At FutureLearn, we want to inspire learning for life. We offer a diverse selection of free, high quality online courses from some of the world’s leading universities and other outstanding cultural institutions.

Monday 2 June 2014, by Bernat Aritz

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A. The main facts about the activities of the company.

FutureLearn is a massive open online course (MOOC) provider founded by the UK’s Open University (a distance learning and researching UK University). It offers a diverse selection of free and high quality online courses from 28 universities (mainly british) and some cultural institutions, as the British Museum or the British Library.

FutureLearn is a private company owned by the Open University, benefiting from the forty year experience of this online university. Courses are accessible for PC, mobile and tablets.

Futurelearn was founded in order to integrate in a joint effort british universities in the new MOOC world, since only 2 british universities were offering MOOCs by that time.

FutureLearn’s courses treat a wide range of subjects such as literature, biology, history, business, computer science, british culture, etc. Courses are divided by weeks; each week contains various activities to be done. These activities include watching the video lectures, reading articles, listening audio records, doing quizzes about the week’s material and sometimes writing an essay. The students have an enormous amount of freedom to choose when to do the work and watch the lectures, so making it compatible with other obligations such as work or other studies is really easy.

The courses vary in length, the amount of work required per week and their starting date. Different courses start at different dates during the whole year and once they are finished they will run again after some time has passsed, making it possible for the course creators to improve them over time.

Courses encourage topic discussion by the students through a forum system and the students can interact with the moderators and/or the teachers of the courses, being able to share opinions with people with similar interests and providing a more enriching learning experience.

It is important to mention that the students can drop from a course at any time if they want to or simply audit the course and not doing the work posed and still have an interesting and enriching learning experience (although these students will not qualify for a certificate of completion). In most courses there is also an option to purchase a Statement of participation or attainment, to prove the new skills learned, but the purchase of those statements is not mandatory.

B. The Ethical challenges this company is addressing.

As it is said in their webpage, “at FutureLearn, we want to inspire learning for life. We offer a diverse selection of free, high quality online courses from some of the world’s leading universities and other outstanding cultural institutions”. Based on this point, FutureLearn seeks to facilitate to people from all over the world, regardless of their culture, age, profession and academic background the learning of whatever they want. Then, the ethical challenges this company is addressing is to offer a wide range of learning processes in a completely open manner without social barriers to inspire learning.

Having a good quality education is something everybody should have. However, due to accessibility issues and economic problems it often does not get the attention and resources that deserves. FutureLearn provides a framework to bring knowledge to people, connecting learners from all over the world with high quality educators. It can be considered as a complement for the ordinary system education.
Furthermore, the fact that it also offers a joint online platform helps to create a community around all the students making the learning process richer and joyful. The way ideas flow around a network provides feedback to the participants and induces to have different opinions about what you are studying. It also creates connections no matter the distance between people allowing you to learn from others, developing new ideas.

Another problem that helps to solve is that some students want to show their knowledge about a certain topic, but they don’t have a formal proof of their interest and knowledge about the subject, and doing a grade or a diploma can be very time consuming and difficult to make compatible with other obligations. These courses can help these people to get accreditation for more specific subjects.

C. What makes you believe this company is really ethical and why you trust it?

Because they deliver quality education to anybody interested at no cost and without entry requirements besides internet connection. The age, economic situation and the previous academic achievements or ability of the students do not matter. Everybody is allowed and encouraged to join in this growing community.

The teachers and the people involved that make the courses possible teach them for free, they are driven by their passion for teaching and sharing knowledge with people from all around the world. This is an important plus to an already good education, since you can feel their strong personal engagement and the love for what they are doing, motivating the learner even further.

D.The possible challenges facing the company in the future and how you think this company may improve.

The most important challenge for the future is to keep growing and vibrant this great materialisation of the idea of open, universal and free education. To keep attracting partners and teachers as well as new curious learners and keep inspiring the older students.

One of the already current problems is that if learners want to get a certificate for the courses they have completed they have to pay a fee and they will recive it at their homes. One solution could be what Coursera (another MOOC platform) already does: deliver a free online Statement of Accomplishment that could be printed by the learner itself instead of having to pay for the printed certificate and the transport costs.

One possible problem that could arise with the expansion of the platform is the need for more resources to be able to effectively organize and deliver increasing numbers of courses. If that was the case they could maybe offer and charge a small fee for new optional additional services, always keeping all course content free and a free accreditation for the work done.

And last but certainly not least, they have to keep the good quality of the courses and keep adapting to the new possibilites that the internet and the information technologies offer for a free and universal education; a pillar for a truly free democratic society and the personal fulfilment of its citizens.








Location: London (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)

Sector: Education

Official website: http://www.futurelearn.com/

Key figures:

Owner: Open University (UK)

Founder: Open University (UK)

Total number of partners: 28 british, irish, newzealand and dutch universities; The British Museum; The British Library; The British Council (2nd June 2014)

Nbr. visits: 586