One million people join MOOC platform FutureLearn

23% of people who start courses go on to complete the majority of steps and all the assessments.

One million people have now joined UK-based massive open online course (MOOC) provider FutureLearn, it has been announced. They come from over 190 countries, with over 2 million course sign-ups. FutureLearn's competitors include US-based Coursera, which has more than 11 million students.

The announcement comes in the wake of the European Parliament’s recent report highlighting MOOCs as one of 'Ten technologies which could change our lives'.

FutureLearn is a private company wholly owned by distance learning specialists The Open University. It currently offers over 220 courses and has 40 partner institutions from the UK, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. FutureLearn’s first courses were launched in September 2013 and reached half a million learners less than a year later.

FutureLearn reports that 23% of people who start one of its courses go on to complete the majority of steps and all the assessments. 39% of the learners are social, making comments and engaging in conversations. The typical age of a FutureLearn student is between 26 and 35, with the oldest being 92 year old Tony Lidster from Bedford. 60% of FutureLearn members are female, bucking the early trend for male-dominated MOOCs.

As Information Today Europe eNews reported back in 2013,  MOOC completion and drop-out rates have always been a point for debate. In its metrics, FutureLearn makes a distinction between ‘learners’ who actually start a course, and ‘joiners’ who initially expressed an interest in the course but for a variety of reasons find they are unable to commit the time to actually begin the course.

Writing in 2014, FutureLearn’s CEO Simon Nelson addressed the issue, arguing that FutureLearn’s  course completion rate “speaks to the effectiveness of the storytelling techniques that we build into courses to compel learners through to the end. Even if we looked at the number in comparison to everyone who signed up to the course, that number still comes in at 12%.”

The European Parliament report highlighted the importance of MOOCs in changing the accessibility and affordability of education, with potential impacts including the disruption of existing supply models on a par with torrenting's impact on film and music.

Information professionals have identified a number of opportunties for libraries to get involved with MOOCs, including helping learners develop their digital skills with a view to widening participation; facilitating and moderating peer support processes; helping to make connections with OA resources and repositories; and advising on copyright and data protection.

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