FutureLearn, British Council English Proficiency MOOC Draws 380,000


Over 380,000 students have enrolled in a British Council online course that prepares students for an English Language test. The six-week online course is available through FutureLearn, a UK massive open online course (MOOC) platform.

The course, “Understanding IELTS: Techniques for English Language Test,” has enrolled students from over 150 countries with its biggest proportion of its audience coming from the Middle East and Asia.

Simon Nelson, chief executive of FutureLearn, says the course reveals the undoubted demand for English language learning and the true reach digital learning can have.

Nelson believes the English language learning market is enormous and that the world will see even bigger enrollment in online courses in the upcoming years, BBC’s education correspondent Sean Coughlan reports.

According to the Times Higher Education, 55 percent of the students are female and 4 in 10 are ages 18 and 25. Twenty-one percent are already in full-time education while 17 percent are looking for a job.

The UK has been criticized for being slow to launch and establish a successful MOOC platform. In response to this criticism, Simon Nelson says:

“We may have been late to the party, but there’s a reason why our learner satisfaction scores are consistently over 90 per cent”.

Peter Horrocks, the new Vice-Chancellor of  the Open University, says this course is a great achievement:

“FutureLearn has created the world’s biggest free online course ever. Their well-designed and innovative learning platform has attracted close to 2 million learners from across the globe so far, and [this] announcement shows the impact it can have.”

Horrocks tweeted: “UK Mooc snatches world record for sign-ups. UK quality beating US $$? Can you hear us Coursera?” For Simon Nelson the achievement is not about the sheer volume of enrollment alone:

“The quality of courses coming out of this UK-based platform is set to be a game changer for the provision of free online courses as a whole,” he says.

The free course started May 11 and is taught by lead educator Chris Cavey. It is a six-week course with a certification option available for purchase.

It was designed by the British Council and targeted to non-native speakers of English of Intermediate proficiency. The course prepares students for the IELTS exam, a popular examination for non-native English speakers with more than 2.2 million IELTS exams taken in 2014 alone.

Sara Pierson, the head of English for education systems at the British Council, says that the mere sign-up volume reveals the popularity and urgency of learning English. It is for many non-native English speakers the key:

“… to open up doors whether it be for work, education or to better connect with the growing millions of English speakers around the world”.

The University of London is the newest partner for FutureLearn, making a total of 57 partner institutions for creating and distributing educational content through its platform.