Open University pilots first paid course on FutureLearn in its 50th anniversary year

The Open University (OU) launches its first paid postgraduate course on its online social learning platform FutureLearn in its 50th anniversary year, paving the way for similar moves to come.

The pilot will see the first qualification, a Post Graduate certificate in Open and Distance Education starting in February, with registrations now open.

This initiative aims to offer learners a completely new experience; combining the OU’s expertise in Technology Enhanced Learning with FutureLearn’s market-leading delivery model.

It will also allow the OU to evaluate the opportunities that come from using the FutureLearn platform, including capitalising on its global reach and the potential to reduce costs.

The qualification will give learners hands-on experience of educational technologies and explore issues related to online learning. It is aimed at teachers in higher and further education as well as those conducting training in the workplace, who are keen to maximise the benefits of online learning.

Using innovative e-learning tools, learners will build practical skills in digital learning, teaching and training as well as taking part in critiques and discussions with world-class researchers and peers around the globe on current and future learning technologies.

The postgraduate qualification will feature a new “try it first” option allowing learners to take component programmes of Open and Distance Education — valued programmes in their own right — before registering for the full qualification.

The postgraduate certificate, which is conducted over 35 weeks and features four programmes on FutureLearn, is awarded on successful completion of the OU’s module: Technology-Enhanced Learning: Foundations and Futures.

Four further Post Graduate qualifications have been selected to follow this pilot, from October in: finance, advanced healthcare practice, development management and human resources.

Jonathan Nicholls, University Secretary of the OU and Chair of the Board of FutureLearn said:

“The OU has always been a home for innovation and inclusivity in education and this collaboration with FutureLearn gives us the opportunity to do that to an even greater degree.

"Supported distance learning is the OU’s core business and this programme will give more learners the latest tools, and the ability to swap ideas and collaborate through FutureLearn’s unique social learning environment. For the OU, we hope it will offer us new insight and allow us to continue to innovate and pioneer new forms of distance-learning education as we enter our 50th Anniversary Year.”

Simon Nelson, CEO, of FutureLearn said:

“Today’s announcement marks the latest chapter in the evolution of FutureLearn’s relationship with its owner, The Open University, and it is fitting that it should coincide with such an important anniversary for the OU. It’s an occasion which reminds us how far higher education has come since the OU’s founding in 1969 — and how quickly it continues to change ... From our first few ‘MOOCs’, to the portfolio of short courses, accredited programmes, and fully online degrees we have today, we have come a long way since our inception with the OU in 2012.

“We’ve learnt a lot in the process too and, now as the leading online social learning platform in Europe, it is particularly exciting to be bringing the OU’s debut postgraduate qualification to FutureLearn on the subject of online and distance education.

“In establishing FutureLearn, The OU bought its pedagogical expertise and experience of open distance education to other institutions. Now we’re passing on the baton to learners who stand to benefit from that same pedigree.”  

The Open University, was established by Royal Charter on 23 April 1969 and begins a year of activity to mark its 50th Anniversary in 2019.

FutureLearn is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the OU and is the leading social learning platform, formed in December 2012. It is now the largest online learning platform in Europe with over eight million people signed up worldwide. It delivers courses from over 150 leading universities and cultural institutions across the globe.

About The Open University: The largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 2 million students worldwide. There are over 170,000 current students, including more than 15,000 overseas.

Over 75% of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and three out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.

In the latest research assessment exercise (Research Excellence Framework, 2014), nearly three quarters (72%) of OU research was assessed as 4 or 3 star – the highest ratings available, awarded to research that is world-leading or internationally excellent. The OU is unique among UK universities having both an access mission and demonstrating research excellence.

The OU has had a unique educational partnership with the BBC since 1971, collaborating on a range of content across TV, radio and digital channels/platforms.  Each year the OU co-produces approximately 35 prime-time TV and radio series such as Blue Planet II, Civilisations and Flatpack Empire.  We achieved more than 250m viewing and listening events last year which prompted over 1.3 million visits to broadcast related content on the OU’s free learning website, OpenLearn.

Regarded as the UK’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units, as well as games, videos and academic articles, which have reached over 36 million people.

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