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Football MOOC Explores the World´s Most Popular Sport (And How It Can Benefit Society)

A free online course by the University of Edinburgh and FutureLearn provides a comprehensive overview of football (soccer). 40,000 learners have already participated in the course.

Football MOOC Explores the World´s Most Popular Sport (And How It Can Benefit Society)
Picture: firmbee/pixabay

Football, or soccer, is referred to by many as "the world game". 

Football is indeed the world’s most popular ball game in terms of numbers of participants and spectators. At the turn of the 21st century, there were approximately 250 million football players and over 1.3 billion people “interested” in football.

Due to its simplicity of both rules and equipment, it can be played virtually anywhere. As a result, football has made its way into just about every nation and culture

Based on this far-reaching and universal interest in football, the University of Edinburgh’s Academy of Sport launched what was probably the world’s first dedicated football MOOC (massive open online course). 

The course has already reached more than 40,000 learners, and has been accessed by participants far beyond Scotland and the UK.

The online course aims to explore many key aspects of the game of football. It includes lessons on topics such as football financing and ownership; the FIFA and the World Cup; classic rivalries and matches; the women´s game; football´s role in development and society; and many more.

Recently, Edukatico interviewed Grant Jarvie, Professor of Sport at the University of Edinburgh, about his course — "Football: More Than a Game".

"Football Brings Outstanding Benefits to The Community"

Edukatico: Professor Jarvie, why is football such a popular game in many countries all over the world?

Jarvie: Football has an impressive international reach. This is evidenced by the fact that currently the number of FIFA’s member countries, despite reputational damage brought about by governance issues, stands at 211. This is more member countries than the United Nations has. In fact, it is estimated that 1 in every 25 people worldwide participate in football, in one way or another. 

The crowds watching live games in stadiums, in some countries, have declined. However, the number of people in touch with football through social media has, in part, replaced the numbers who used to spectate from the stands. Furthermore, the women’s game is one of the fastest growing team sports in the world. 

Some feel that football may have lost its 19th, and to some extent, 20th century title as the ‘people’s game’. However, it continues to connect fans, businesses, countries, cities, social media followers and more. 

Edukatico: Are there any measurable benefits associated with football in society? For example, in terms of welfare or social cohesion?

Jarvie: Indeed. For example, a series of international economists have purported that crime rates in host cities during major world cup events are reduced. There are also numerous football programs, in many different countries, imparting outstanding benefits to the community

The ‘Mighty Girls’ program in Cambodia, for example, has used football to advance education amongst girls and women. The ‘Homeless World Cup’, held in many countries around the world, has an enviable, successful track record of addressing homelessness

Famously, the Ivory Coast footballer Didier Drogba intervened to provide a space for dialogue during civil unrest in his country. The intervention became known as the ‘Drogba Diplomacy’. The ‘Football Memories’ projects of Scotland are leading the world in terms of social work and are recognized by many as actively supporting mental health interventions.  

On a much broader scale, series of ‘Football for Change’ projects, where football has been utilized to deliver specific educational, health and social benefits, have been implemented in many parts of the world. 

The measurable benefits and evidence currently available suggest that football makes a significant contribution to broader sport and physical activity based interventions. These interventions are specifically designed to bring about positive change in terms of preventing disease, reducing health harming behaviors, developing team work, developing social skills, building social capital and helping cities communicate with one another through improving cultural relations.

Intro to the Football MOOC

"Learners Will See How Football is More Than a Game"

Edukatico: Your online course "Football: More Than a Game" on the FutureLearn platform explores the world of football. What are the main topics participants in the course can expect to learn about?

Jarvie: ‘Football: More Than a Game’ facilitates large-scale international conversations around football and the differences and similarities between, and within, countries. 

As far as content, the course utilizes football related cases, data, trends and events to elaborate on the financial dimensions of football, football trends and change, great football derbies, rivalries, and teams, football for health, the broader benefits to communities around the world, football related issues, the current state of the game, what makes a great football team, who are the current footballing champions of the world and why. Ultimately, learners will see how football is indeed more than a game.

Edukatico: Who would be most likely to benefit from your MOOC and why? Is there a specific learner profile for the course?

Jarvie: The course, which is taught in English, is open to anybody who has an interest in football and has access to the FutureLearn platform. 

Edukatico: There are learners from many different countries who participate in the course. How does the role of football differ between countries or regions? 

Jarvie: Learners certainly are from different parts of the world! The MOOC is run by the University of Edinburgh’s Academy of Sport – one of the world’s leading global sports observatories. 

The University of Edinburgh’s MOOCs have reached more than 2 million people worldwide and it is estimated that only four countries have not accessed them. ‘Football: More Than a Game’ has been accessed by people from Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. 

The course builds upon participants´ own experiences and knowledge as they relate to the weekly themes. Incorporating different viewpoints is a key strength of the course. We certainly welcome international dialogue around football. 

One of the remarkable things about the course, is the way in which the materials produced have been able to improve access to education provided through the University of Edinburgh’s partnerships, including those with football clubs. For example, the course team will also be delivering a credit bearing version of the course in the stadium of the Scottish Football Club, from November 6th, for six weeks. A summer school on the ‘Global Impact of Sport’ is also available through the University of Edinburgh’s Academy of Sport. 

Edukatico: Thank you and all the best for your MOOC!

The online course is available on the FutureLearn platform. The MOOC is free, and a course upgrade, which offers additional benefits and a course certificate, is available for $59.

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