Last week, British retailer Marks and Spencer announced they were teaming up with the University of Leeds to offer a MOOC on business innovation, housed on the FutureLearn site.
European platforms like FutureLearn are relatively new to the MOOC marketplace, following in the footsteps of well-established US sites Coursera, EdX and Udacity. All of them offer one-off online courses, often co-developed by prestigious universities, and are free to anyone with an internet connection.
Still, Nelson is one of the first to admit expectations for MOOCs were unrealistic from the start.
"Some of the early hype was overblown, and some of the expectation about this being a panacea for global educational problems, and educational divisions, were optimistic," he said.
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Professor Diana Laurillard of London Knowledge Lab agrees. By presenting MOOCs as a bundle of video lectures, student-lead web forums, quizzes and automated testing, developers have largely ignored educational experiments from the past 20 years, Laurillard argues.
"It's primitive and takes us back to a talking head," she said.
Still, MOOCs are catching the eye of C-suite executives, including David Richards. The WanDisco Founder and CEO is counting on MOOCs to disrupt the "stagnant" British education system and close the gap between industry and institutions.
"What makes them very interesting, especially ones from the likes of Stanford, is they incorporate theory and practice. And that's one of the big complaints about the British education system. MOOCs potentially fill that problem," Richards said.