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[Updated] FutureLearn delivers the largest MOOC ever as more than 440,000 learners convene for English language learning

The biggest single run of a free online course began on FutureLearn this week, with more than 440,000 learners from over 150 counties enrolled.

FutureLearn, first UK-based provider of massive open online courses, began offering courses in October 2013. As a social learning platform – designed to enable learning through conversation – interaction between course participants is integral to the learning experience.

The record course – ‘Understanding IELTS: Techniques for English Language Tests‘ – is run by FutureLearn partner, the British Council, with the record registration numbers demonstrating the massive global demand for English Language learning resources.

The six week course is designed to prepare learners for the IELTS test, the world’s most popular English language test for higher education and global migration. IELTS is accepted by over 9,000 organisations worldwide including universities, employers, immigration authorities and professional bodies. Over 2.2 million IELTS tests were taken globally last year.

Learner stats

  • Learners come from 153 countries, with a large proportion from the Middle East, as well as Asia and Latin America. (Source: Google Analytics)

According to the pre-course survey run by FutureLearn:

  • The course has a predominantly female learner base (55%, compared to 45% men).
  • The biggest age groups represented are 18-25 and 26-35 year olds, both accounting for 41%, followed by the 36-45 set at 12%.
  • Majority (42%) of the respondents identified as being in full time employment, followed by 21% in full time education, and 17% looking for work.
  • The largest employment areas represented are Teaching and Education (18%), Health and Social Care (15%) and Engineering and Manufacturing (12%).
  • 52% of the teachers who responded focus on English Language.
  • The top three learner motivations listed as:
    • Improve English (80%)
    • Learn new things (47%)
    • Prepare for further studies (44%)

Simon Nelson, CEO of FutureLearn said:

“As pleased as I am about the record that FutureLearn has set, this is so much more than a simple volume game. The quality of courses coming out of this UK-based platform is set to be a game changer for the provision of free online courses as a whole. We may have been late to the party, but there’s a reason why our learner satisfaction scores are consistently over 90%.”

Sara Pierson, Head of English for Education Systems at the British Council, said:

“English is a language of opportunity and these sign-up figures show just how much people across the globe want to use English and the IELTS exam to open up doors whether it be for work, education or to better connect with the growing millions of English speakers around the world. As an organisation, we have been teaching English internationally for more than 80 years – using innovative platforms like this MOOC allows us to share our expertise and the well-respected IELTS exam with an even wider audience and give them the chance to realise their English language ambitions even sooner. We believe our work in this area shows how the UK can make a significant contribution to education globally and consequently opens up international opportunities for other UK organisations involved in English, education and exams.”

Peter Horrocks, Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, FutureLearn’s founder, said:

“This is a fantastic achievement and incredibly significant; FutureLearn has created the world’s biggest free online course – ever. Their well-designed and innovative learning platform has attracted close to two million learners from across the globe so far and today’s announcement shows the impact it can have. We hope this relationship, between the OU and FutureLearn, will continue to flourish and drive innovation in online learning even further, opening up access to more learners worldwide.”

FutureLearn is wholly owned by The Open University which has 45 years of expertise in distance and online learning. More than 1.6 million learners from 190 countries have registered since the first courses began in October 2013, generating more than 3.2 million course registrations between them.


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