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Welcome to the global classroom

UEA professor, Wolff Olins strategist and lead educator on next week’s ‘The Secret Power of Brands’ course on FutureLearn, Robert Jones, talks about creating a MOOC and the prospect of teaching a class of thousands.

ROBERT_JONES photograph

Battushig Myanganbayar just started his first year at MIT. He came to the attention of lecturers there by achieving a nearly perfect score in an MIT MOOC (a massive open online course) and did this from his home in Ulan Bator. Battushig’s story, though still unusual, tells us how the education sector is being disrupted as new, tech-enabled businesses and business models emerge, creating new opportunities to learn for thousands of people across the world.

FutureLearn is one of these new businesses and the first of its kind in the UK. It launched in beta in September and offers free online courses from its partner universities, bringing new chances to learn to new people in ways that are convenient to them.  I first came across FutureLearn when Wolff Olins worked with the team on its brand. I was thrilled when the university, where I teach part-time, partnered with FutureLearn and asked me to lead its first course, The Secret Power of Brands. Our course is designed to give anyone with a deep interest in brand the chance to learn from the experts at Norwich Business School, at Wolff Olins and, importantly, from big brands like Virgin and Google.

I’ve written before about how learning happens through teaching and nothing could be truer than with our MOOC. For us this is an open frontier and we’re looking forward to learning how people use, and build on, this platform. We’re always pushing ourselves to reimagine online education – we worked with a team of 15 people to create over 100 pieces of content. Much of that content was filmed outside of the classroom on location, in places like Virgin’s HQ, at Westfield Stratford City and at The Tower of London – the places where brands live in the world.

As visiting professor at UEA leading the UK’s only post-graduate qualification in brand and branding, I’m personally delighted that my classroom has grown from a wonderful 22 students to an even more wonderful thousands of students; and all in just five weeks.

At Wolff Olins we do game change for social impact and, for me, this work is an example of that – FutureLearn has changed the model of education in the UK and opened up the opportunity to learn to millions of people – from London to Ulan Bator and beyond.

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