FutureLearn’s mission is to pioneer the best social learning experiences for everyone, anywhere and builds on  the Open University’s mission to promote educational opportunity and social justice by providing high-quality university education to all who wish to realise their ambitions and fulfil their potential.

Matt Walton, Head of Product at FutureLearn, explains how the leading social learning platform is moving beyond offering short informal courses and giving its learners flexible ways to learn and gain university credits.

FutureLearn has announced that learners will now be able to use its massive open online courses (MOOCs) to earn academic course credits for degrees and MBAs, professional qualifications and formal CPD accreditation. 12 FutureLearn Programs from eight leading institutions including the University of Leeds, The Open University, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), and the British Council will be open for enrolment from late May.

The programs on offer are designed to suit a variety of purposes that can help people progress their careers or help demonstrate academic aptitude. Some programs allow students to earn university credit, while others offer accredited Continuing Professional Development (CPD) or the opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to studying a topic in depth.

The University of Leeds, a member of the UK’s renowned Russell Group, will be offering a program on Environmental Challenges. Learners who successfully complete the program will be awarded 10 UK credits at undergraduate level.

This is the first time major UK universities have offered credit via massive open online courses (MOOCs).

This has profound implications for employees and employers because Programs could transform both academic study and the delivery of CPD, as learners are set free from the restrictions of traditional face-to-face training, and are able to access on-demand course content on their own terms and on their own devices.

By completing programs of courses and a final assessment, learners can accrue credits and recognised awards from internationally recognised providers, allowing them to acquire new skills and through recognition, improve their employability.

Previously, learning in or out of work has been a rather binary option: either you make a substantial time and money commitment and do it, or you don’t. With FutureLearn you can can learn more flexibly, pay-as-you-go and gain credits that you can build on, into a more substantial qualification, should you wish to.

And with the recent introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy putting the responsibility for CPD in the employer’s hands, companies of all sizes can reap the benefits of FutureLearn’s offer to keep their teams engaged and on top of their skills. Our Cyber Security course (which is endorsed by GCHQ) is a great example how FutureLearn can help people develop new knowledge and understanding throughout their lives in an economy that is evolving at an unprecedented pace.

The Open University’s triple-accredited Business School will be offering an MBA elective on the Digital Economy, which will allow you to get a taster of its flexible MBA and start to work towards this qualification by earning 15 UK credits.

There’s also a supply side issue that FutureLearn can address, and we’re already seeing this in sectors such as healthcare, where there’s a serious lack of skilled people to fill much-needed gaps in the labour market.

Genomics in Healthcare from St George’s, University of London, offers a series of courses and programs to help healthcare professionals develop a deeper understanding of the rapidly developing area of genomics and gain CPPD credits accredited by several Royal Colleges, such as the Royal College of General Practitioners.

The British Council is offering a program designed for English language teachers, to help them develop their professional practice. And Australia’s RMIT University is offering a program aimed at supporting budding entrepreneurs who are starting an online business.

FutureLearn is founded on the idea of social learning. Learning through engaging with others, hearing new perspectives and others experiences, sharing and collaborating on ideas and mutually supporting each other is shown to be hugely effective. Doing this with learners across the world, enabling the potential for new connections and supporting the transfer of ideas at scale is massively exciting.

The internet is designed to support a networked conversation and our approach to rethinking the delivery of education plays to this strength and works with the grain of our medium. Learning on your own is hard, and we want to remove the loneliness of distance learning. We want to engage our learners with compelling human interactions just as platforms like Facebook and Twitter do. Learning through conversation, be that a dialogue with a tutor, your peers or reflecting with yourself, is baked into how we design the learning experience.

FutureLearn Programs offer the chance to learn flexibly, with people from all over the world, gain recognised awards and prove their abilities to universities and potential employers. They represent an exciting step change in the further education market today.


Matt Walton, Head of Product, FutureLearn



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