Author: Iain Barr, Head of Lifelong Learning/E-learning and MOOC developer at University of York
The University of York combines the pursuit of academic excellence with a culture of inclusion, which encourages everyone – from a variety of backgrounds – to achieve their full potential. Since 2017, York has worked in partnership with FutureLearn to help further this mission by offering a range of online courses, allowing people all over the world to study with leading academics to explore a new subject area or prepare for higher education.
Designed by York academics, our online courses cover a wide range of subject areas, from nursing and the criminal justice system to modern sculpture and digital wellbeing, and we have seen over 100,000 enrolments across 15 different courses since the start of our collaboration.
However, over the past few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the education landscape and online learning has become an essential tool for students and educators across the world. The entire sector has adapted quickly to ensure that students are still able to access a high quality education. The University of York has faced many of the same challenges, but like many of our peers, we’ve also been taking steps to adapt. Here’s how we’ve worked with FutureLearn to do so:
Transitioning to university, online
Earlier this year, we launched a new course on FutureLearn aimed at any students about to make the transition to university. ‘Next Steps to University’, helps students gain an insight into life and study within higher education and provides tips on how to make the most out of this experience. This course offers students the opportunity to prepare for and look forward to entering higher education. The pandemic has changed the traditional transition into university, which makes courses such as these a crucial way of engaging students before they begin learning in September. We have already seen that this course has helped prospective students get excited about starting university for the first time.
To support our prospective students, we are also offering exclusive online courses on FutureLearn designed to help students to feel part of York’s learning community before they arrive on campus. These courses will run over the summer, and content is tailored for both undergraduate and postgraduate students. It’s also part of a wider package we have to support new students and offer them meaningful engagement with the University, which is crucial at this time of uncertainty and self-isolation.
We’re also delighted to have signed up to FutureLearn Campus, an offering that provides the University of York community with upgraded access to our short courses on the platform until at least the end of September 2020.
Through FutureLearn Campus, we are also able to open up our courses to not just York account holders, but also students and staff from other leading universities partnered with FutureLearn. As all universities face challenges at the moment, being able to share online materials via short courses is just one way we can collaborate and keep our virtual doors open.
Students of all ages have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak and although we are a higher education institution, we also wanted to find a way to support school children. The University of York was among the founding partners involved in the launch of FutureLearn Schools, meaning that students aged 13 to 18 whose schools sign up to the initiative have free access to all of our relevant short online courses currently available on the FutureLearn platform.
The University of York remains committed to opening up access to education for students across the world of all ages and backgrounds and we are proud to continue our work with FutureLearn to build on the foundations already laid.