The US higher education market has been dominating the online education sector since its inception. In an almost direct challenge to American institutes, a group of universities from the UK have decided to enter into a partnership, and are planning to launch an online educational project. The partnership will include the Open University, King's College London, Bristol, Exeter, Warwick, East Anglia, Leeds, Lancaster, Southampton, Cardiff, Birmingham and St Andrews. This project aims to offer various online courses to students through various electronic devices like computers, tablets or smart phones from the next year. So far, this has been the biggest online initiative by universities in the UK. An organization named Future Learn is being set up to run this program- it will be largely owned by the Open University. The next task in hand for the UK universities is to decide on the procedures for examining students and on the accreditation of such courses. The universities entering into this partnership are expecting to acquire the status of ‘global brands’ and benefit immensely from the plan. The University of Southampton will be offering 15 to 20 self-contained modules at the basic level, which will help students to opt for future courses. Online projects offered jointly by some of the most prestigious US universities like Harvard, Stanford and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) have succeeded in reaching out to millions of students through reasonably priced courses. This has served as inspiration for the UK universities online project. Courses offered in the US, through the online university platforms, are known as Massive Open Online Courses - or MOOCs. These courses use the internet to deliver video lectures and provide interactive exercises and automated testing. Course materials have been designed for iPads or mobile phones to make online education portable. The universities would be responsible for the content, quality, accreditation and cost of their online courses. The biggest challenge for the online universities would be to test and award credits to a large number of students. Offering online courses to a massive audience at a lower cost would also be a challenge as most of universities charge high tuition fees from campus based students. Also, the worth of a certificate awarded to an on-campus student comes into question with universities certifying students who have completed the online course. The introduction of such online courses would also open up greater channels for the UK higher education sector to meet the global demand for education. The system of online education is gradually growing popular, particularly in countries like Brazil, India and China. Education providers in the UK hope to reach world markets through the introduction of more online delivery tools. Source: BBC News Education