Students will be able to follow courses on mobile phones as well as computers.
The UK’s project, called FutureLearn, will see UK universities entering the global market in so-called Moocs or massive open online courses.
It could “revolutionise conventional models of formal education”, says universities minister David Willetts.
The launch will see 21 UK universities include Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Nottingham, Warwick, Bristol, Reading and Southampton, plus Trinity College Dublin and Monash University in Australia, offering courses that are taught and assessed on the internet.
This consortium will also draw upon the experience in distance learning of the Open University.
“Time and again we have seen the disruptive impact the internet can have on industries – driving innovation and enhancing the customer experience. I have no doubt Moocs will do the same for education,” says Martin Bean, the Open University’s vice-chancellor.
There were also suggestions from the Department for Education last week that Moocs could be used for vocational courses for students in further education colleges and sixth forms in England.
Although students will not get a certificate, universities are hoping that many people will be attracted by the chance to follow university-level courses without any travel or cost and at a time that suits them.
When the University of Edinburgh offered Moocs through a US network it had more than 300,000 students signing up. The University of London international programme had more than 200,000 registrations.
FutureLearn will see the UK taking a much bigger step into the rapidly expanding online university market – with claims that higher education is now facing its own online revolution.
Universities will also be hoping that it will be a way of raising the visibility of their courses and academics and will attract students to their campus courses.
Source: BBC News