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FutureLearn’s 2018: Year in Review

Written by Dhawal Shah
4 minute read
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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.

The big focus of MOOC providers in 2018 is online degrees, and FutureLearn is 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 the investment went into beefing up the degree platform.  The company is raising another £40m to move further in that direction.

FutureLearn’s modest team (as compared to other top 5 MOOC providers) of 130 people generated a revenue of £8.2M 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 previous Year in Reviews here: 2017 and 2016.

FutureLearn's 2018: Year in Review

2018 Highlights

Monetization

FutureLearn generated revenues of £8.2M 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 of, for example, Coursera’s.

But FutureLearn must have seen some promising signs for the online degree business because it is in the process of raising £40m 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  £13m by Open University, at the end of 2015.

By The Numbers

FutureLearn added 1.6 million learners in 2018 as compared to 1.9 million in 2017, taking the total number of learners to 8.7 million. This slowdown is reflective of the entire MOOC market, as 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 has released around 1,000 courses that are publically available. These courses have been created by 174 partners, 26 of which joined in 2018.

FutureLearn courses tend to be shorter (many are around 2 weeks long), as compared to those from other MOOC providers.

Around 60% of the learners on the platform are female. 48% of learners are from Europe. North America accounts for 9.3%, 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, as well as the popularity of its English language courses, especially from British Council.

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

  1. Understanding IELTS: Techniques for English Language Tests from British Council
  2. English for the Workplace from 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 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 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 £40m it needs to stay competitive in that market. At the time 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 UK or Australia.

Not all FutureLearn degrees are master’s degrees. It also offers Graduate Certificates and Graduate Diplomas, certifications that are relatively unknown in the US but are common in the UK and the Commonwealth countries. Early this year 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 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.