As many of you will know, FutureLearn is the UK Open Universities MOOC arm, run in conjunction with an international consortium of universities. But, I guess like everyone else, FutureLearn is under pressure to make some money. Their first go was offering paid for certificates for course completion. Another attempt has been to persuade people to sign up for an annual subscription, keeping courses open for a year if they pay.
The latest is to partner with industries for courses providing micro accreditation, in some cases industry recognised. So in December Future Learning is launching "Artificial Intelligence on Microsoft Azure: Machine Learning and Python Basics', created by CloudSwft and inc conjunction with Microsoft. "On this microcredential", they say " you’ll address this challenge by developing key AI skills that can serve as the first steps towards becoming an AI engineer, business analyst, or AI professional." And, "Yes. If you successfully complete this microcredential, you’ll receive a voucher to sit a separate exam to earn the Microsoft Azure AI Fundamentals (AI-900) and Microsoft Azure AI Engineer Associate (AI-100) certification."
Why would FutureLearn be giving away vouchers for sitting Microsoft exams. It could be because the 15 week course costs 584 Euros to enroll. Much as I like microcredentially, this seems a long way from FutureLearn's past MOOCs free for participation. And if as the course information claims, "artificial intelligence skills are frequently listed among the most in-demand workplace skills in the current and future job market, as organisations seek to harness AI to revolutionise their operations" and "employers are faced with a shortfall of qualified candidates" surely this is an area where public education and trainings services should be providing online course, rather than restricting access to those who can afford to pay for learning new skills.