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Open University to invest £13m in FutureLearn

The Open University has announced it will invest £13m in MOOC provider FutureLearn over the next three years in order to develop the platform further and enhance its position globally.

Around 70% of FutureLearn’s users are based outside of the UK

The investment will be put towards internationalising the platform, improving accessibility and developing its social learning approach.

FutureLearn, which is wholly owned by the Open University, has seen over two and a half million users from 190 countries register for courses since its inception in October 2013.

“There are millions out there who would love what we do”

The operation to increase internationalisation of the platform, is about “ensuring learners get the best experience wherever they are in the world”, according to Simon Nelson, CEO of FutureLearn.

“Some of that might be performance improvements to the site, some of it might be improved support for people whose first language isn’t English,” he told The PIE News. “And also, development of more international partnerships.”

FutureLearn announced five new university partners in August of this year, but Nelson said that the company is just “scratching the surface” of the number of international partnerships it could have.

“I would say awareness of FutureLearn is very low in pretty much every market, including in fact the UK,” he said.

“And there are millions out there who would love what we do, if they were only made aware of it.”

FutureLearn currently has university partners across the world, as well as with other institutions, including the British Library, British Council and the European Space Agency.

Around 70% of FutureLearn’s users are based outside of the UK with the majority logging on from the US, China, India and the Middle East.

The platform’s most popular courses are in advanced English language from the British Council, according to Nelson, with one breaking MOOC records with over 430,000 enrolments in its first intake.

The investment will also support development of the platform’s social learning approach, which currently engages 40% of users.

“What we want to do is to expand the range of tools we make available to our educators and improve the experience of social learning for our learners,” said Nelson.

The investment comes two months after the Open University said it plans to axe seven of its own regional centres in order to streamline student support.

However, Nelson said he believes the Open University “benefits in many different ways from the big investment it’s made in FutureLearn”, adding that it is the “most prolific partner” when it comes to creating courses.

“The faith and confidence it’s showing in FutureLearn now, in spite of other difficult choices it needs to make, is a vindication really of the success we’ve been having today,” he said.

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