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

Posted by er134 at Sep 18, 2013 09:35 AM |
University of Leicester to deliver free course related to Richard III

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 18 September 2013

• 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 now1, 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 University of Leicester
  • 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.”

FutureLearn was set up in December 2012 as the UK’s first provider of free, high quality MOOCs. Currently numbering 26, its partners and course providers comprise leading UK and international universities and cultural institutions including the British Library, British Museum and British Council.




FutureLearn will make it possible to learn for life, offering unique access to some of the most inspiring learning opportunities from some of the world’s best universities – for free.

About FutureLearn:

FutureLearn.com is the first UK-led multi-institutional provider of free, open, online higher education courses. It will offer courses for people to access and enjoy wherever they are in the world on multiple devices.  Courses will be created by the Universities of Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, East Anglia, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Leicester, Loughborough, Kings College London, Lancaster, Leeds, Monash, Nottingham, The Open University, Queen’s Belfast, Reading, Sheffield, Southampton, Strathclyde, Trinity College Dublin and Warwick.  In addition, the British Council, British Library and the British Museum have all agreed to partner with FutureLearn to share content and their expertise and collaborate in the development of courses through FutureLearn.com.

For further details, please contact:

media.enquiries@futurelearn.com / 0203 047 2588


1The current list of first courses being piloted by partner universities follows below. Courses will be added from the University of Bristol and FutureLearn’s international partners, Monash University and Trinity College Dublin, at a later date:

14 October: The Secret Power of Brands - University of East Anglia

Get under the skin of brands as we reveal the secret powers behind the most potent commercial and cultural force on the planet.

21 October: Fairness And Nature: When Worlds Collide - University of Leeds

Making decisions about managing natural resources can be difficult; this course uses key principles to explore why fairness needs to be part of policy.

28 October: Begin Programming: Build Your First Mobile Game - University of Reading

Learn the basics of Java programming by developing a simple mobile game that you can run on your computer, Android phone, or tablet.

4 November: The Mind Is Flat: The Shocking Shallowness of Human Psychology - University of Warwick

Explore how to make better personal and professional decisions, and consider the psychological dimension to some key ethical and political choices facing the world.

11 November: Web Science: How the Web Is Changing the World - University of Southampton

Explore how the web has changed our world in the past 25 years and what might happen next.

18 November: Ecosystems: An Introduction - The Open University

Ecosystems is about the relationships between living organisms. Gain an understanding of the natural world, how the web of life works, with illustrations from around the world.

25 November: England in the Time of King Richard III - University of Leicester

Explore 15th century England through the team of scholars in archaeology, history and literature responsible for the recent excavation of Richard III.

2 December: Improving Your Image: Dental Photography in Practice - University of Birmingham

Learn how to achieve consistent and excellent results in all aspects of dental photography.

6 January: Saving the World: Sustainability and You - The University of Nottingham

Join us to explore the major global issue of sustainability and discover how you can have a real impact on our future.

6 January: Forensic Science - University of Strathclyde

The methods and scientific underpinning of forensic science, from crime scene investigation to reporting evidential value within a case.

13 January: Critical Listening for Studio Production - Queen’s University Belfast

This course is a technical ear training programme designed to improve critical listening in a music studio context.

13 January: Climate Change: From the Past to an Uncertain Future - University of Exeter

This course aims to explain the science of climate change, the risks it poses, and the solutions available to reduce those risks.

20 January: Genes and Cancer - University of Bath

This is an ideal introduction for those interested in understanding how genetics influences development and spread of cancer.

27 January: Causes of War - King’s College London

What causes armed conflict in the world today? Examine current thinking on this question: for anyone with an interest in world affairs.

27 January: Corpus Linguistics - Lancaster University

The course offers practical introduction to the methodology of corpus linguistics for researchers in social sciences and humanities.

10 February: Introductory Particle Physics - The University of Edinburgh

Should we be excited about the Higgs boson? Find out more about developments at the Large Hadron Collider, particle physics and understanding the universe.

3 March: Discover Dentistry - The University of Sheffield

An entertaining and illuminating course for everyone to explore the impact dentistry has on our lives.

10 March: Muslims In Britain: Changes and Challenges - Cardiff University

Develop your understanding of Muslims and their faith through an exploration of communities in Britain.

Early 2014: Innovation and Enterprise - Loughborough University

Managing the innovation process is neither a scientific process nor a black art. This course examines a model for an innovation process.

Early 2014: Cancer in the 21st century: the genomic revolution - University of Glasgow

Learn how modern genetics has revolutionised approaches to the detection and treatment of cancer and how these may develop in the future.

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