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FutureLearn to launch unique social online learning experience, delivering free university courses to learners around the world


  • The first UK-led provider of massive open online courses encourages social learning and is optimised for use on mobile devices
  • FutureLearn features a diverse course list from over 20 internationally renowned  institutions, with eight courses commencing this year 
  • The website goes live as an open beta test, capturing real learner feedback to tailor its ongoing development 

FutureLearn, the first UK-led provider of massive open online courses (MOOCs), is from today offering learners around the world access to free, high quality courses from its internationally renowned university partners.

Social interaction is central to the FutureLearn experience, enabling people to learn actively by engaging in conversations around the learning material, or vicariously, by following discussions. FutureLearn has also been designed to work on smart phones, tablets and desktop computers, so that learners can enjoy the same high-quality user experience, regardless of the screen size.

FutureLearn is wholly owned by The Open University. The new website combines the best elements of the social web with The Open University’s 44 years of expertise in distance and open learning.

The FutureLearn website opens today as an open beta, which will run until early 2014. Learners will be able to sign up for a selection of courses from FutureLearn’s university partners, with learner feedback used to inform the ongoing development of the website. So far learners from over 165 countries have registered their interest in taking a course on FutureLearn.

Simon Nelson, CEO of FutureLearn said, “We wanted to make FutureLearn a fresh, different and enjoyable user experience. We have designed the website in line with principles of effective learning, such as storytelling, discussions and celebrating progress. We decided to go live with FutureLearn now, in an open testing phase, so that we can remain responsive to learners as we continue to develop the website.”

Martin Bean, Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, said, “Time and again we have seen the disruptive impact the internet can have on industries – driving innovation and enhancing the customer experience. I have no doubt MOOCs will do the same for education – offering people new and exciting ways to learn. This is why we took the initiative to join forces with a range of university and cultural partners to create FutureLearn – spearheading the UK’s response to the rise of MOOCs and offering students a new and innovative way to access courses.  It is so exciting to see the first of these going live and I can’t wait to see the range on offer expand over the coming months.”

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said, “The launch of FutureLearn is an exciting development for UK learning. MOOCs provide the opportunity to widen access to our world class Universities and to meet the global demand for higher education.

“FutureLearn has the potential to revolutionise conventional models of formal education. I encourage all our institutions to explore the opportunities offered by new modes of technology, such as MOOCs. This will keep the UK ahead in the global race to deliver education in worldwide markets.”

In addition to a strong social architecture and performance on a range of devices, FutureLearn’s key features include:

  • Inspiring and rich learning material: Ideas are communicated in a variety of ways including video, audio and text articles. Many of these are designed to be shared and discoverable via web searches.
  • Community learning: Learner profile pages will help learners build a presence within FutureLearn, interact with and find out more about other learners, and follow and be followed in return. These features, based on the principles which underpin social networks, will encourage community learning.
  • Contextual feedback for learners: Quizzes are designed so that feedback and hints are given after each answer, to help learners spot gaps in their knowledge. Progress pages show how much of the course they have completed, their overall score, and how much they are interacting with others.
  • Course creator and analytics dashboard: we help our partners by providing a simple web-based course creation tool and up to the minute statistics on how learners are interacting with courses, to allow educators to respond to the needs of their learners.
  • Record of learning: All learners will have an on screen record of learning that they can share beyond the FutureLearn community. FutureLearn will be also be piloting paid-for statements of accomplishment and real world exams at local test centres later this year.

The courses

A list of pilot courses from 20 of FutureLearn’s partner institutions is available for learners to sign up for now, with eight scheduled to begin between October and December this year:

  • Begin Programming: Build Your First Mobile Game, from Reading University
  • England in the Time of King Richard III, from Leicester University
  • Fairness And Nature: When Worlds Collide, from Leeds University
  • The Mind Is Flat: The Shocking Shallowness of Human Psychology, from Warwick University
  • Improving Your Image: Dental Photography in Practice, from Birmingham University
  • Introduction To Ecosystems, from The Open University
  • The Secret Power of Brands, from University Of East Anglia
  • Web Science: How the Web is Changing the World, from Southampton University

Claire Davenport, Commercial Director at FutureLearn said, “We are delighted to be working with such high quality institutions and educators. It has been inspiring to see the thought that has gone into designing the courses so that the learners really meet their objectives and benefit from studying with a large global group with different backgrounds. Our partners already have a range of courses in production and our pipeline for 2014 should have something to appeal to everyone, whether studying to improve their career prospects, enrich their lives or enliven their dinner conversations.”

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