A notebook, iPad and a cup of coffee

Investment boost for social learning platform, FutureLearn

The Open University will build on the early success of its social learning platform, FutureLearn, thanks to a £13 million investment to kick-start a new phase of development and establish its position as a world leader in free online learning.

Since the first courses went live on FutureLearn in October 2013, the platform has seen rapid growth, with over 2.5 million registered users from more than 190 countries, studying more than five million courses between them. Over 50 of the world’s top universities and prestigious partners, from the British Library and British Council to the European Space Agency, are delivering courses on FutureLearn.

FutureLearn logoFollowing this early success, the OU is now set to make a significant further investment of £13 million in FutureLearn over the next three years.  The new investment will help FutureLearn cement its position as a world-leader in the field of delivering social learning at a huge scale through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and move into the next phase of its development.  It is expected the additional funding will enable FutureLearn to develop in a number of ways, including:

    • Building on the success of its pioneering social learning approach (over 40% of learners on FutureLearn courses socially active);
    • Making it even easier for learners to access courses, including on mobile devices ( 40% of learners take their courses on a mobile device);
    • Extra support for learners whose first language is not English;
    • Joining with major employers to provide learning solutions for staff;
    • Improving the flexibility and availability of courses.

Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, Peter Horrocks, said:

In just a few years, FutureLearn has grown its learner numbers rapidly and lived up to the OU's historic mission of making learning open to all. The Open University's investment in FutureLearn is a vote of confidence in UK educational innovation and the growing success of the platform. I call on all forward-thinking UK universities to join in with this commercial and pedagogical success story.

FutureLearn was established by The Open University towards the end of 2012 as an extension of its mission to open up access to high quality education. The first courses went live in October 2013.

Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson MP, said:

 Technology has transformed almost every aspect of our lives and online learning presents a real opportunity to inspire and engage students. The UK has a world class higher education system and it’s great to see the UK also showing leadership in the development of online learning.  The next phase of this exciting evolution promises to deliver a more engaging learning experience for students as well as economic benefits for the UK’s successful education sector.  

Earlier this year, FutureLearn delivered the world’s biggest ever MOOC, with more than 440,000 people signing up to an advanced English language course run by the British Council.