Marks and Spencer, Leeds University Team Up for MOOC

UK retailer Marks and Spencer is now offering an online business course in partnership with Leeds University.

The MOOC will focus on business innovation making use of case studies, video from the company’s archives and academic support from the university.  The course will be offered free of charge to all people in various stages of life.

The archives, located on the University of Leeds campus, offer students access to 70,000 items dating back to the 1880s.

Alison Houston, Head of the M&S Company Archive, which is based on the Leeds campus, said: “This unique course brings together learnings from professional business and academia, illustrating how creative concepts are balanced with commercial thinking to forge business success.

“M&S has always had innovation at the heart of its business, right from our early beginnings in Leeds, and we are looking forward to collaborating with the University of Leeds to open this experience up to all.”

The course will look at business innovations pertaining to Marks and Spencer, including chilled foods and man-made fibers.  Students will take quizzes and take part in interactive polls and online discussions with the leading researchers in design, engineering and business from the university.

The company is one of the first retailers to offer an MOOC under the UK platform FutureLearn, which was set up by the Open University.  FutureLearn partners with over 20 universities, as well as archival and cultural institutions such as the British Council, the British Library, and the British Museum.

“We’re seeing investments and deals made every day in this kind of area,” said Simon Nelson, CEO of UK-based MOOC platform FutureLearn.  According to Nelson, one of the more noteworthy advances is the partnership between MOOCs, businesses and universities.

FutureLearn is relatively new to the MOOC world, following on the footsteps of US companies like Coursera, which currently offers courses from hundreds of universities to over 9 million students.

The British Council recently set up the first six-week English language teaching course with through FutureLearn.  The course has over 100,000 students enrolled from 178 countries, the highest number of enrollees for any FutureLearn course to date.

While the course does not lead into a formal higher education degree, participants can receive a “statement of participation” upon completion of the course.

Neil Morris, director of digital learning at the University of Leeds, said: The course aims to stimulate and encourage further growth in innovative and entrepreneurialism in the business sector.”

The three-week course, ‘Innovation: The Key to Business Success,’ will begin running this fall.