The University of Manchester’s Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in Industrial Biotechnology hits 100,000 learners

The University of Manchester's Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in industrial biotechnology has hit 100,000 learners. The course, launched in 2017 on learning platform Coursera.org, has attracted students from all six continents including 30,000 learners from India, nearly 10,000 from the USA and a has a higher average of Asian and African enrollees than other courses on the platform.

MOOCs were set up in the mid-2000s to offer learning opportunities to distance learners. Since their inception they have brought education to thousands around the world, usually for free or at a low cost compared with traditional degrees. They have been credited with helping democratise higher education (HE) especially for those in developing nations by offering them a way to receive education from universities around the world, in a way and at a time that suits them.

The industrial biotechnology MOOC was designed and coordinated by Lesley-Ann Miller and Dr. Nicholas Weise from the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, drawing together expertise from the University, and beyond, through a selection of contributors. The modules, which are all freely available worldwide to anyone with an internet connection, covers topics such as enzyme catalysis, synthetic biology, biochemical engineering, pharmaceutical synthesis, biomaterials, bioenergy and glycobiotechnology.  

The course exemplifies how industrial biotechnology can be used by society to meet global net zero goals and create more sustainable routes to manufacture of everyday products, as well as specialist chemicals used by industry. Since the Industrial Revolution, society has relied upon fossil fuels to provide the raw materials for many everyday products including pharmaceuticals, food and drink, materials, plastics, and personal care products.

With government targets drawing closer, industry must find new ways to manufacture these products without relying on finite resources. Industrial biotechnology offers a way for industry to adapt and change to meet these targets while still being able to produce high-quality and high-yielding products with a smaller impact on the environment.

Course instructors, Prof. Nicholas Turner, Dr. Nicholas Weise and Prof. Nigel Scruton, are delighted that the course has been used by hundreds of thousands as a way to access knowledge of sustainable bio-inspired technologies. The course is designed to help those looking to enter the field of biotechnology, upskill or even retrain to help solve technological challenges in their own areas. The course has received an average rating of 4.7/5.0 with learner stories such as:

“I took this course as a way to stay engaged with material from my undergrad in the vacuum between graduation and picking a career direction. This course has been incredibly thought provoking and the range of topics covered was appreciated. The care each of the lecturers put into their modules really shines through in the final product: each lesson was compact, well-articulated, and complete with helpful graphics. I especially loved the references made in the later modules to databases and resources for further study. I have an immense gratitude to everyone involved in crafting this concise and informative intro in the world of Biotechnology! I sincerely hope to cross paths with you someday as an industry professional.” 

Industrial biotechnology MOOC learner

Open dissemination of expertise from the University that can be used to solve global challenges is an important part of the research impact and social responsibility agenda for the university. The course has already received a recognition for its innovative practices in teaching and learning from the LearnSci Teaching Innovation Awards, a Teaching Excellence Award from the Institute of Teaching & Learning as well as being highly commended at the Making A Difference Awards for outstanding teaching innovation in social responsibility. 

Share this page