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What does the future of learning look like?

Looking forward to our next ten million learners with Simon Nelson, Chief Executive at FutureLearn.

Infographic showing 25 million enrolments, 10 million learners and 35 million comments.

At FutureLearn, we’re ambitious with our vision for the future of education.

Since being founded by The Open University in 2012, we’ve grown to partner with over a quarter of the world’s top universities, and many other leading organisations, to offer hundreds of courses and fully online degrees. 

Now, as many of you will have seen last week, we’ve just welcomed the ten millionth FutureLearner who has signed up to learn with us. 

We announced this milestone via this blog post, which received over 150 comments from learners in just a few days.

Personally, I’ve been overwhelmed and humbled by the comments shared.

Everyone in the FutureLearn team is driven by a desire to open up education, and these kind of learner stories bring home to us what an impact we’re having all around the world.

I would like to thank everyone who took the time to share the impact FutureLearn has had on their life. You are what inspires us to stick to our goal–to transform access to education.

What’s next for FutureLearn

One of the values we instill in our team members is to think big and we’re already looking at how we welcome our next ten million learners.

As the world becomes increasingly digital and the way we prefer to consume education changes, we predict things may advance rapidly.

Our analysis shows demand for adult education globally is predicted to rise by 14 million new students every year from now until 2030. If they were all to be educated face-to-face, this would require 13 new universities to be built every week, 700 each year, each serving around 20,000 students.

That’s simply not going to happen.

While campus-based education will continue to play the leading role for those who can afford it, we need to look beyond this to help as many people as possible get access to the education they need.

We believe that online learning is the only way to reach those people in ways that can meet their needs. 

Even in our relatively short history, we’ve seen how rapid digital change presents new challenges and adds growing strain to the adult education sector on a global scale.

Alongside the long standing skills gaps in areas such as education and healthcare, the globalisation and digitisation of multiple industries has created enormous demand for skills to fulfill jobs that simply didn’t exist ten years ago.

The impact of artificial intelligence on these industries, and on society in general, is only going to further widen the gaps. Once thought of as a ‘nice to have’, the reality now is that lifelong learning is vital for employers and employees who need to upskill and reskill effectively.

We’re excited about the opportunity these changes present: to open up access to high-quality learning and to start to close skills gaps. We’re passionate about doing this in order to help you, our learners, to get access to skills you need and subjects you just love. 

We hope you’ll agree that we’ve built a fantastic platform for learning and that our partners create some of the highest quality courses there are on the web.

We’re working with those university and industry partners to transform the flexibility, accessibility, and credibility of their courses, breaking down degrees into smaller units and short courses that can fit alongside the other time pressures of non-traditional students.

Our founders, The Open University, have worked tirelessly to support us in our mission, and this year we were excited to welcome the SEEK group as our joint shareholders, who have brought significant investment and a range of strengths and capabilities that can support us in increasing our reach to learners across the globe.

Our purpose remains to transform access to education, and this ten million learner milestone poses a good opportunity for us to stop and reflect on how far we, and online education, have come in a short amount of time.

The challenges we face are great, but the opportunities are greater.

Through collaboration, and rapid action, we can work to further seize these chances to truly change lives worldwide and build the future of learning, together.

We hope you’ll continue with us on this journey and that we’ll be reporting our next ten million learners in the very near future! 

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