University expands online course portfolio with FutureLearn


The University of Michigan’s mission to share knowledge across the globe and shape the future of learning is further enriched through a new partnership with the social learning platform FutureLearn.


With the announcement Sept. 24 of the partnership by university leaders and the United Kingdom-based platform’s CEO, Simon Nelson, U-M is reinforcing its commitment to fostering open, global, diverse, flexible and inclusive learning environments.

FutureLearn’s diverse community includes nearly 10 million learners worldwide, with significant reach across Europe and large communities in India, Egypt, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Ukraine, Spain, Brazil and China. About 60 percent of its learners are women, which makes the platform noteworthy in the online learning space.

The platform’s content priorities, which include health, teaching, business and technology, align well with several areas of the university’s expertise as well as interest and demand from global learners, said James DeVaney, associate vice provost for academic innovation and founding executive director of the Center for Academic Innovation.

Photo of Charles Severance and Simon Nelson.
Simon Nelson (right), CEO of the U.K.-based social learning platform FutureLearn, talks with Charles Severance, a U-M clinical professor of information. (Photo by Cy Abdelnour, Academic Innovation)

“In order to create a more informed, peaceful, equitable and empowered society, we need to help learners everywhere to learn with and from each other,” he said.

“FutureLearn shares our aspiration to transform access to education, and has demonstrated real expertise in creating social, mobile and local learning opportunities while bringing breadth and depth to learners at all levels.”

In partnership with the Center for Academic Innovation, U-M faculty will start by launching three online learning experiences on the platform:

  • Programming for Everybody: Getting Started with Python
  • Sleep Deprivation: Habits, Solutions and Strategies
  • Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skill

Enrollment has begun, and the courses start Oct. 14. Additional courses will be launched later in the year.

“Our purpose at FutureLearn is to transform access to education, and we’re delighted to be partnering with the University of Michigan who is aligned with our purpose and values,” Nelson said. “Our team is particularly looking forward to working with U-M faculty who have an impressive track record developing quality online experiences and a large and involved alumni base.

“Our partnership will also include conducting new learner research and developing new pedagogies for learning at scale and, I believe, will ultimately push the boundaries of online learning.”

FutureLearn was formed in 2012 by The Open University and is now jointly owned by The Open University and The SEEK Group.

“FutureLearn is a great start in the next chapter of The Open University legacy, and I am honored to be part of the effort going forward,” said Charles Severance, clinical professor of information who created the Python course.

“I am looking forward to interacting with students using the FutureLearn environment. From the beginning, The Open University pedagogy has been focused on student engagement online and at scale. I look forward to learning new approaches to student engagement using FutureLearn.”

U-M was one of the first universities to offer massive open online courses to learners around the world as a founding partner with Coursera in 2012. It expanded its digital presence as an early partner with edX in 2015.

Led by its Center for Academic Innovation, U-M has developed and released more than 160 massive open online courses and teach-outs with faculty from the university’s 19 schools and colleges. Since offering these online learning experiences, U-M has seen more than 8 million enrollments from more than 190 countries. Courses across the three platforms are all accessible through Michigan Online.


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