learning podcast. I’m Jeff Young, and I sat down with Nelson this summer during theEdTechXEurope conference.

Nelson isn’t an academic. He spent most of his career as a media executive leading digital experiments at the BBC. And that background shapes his thinking about how colleges can adapt to changing technologies.

Listen to the full audio. Here is an edited and adapted transcript.

About Ryan C. Fowler

Ryan is a curricular fellow at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington D.C. He also teaches at Franklin and Marshall College and Lancaster Theological Seminary.
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