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FutureLearn’s 2018: Year in Review

Dhawal Shah

FutureLearn's Homepage December 2018

The total number of learners on FutureLearn’s platform grew to 8.7 million in 2018, up from 7.1 million in 2017.

In 2018 MOOC providers focused most on online degrees, and FutureLearn was no exception. In fact, FutureLearn leads the pack with the largest number of MOOC-based degrees. Unlike other providers, however, FutureLearn’s degrees don’t tend to be much cheaper than their online or in-person counterparts.

This focus on degrees means that, like Coursera, the FutureLearn platform remained mostly unchanged from a free user’s perspective. Most of FutureLearn’s investment went into beefing up its degree platform.  The company is raising another £40 million to move further in that direction.

FutureLearn’s modest team (compared to other top five MOOC providers) of 130 people generated a revenue of £8.2 million in the last fiscal year (to the end of July).

For more of Class Central‘s analysis of FutureLearn’s 2018, keep reading. You can read previous Year in Reviews here: 2017 and 2016.

FutureLearn's 2018: Year in Review

2018 Highlights

Monetization

FutureLearn generated revenues of £8.2 million in the last fiscal year (to the end of July). These revenues indicate that FutureLearn’s MOOC business hasn’t taken off to the extent that — for example — Coursera’s has done.

But FutureLearn must have seen some promising signs for the online degree business: it is in the process of raising £40 million to invest in improving its platform to better support online degree students, as well as marketing efforts to acquire online degree students.

The last reported investment in the platform was  £13 million by Open University at the end of 2015.

By The Numbers

FutureLearn added 1.6 million learners in 2018. This is compared to 1.9 million in 2017, taking the total number of FutureLearn students to 8.7 million. This slowdown is reflective of the entire MOOC market, because focus has shifted from free users to ones that are willing to pay.

FutureLearn still retains its title as the #5 MOOC provider in the world based on the number of learners.

FutureLearn added 250 courses this year, and in total it has released around 1,000 courses that are publicly available. These courses have been created by 174 partners, 26 of which joined in 2018.

FutureLearn courses tend to be shorter (many are around two weeks long) compared to those from other MOOC providers.

Around 60% of the learners on the platform are female.

Forty-eight percent of learners are from Europe. North America accounts for 9.3% of FutureLearn’s students, while 24% come from Asia. The larger audience in Asia can be attributed not just to the population, but also to the fact that some of FutureLearn’s partners are better known in Asia, and to the popularity of its English language courses — especially those from The British Council.

Here is a list of the most popular courses on FutureLearn in 2018 (data provided by FutureLearn):

  1. Understanding IELTS: Techniques for English Language Tests from The British Council
  2. English for the Workplace from The British Council
  3. Inside IELTS: Preparing for the Test with the Experts from Cambridge English Language Assessment
  4. Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance from Monash University
  5. English in Early Childhood: Language Learning and Development from The British Council
  6. An Introduction to Screenwriting from University of East Anglia
  7. Start Writing Fiction from The Open University
  8. Basic English 1: Elementary from King’s College London
  9. Exploring English: Language and Culture from The British Council
  10. Introduction to Cyber Security from The Open University

Online Degrees

FutureLearn Degrees page (Dec 2018)

FutureLearn’s future lies in online degrees, and it is raising the £40 million it needs to stay competitive in that market. At the time of this writing, FutureLearn lists 25 online degrees from five different university partners: Coventry, Deakin, Murdoch, The Open University (FutureLearn’s parent organization), and The University of Newcastle. All its partners are either in the UK or Australia.

Not all of FutureLearn degrees are Master’s degrees. It also offers Graduate Certificates and Graduate Diplomas, which are certifications that are relatively unknown in the U.S. but common in the UK and the Commonwealth countries. In 2018 FutureLearn even announced a MOOC BA from the University of Newcastle.

Like the degrees offered by other MOOC providers, FutureLearn’s degrees are built on the MOOC formula as well as the platform, in the sense that they consist of multiple FutureLearn Programs.

But that’s where the similarities end. As mentioned earlier, FutureLearn’s degrees don’t tend to be cheaper than their online counterparts. Outside of a few “taster courses,” they do not tend to release the courses that make up their online degrees to the public.

So FutureLearn’s approach with online degrees is more similar to that of an Online Program Management (OPM) company than that of a MOOC platform.

You can see a list of all of FutureLearn’s degrees in Class Central’s MOOC-based degree pricing chart.

Programs

The FutureLearn website lists 22 different Programs (FutureLearn’s microcredential). Last year it listed 23 Programs. At this point, FutureLearn does seem to be investing in launching Programs that are publicly available. Many of its online degrees are built on top of Programs, but those Programs are only available to students enrolled in their degrees.

This article is just one in our 2018 MOOC Roundup Series. Find the whole series of articles here, and discover everything MOOCs in 2018 — from the most popular classes, to overviews on developments in MOOC platforms, to looking at the MOOC future.

    Comments 1

    1. Avatar

      Rabia Begum

      I don’t get certificate of LL.B and LL.M of distance learning by University of Birmingham UK. Further, Why distance learning ?

      Reply

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