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FutureLearn breaks MOOC record, opens up

UK-based MOOC platform FutureLearn has broken the record for the biggest single run of an online course, with more than 430,000 students currently enrolled on its IELTS preparation course. The platform has also opened up its partnership policy to accommodate more specialised institutions.

The ‘Understanding IELTS: Techniques for English Language Tests’ MOOC is run by the British Council, which is part-owner of the IELTS exam.

“We want to work with anyone who can demonstrate a world-class reputation in their specialist area"

The popularity of the six-week, British Council-run course, ‘Understanding IELTS: Techniques for English Language Tests’, demonstrates the huge global demand for English language learning, said Sara Pierson, head of English for education systems at the British Council, which is part-owner of the IELTS exam.

“These sign-up figures show just how much people across the globe want to use English and the IELTS exam to open up doors”

“These sign-up figures show just how much people across the globe want to use English and the IELTS exam to open up doors whether it be for work, education or to better connect with the growing millions of English speakers around the world,” she commented.

In a pre-course survey, 42% of learners indicated they are in full time employment, 21% in full time education and 17% looking for work.

Unsurprisingly, the bulk of respondents – 80% – said they took the course to improve their English.

In addition, 47% said they wanted to learn new things through the course, and 44% said they wanted to use it to prepare for future studies.

FutureLearn’s CEO, Simon Nelson commented that while he is pleased with the record, developing MOOCs is “so much more than a simple volume game” and that quality is paramount, which is also driving the platform’s partnership expansion.

Until now, only the world’s top 200 universities have been eligible to share MOOCs on FutureLearn.

It has now added two membership categories: Centres of Excellence, comprising university faculties or research centres that are globally renowned for a particular specialism; and Specialist Organisations, described as “nationally or globally renowned brands in their area of expertise”.

“We want to work with anyone who can demonstrate a world-class reputation in their specialist area,” he explained. “We have always taken the view that expertise exists across and within various organisations.”

FutureLearn has already welcomed 11 new partners including the Taipei Medical University and the University of Wollongong’s Australian Institute of Innovative Materials and Centre for Archaeological Science, and is calling for more institutions in these two fields to join.

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