Futurelearn, a platform free-to-access Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), has been launched by a consortium of UK-based universities, led by distance-learning provider The Open University (OU).

Twelve UK-based universities, led by distance-learning provider The Open University, have launched Futurelearn; an online platform which provides free-to-access higher education courses with an aim to take on US rivals such as venture-backed Coursera.

The company will be majority-owned by the OU, which is investing an undisclosed sum of seed-funding in Futurelearn, but will act independently of the University. The spin-out will also utilise technologies developed by the distance-learning provider for online education.

Futurelearn will provide Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), higher education courses that are provided free of charge with no prior requirements necessary for entry, which have seen a meteoric rise in popularity in the United States. MOOCs provider Coursera, a Stanford-led US-based consortium of institutions which has raised $22m in venture funding, has attracted 2m users since starting out earlier in 2012.

Martin Bean, vice-chancellor of The Open University, said: “MOOCs represent an enormous development in higher…

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