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Analysis

FutureLearn’s 2021: Year in Review

In 2021, FutureLearn gained 2M learners, appointed a new CEO, and introduced close to 100 ExpertTracks.

FutureLearn – A Year In Review

In 2021, FutureLearn gained 2 million new learners, more than the 1.3 million from 2019, and less than the 5 million from 2020, during the pandemic boost. More than 17 million learners have joined FutureLearn since the company was established in 2013.

After 9 months of operation with an interim CEO following the resignation of Simon Nelson, the company’s first CEO, at the end of 2020, Andrew (Andy) Hancock took up the reins in October.

Now, FutureLearn has over 250 partners; 108 of them are universities.

2021 saw the introduction of FutureLearn’s first subscription-based ExpertTracks. Two-thirds of ExpertTracks are produced by specialist organizations rather than universities.

For Class Central‘s complete analysis of FutureLearn’s 2021, keep reading. For our previous years’ analyses, follow the links:

By the Numbers

FutureLearn By the Numbers
Year 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Courses1 578 736 883 1,158 1,377
Microcredentials/Programs 13 22 35 68 67
Academic Certificates2 7 14 17 18 16
Degrees2 4 18 23 28 24
Learners 7.1M 8.7M 10.0M 14M 17M
ExpertTracks 0 0 0 0 96
  • [1] The numbers represent the total number of courses offered in that particular year.
  • [2] Graduate and Postgraduate Certificates and Diplomas are listed under academic certificates, not under degrees.

Courses

The number of active courses on the platform increased to 1377 (up from 1158 last year). Data collected by Class Central shows that in 2021, FutureLearn launched 591 new courses, 306 of which are new free MOOCs.

Around 40% of courses launched by FutureLearn came from non-universities.

Below, you can see FutureLearn’s ten most popular MOOCs launched in 2021. Enrollments in these ten courses totalled 209k, with the top two accounting for more than half of this number. 

Psychological First Aid: Supporting Children and Young People was the most popular course by far.

Most Popular 2021 Courses by enrollment:

FutureLearn’s most popular courses of 2021
Course Name Enrollment
Psychological First Aid: Supporting Children and Young People 80k
Learn English Through TV Drama Series: Skipper’s Pass 36k
Blended and Online Learning Design 17k
Bioinformatics for Biologists: An Introduction to Linux, Bash Scripting, and R 16k
Low-Budget Video Production: Visual Communication for Small Charities 16k
Excel Skills to Make an Impression 10k
Exploring Body Neutrality and Body Image with Jameela Jamil 10k
Academic Writing in English for ESL Learners 9k
Principles of Engineering 8k
Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Earth Monitoring 7k

Several of these courses made it into this year’s list of the 100 Most Popular Free Online Courses from all providers.

40 FutureLearn courses also made it onto Class Central’s Best Online Courses of All Time list.

ExpertTracks

FutureLearn ExpertTracks

January 2021 saw the launch of a new subscription-based model, ExpertTrack. During the year, nearly 100 ExpertTracks were launched attracting over 26k enrollments, according to our data. Around one third are offered by universities including The University of Michigan, University of Leeds, and Coventry University. Other ExpertTracks are offered by a wide range of partners including National STEM Learning Centre, ClickSlice, British Council, and BBC Good Food.

Microcredentials and Programs

WIth the introduction of ExpertTracks, the total number of regular microcredentials and programs has stagnated. 67 are currently listed, which is one less than last year. But a closer look shows that 50 of these offer university credit, up from 30 in 2020. As with any university course, before enrolling you need to check if you can transfer the credit if your degree will be issued by a different university.

A few microcredentials offer a certificate issued by FutureLearn or its partner for the course. 

Microcredentials are generally not available for free audit. As in the past, courses in Programs can generally be audited for free. Programs may be the loser from the rise of ExpertTracks, with only 9 listed in late 2021, compared to 36 in 2020.

Academic Certificates

FutureLearn currently offers one postgraduate diploma and 16 graduate/postgraduate certificates, one fewer than last year. To be eligible to apply, learners need to already hold an undergraduate (bachelor’s) degree. Academic certificates can be found on FutureLearn’s Degrees page. Some entries offer a choice of a Masters or a Graduate Certificate.

Online Degrees

Two bachelor’s degrees and 22 master’s degrees are currently available for new enrollments, down from last year.

Previously, some degrees cost the same for UK and EU students. Some prices and conditions may have changed for EU students following the UK’s exit from the European Union. 

Some degree costs have decreased for UK students, while some have increased for international students. Some have not changed from 2020.

Degree Name University Cost
[+] MA Educational Leadership* Coventry University N/A
[+] MSc Digital Marketing with Data Analytics Coventry University UK students – £14,250

International students – £17,900

[+] MSc Global Healthcare Management Coventry University UK students – £10,400

International students – £16,600

BA Management and Leadership Coventry University UK students – £9,250 (per year) International students – £13,900 (per year)
Bachelor of Arts University of Newcastle  N/A
MSc Project Management Anglia Ruskin University N/A
MSc Mental Health Anglia Ruskin University £7,250
MSc Child and Adolescent Mental Wellbeing Anglia Ruskin University £7,250
Master of Business Administration Coventry University N/A
MBA (Marketing) Coventry University UK students – £15,450

International students – £18,950

MBA (Cyber Security Management) Coventry University UK students – £15,450

International students – £18,950

MBA (Health Care Sector) Coventry University UK students – £15,450

International students – £18,950

MBA (Sustainable Tourism) Coventry University UK students – £15,450

International students – £18,950

MBA (Artificial Intelligence) Coventry University & Institute of Coding UK students – £15,450

International students – £18,950

MBA International Human Resource Management Coventry University UK and International students – £20,100
MSc Business and Organisational Psychology Coventry University UK students – £10,400

International students – £16,600

MSc Construction Management with BIM Coventry University UK students – £10,400

International students – £16,600

MSc Construction Project and Cost Management Coventry University UK students – £10,400

International students – £16,600

MSc Cyber Security Coventry University & Institute of Coding UK students – £15,450

International students – £16,600

MSc Disaster Management and Resilience Coventry University N/A
MSc Emergency Management and Resilience Coventry University N/A
Masters Degree in Leadership Deakin University $19,450 AUD
Masters Degree in Digital Learning Leadership Deakin University $14,850 AUD
MSc End of Life Studies University of Glasgow £12,450
[-] Masters Degree in Sustainable Development and Humanitarian Action Deakin University $12,400 AUD
[-] Cyber Security Deakin University N/A
[-] Information Technology Leadership Deakin University $19,150 AUD
[-] MSc Nursing Coventry University £14,700
[-] MSc Global Logistics Coventry University £16,600
[-] MA Management (Advanced Standing) Coventry University £4,600
[-] BSc Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management Coventry

 University

N/A
[-] BA in International Business (Top Up) Coventry

  University

£9,250 (UK/EU students) £13,900 (International students)

[*] MA Educational Leadership offers a choice of a fully online version or a blended version; the blended version combines online distance learning with two 3-day face-to-face residential seminars.

FutureLearn Partners

FutureLearn now boasts more than 250 partners, up from 202 last year.

FutureLearn partners

Post-Pandemic

After the 2020 explosion of online learning, FutureLearn, like other course providers, found 2021 quieter, but new courses continue to be released. In 2021, driven by the predominantly non-university-created ExpertTracks, a lower percentage are from universities.

New CEO

After Simon Nelson resigned as CEO at the end of 2020, Josh Nester stepped up as interim CEO. In October, Andrew (Andy) Hancock quietly slipped into the CEO position. He has experience in growing businesses in a competitive market. Another recent appointment is Yvonne Chien who joined FutureLearn as Chief Growth Officer in September. She will focus on commercial strategy, data and marketing.

Pat Bowden Profile Image

Pat Bowden

Online learning specialist, still learning after 100+ MOOCs completed since 2012. Class Central customer support and help since 2018. I am keen to help others make the most of online learning, so I set up a website:  www.onlinelearningsuccess.org

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