Skip main navigation

York Festival of Ideas and FutureLearn showcase the success of Massive OpenOnline Courses (MOOCs)

York Festival of Ideas is joining forces with Europe’s leading online social learning platform, FutureLearn, to celebrate the impact and influence of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

As part of a major Festival Focus Day, What Have Universities Ever Done For Us?, Kate Sandars, Head of Partnerships Development at FutureLearn, will highlight the important role MOOCs play in reigniting a passion for learning.

Taking place on Saturday 8 June at the University of York, the Focus Day will examine some of the key challenges faced by society, including climate change, the country’s seemingly divided politics, and access to higher education for poorer families. It will also explore the value and contribution of arts education to society.

A key part of the Festival Focus Day, which features a range of world-renowned speakers, will be an opportunity to showcase the role and influence of MOOCs in providing lifelong opportunities for learners to improve their health and wellbeing, career prospects, and social mobility.

Kate Sandars, FutureLearn’s Head of Partnerships Development, said: “We’re delighted to be joining forces with the University of York for the Festival of Ideas and be given the opportunity to highlight — and celebrate — the role of MOOCs in lifelong learning.

“The question of what universities need to do to redefine their purpose, value and relevance, is fundamental to building an education system that is able to adapt to the changing needs of society. Part of this has to mean recognising that learning is something to be topped-up, revisited and reimagined throughout the course of our lives. FutureLearn partners with over a quarter of the world’s top 200 universities — including the University of York — and are proud to be making a meaningful contribution in this important endeavour.”

Other speakers at the event include:

  • Professor Anil Markandya, one of the core team that drafted the Nobel Peace Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 4th Assessment
  • Lord Kerslake, Chair of the UPP Foundation Civic University Commission
  • Professor Alain Beretz, a Special Envoy of the French Prime Minister with a mission on European universities
  • University Challenge star and Maths champion Bobby Seagull
  • Philip Long, Director of V&A Dundee, which has transformed a post-industrial city
  • Dr Faye Taylor, Head of Strategic Partnerships at the Association of Commonwealth Universities
  • Professor Sue Hartley, Director of the York Environmental Sustainability Institute
  • Professor Helen Smith, Head of the Department of English and Related Studies, University of York
  • Tim Leigh, Director of Stage One, which has delivered the past six Olympic opening ceremonies (Winter and Summer)

 Established and coordinated by the University of York, York Festival of Ideas runs from 4 June to 16 June and will present over 200 mostly free events under the banner of A World of Wonder. The programme features world-class speakers, exhibitions, theatre, music, films, guided walks and family-friendly activities.

Joan Concannon, Director of York Festival of Ideas, said: “We’re delighted to join forces with FutureLearn to showcase and celebrate the role and influence of MOOCs.

“Every session has 30 minutes interaction with the audience and so we’re inviting FutureLearn learners to come along and reflect their experiences and tell us about what they want to see universities doing.”

As well as the What Have Universities Ever Done For Us? Focus Day, York Festival of Ideas also includes other days of discussion which mirror the FutureLearn portfolio:

A Fair Economy. A Better World Friday 7 June — a day exploring how the economy works; who benefits from economic decision making; the impact of globalisation on ‘left-behind’ communities and the role of women in reshaping and redefining economic policy-making to achieve a fair and gender equality society.

Toleration: An outdated concept? Sunday 9 June — a day exploring the rise of the uncivil society, attitudes to race, immigration and class; and the impact of Brexit on public trust and engagement in democracy and politics.

Artificial Intelligence: Looking to the future Sunday 9 June — a chance to discover what the future may hold. From driverless cars to robotic health carers, where is AI taking us? What benefits will AI bring to our lives and what concerns should we have?

Poverty: How can we tell a new story to inspire change? Friday 14 June — a day exploring how young people are becoming empowered activists to reflect their own lived experience of poverty through writing, performing and constructive activism; and the rise of working class writers reflecting an authentic new voice in British writing.

The Poetry and Music of Science Sun 16 June — discover the common ground between creativity and scientific discovery; the depiction of science through arts and literature, and the relationship between maths and music.

Full details on all York Festival of Ideas Focus Days are available at:

Related stories on FutureLearn

FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now