According to the Financial Times, FutureLearn, the UK-based MOOC provider wholly owned by the Open University is looking to raise £40M. It has hired IBIS Capital to help with the raise, and OU will be chipping in for £10M. FutureLearn’s revenue touched £8.2M in the last fiscal year (to the end of July). The new capital will allow FutureLearn to invest in improving its platform to better support online degree students, as well as in in marketing efforts to acquire online degree students.
With over 8 million learners, FutureLearn is the fifth largest MOOC-provider in the world. But compared to the rest of the top 5, FutureLearn is considerably leaner. The last reported investment in the platform was £13m by Open University, at the end of 2015. In contrast, Coursera, the largest MOOC provider has raised $210.1M so far.
Compared to its US counterparts, FutureLearn also started a bit late. It was established at the end of 2012, and the first courses went live in September 2013.
The investment might be one way to close the gap and accelerate its growth. Currently, FutureLearn boasts over 900 courses from around 150 partner institutions.
In Class Central‘s 2017 analysis of FutureLearn, I noted that FutureLearn had shifted gears and had become more aggressive (similar to other MOOC providers) in its approach. After adding a course upgrading feature in 2016, FutureLearn went on to introduce a new kind of paywall in 2017, one based on time.
Most notably, FutureLearn has moved aggressively into the market for online degrees. So far it has announced more than 20 Masters degree and graduate certificates from partners including Deakin, Murdoch, Coventry University, and the Open University.
Most recently, the University of Newcastle announced a new The Bachelor of Arts Undergraduate degree, to be delivered via FutureLearn’s social learning platform. This will be FutureLearn’s first undergraduate degree. The BA will take three years to complete. The first semester starts February 25th, 2019.
To learn more about FutureLearn’s social learning platform and approach, check out Class Central‘s interview with FutureLearn CEO Simon Nelson.