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Receiving A-level results today? Will a MOOC be part of your future?

If you are receiving A-level results this week, your next step might be to go to university, take a gap year before studying further or leave formal education to start looking for work.

In any of these cases, MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses – offered on FutureLearn.com – could be interesting.

For those going to university, MOOCs offer an opportunity which, until now, has been relatively rare in the UK – that is, the ability to easily sample or complete university-level courses in subjects unrelated to your core degree subject.

I studied Science at university, specialising in Physiology, and then went into a career in business, following people from the years ahead of me whose jobs I liked the sound of.

I enjoyed studying Physiology very much, but I would not say I have found many practical applications for my detailed knowledge of the body’s organs in my day-to-day work life. I was lucky: my employer invested in several months of intensive training for me and my fellow joiners. Nonetheless, my first years in the office were characterised by a steep learning curve and a feeling of needing to put in extra hours to keep up with my colleagues with a business education. Eventually, I chose to take a year out and do an MBA, to fill the gaps in my knowledge.

I can’t help but think, though, that, had I been given the opportunity to supplement that final year of Physiology essays and practical work with a course in economics, marketing, computer science or finance, I’d not only have been better prepared for my job, but also better informed for my job search and interviews.

University students will now have this opportunity, thanks to MOOCs, which, being free, are affordable for student budgets, and offer content which is bite-sized and flexible, to allow you to fit in learning around your life on campus.

For those leaving school after their A-levels, MOOCs also offer new opportunities to continue education. You will be able to take courses from world-renowned universities, not just for the next few years but whenever it suits you, throughout your life. FutureLearn is designed to enable learners to fit courses around work and other commitments, investing the time wherever and whenever they can. A range of courses will be on offer, allowing everyone to continue pursuing the subjects they enjoyed at school, to explore new areas of interest or to improve career prospects. Some may be inspired to go on to take either full or part time places at universities as a result. Others may choose to continue to learn online.

Either way, MOOCs open up interesting possibilities for students getting their results this week – for the next few years and for life beyond. We are looking forward to hearing how people use them when they become available in September. Sign up now at FutureLearn.com to find out more.

Claire Davenport

Commercial, Operations, International Development at FutureLearn

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