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FutureLearn Under New Leadership Expands Paywall, Restricts Course Binging

When auditing a course for free, the content is now released week by week rather than all at once.

An example of the course material release schedule on FutureLearn

FutureLearn was the first MOOC provider to add a time-based paywall in 2017, limiting access after a course ends for free learners. Class Central has discovered that now, this paywall has been expanded further.

Basic Access vs Limited Access

FutureLearn: Buying vs subscribing vs free-auditing (Jan 2023 screenshot. Prices in Australian dollars.)

Previously, the free tier was called “Basic access” but now it’s called “Limited Access”. The key difference lies in the additional “Learn at your own pace” row in the pricing chart shown above.

I enrolled in a FutureLearn course with free limited access and discovered that the second and subsequent weeks of the course were locked and would only become unlocked on a weekly basis.

FutureLearn course materials release schedule in free-audit mode

When I tried to access the second week, an invitation popped up inviting me to pay for the course or join FutureLearn Unlimited (which is currently discounted until the end of February 2023).

So, if I want to binge the course (as I often do), I’ll have to pay for the privilege. Otherwise, I will need to take it week by week.

This is one of the first visible changes we have seen from FutureLearn’s new management. Last year, after facing a cash crunch, followed by layoffs, the company was acquired by Netherlands-based Global University Systems (GUS).

Pat Bowden Profile Image

Pat Bowden

Online learning specialist, still learning after 200+ online courses 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

Comments 2

  1. Marcus

    FutureLearn test a modified “edX way”, wait one week for next chapter when you not pay, and a limited access. My feeling is, under their new ownership this will end not good and the main strategy is higher prices which means less people can afford. Take a look on edX, exactly the same since 2U take over.

    In my view FutureLearn was from the beginning not really competitive and attractive. I think the company was only founded to have one. The OU invested less until nothing, and with their capital raise in 2019 the situation remains the same. The only thing what has changend was the design of the website.

    • Dennis

      Before the paywall tightened, I only did some Microsoft courses there. The disadvantage is there was no dedicated app to follow the lectures and answer questions like Coursera and edX.

      The world economy is expected to be turbulent this year and people are conserving their cash now. Not business as usual.


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