British Council’s English Language MOOC Called Largest in World

The British Council has created its first massively open online course (MOOC), which it believes to be the largest English language-learning course in the world.

More than 100,000 students have enrolled in the online course offering lessons in the English language, with one-third taking part on mobile devices.  The course has enrolled students from 178 countries with the majority of the students from Spain, Burma, and Russia.

“English is spoken at a useful level by one in four people worldwide – and we know that even more people all over the world want to learn English,” said Sara Pierson, the British Council’s head of English partnerships.  “The British Council has taught English around the world for 80 years, but this is certainly the biggest new class we’ve ever welcomed.  The course is certainly experimental, but it brings people together in new ways, and that is what the British Council has always done. With students from Burma to Brazil, this will be a very diverse class. It’s great to be able to use new innovation to help so many people not just gain vital life skills, but also a better understanding of the UK.”

The British Council launched the new course, “Exploring English: Language and Culture,” through FutureLearn, a major online-course provider in the UK.

“Learners are taking the course from countries like Burma and Algeria, where Internet penetration is relatively low, yet the appetite for learning English is clearly thriving,” said FutureLearn’s Kathryn Skelton.

The course has created the highest number of enrollees for any FutureLearn course to date and has helped the company reach a new global level.

The six-week MOOC is geared toward intermediate-level English speakers, using videos, quizzes and discussions to help users learn the language, as well as introducing them to British culture.  Teachers and course moderators will be available for online tutoring.

All videos were shot in the UK offering authentic language examples used in every-day life.  Users will be able to interact with each other to help gain fluency.

A large portion of the course will be spent focusing on natural speech and how the English language can be used.  Written assignments will be peer-graded through social media tools.

A student analysis of the course reports that twice as many women are signing up for the course as men.  Most of those taking the course are graduates who are under 35 years old.  The course is increasingly popular with teachers.

English language MOOCs are not new to the scene.  Open English, an MOOC geared toward teaching English to Latin Americans, was founded by Andres Moreno in 2008 and now enrolls more than 100,000 students.

The British Council course is offered free of tuition and has no final exam, but students can get a “statement of participation.”

“We’re thrilled at the success of the British Council’s first course on FutureLearn. There’s a huge demand for quality English language teaching around the world, and the British Council’s reputation in this field is naturally a big draw for our learners. ‘Exploring English: Language and Culture’ promises to provide vital language skills for work and everyday life, in a fun and engaging way,” Simon Nelson, CEO of FutureLearn said.