Why FutureLearn is an outstanding London Digital Innovation

By David Reilly

I believe FutureLearn represents a new wave of London based digital innovations nurtured in London. It is classic British invention and it is free to everyone. Hurray!

In short, the learning platform is producing the type of fully immersive digital experiences that are simply ground breaking and it is rightfully being shortlisted for awards, most recently for a Webby Award. In the past MOOC’s have attracted much hype and expectations particularly in the US but the role of digital in future education has never looked somewhat unclear. Until now. London based FutureLearn is finally providing compelling answer as to where digital might fit in the education model of the future.

So what is Future Learn finally delivering which other MOOCS and elearning platforms have failed to do in the past?

1) Putting conversation at the heart of the learning User Experience (UX) in its course architecture. On every page, every video, and every article FutureLearn have cleverly integrated the discussion right alongside the content. This has been a fundamental key success factor which distinguishes it from its US counterparts.

2) The quality of Video and Audio in the learning modules is exceptional. Not only are the Videos expertly put together in a well structured sequential order but they use Video to expertly educate the audience on complex issues. For example at the start of the Irish Lives in Wars Trinity University Course the complexity of the period is expertly expressed through differing character voices and backgrounds with haunting background music. Watching this video immediately educates viewers on the complexity of perspectives in the Irish East Rising 1916 without patronising any viewpoint.

3) The calibre of learner comments is astonishing. Some of the conversations in the Irish Lives in Wat course indicate that this is the first time students have opened upand discussed very painful issues. Plus the crowd has been very supportive, acting as a kind of crowd sourced psychotherapy support group. FutureLearn through the Trinity University Course is not only educating but healing wounds and creating understanding. Recent data is showing that this strategy is working with nearly 40% of our al their learners actively commenting.

4) The participation of overseas students. FutureLearn is not being watched by UK students but also attracting huge volumes of overseas students. At a time when UK universities are struggling financially this could become one of the most important tools for recruiting overseas students, generating a new income stream and promoted UK Universities overseas

5) Modest leadership. Future learn, based at the London Library has evolved out of the Open university in feb 2013 under @Simon Nelson’s great leadership have gone about their business with focus , diligence and modesty underplaying the hype and focusing on an exceptional online experience that is creating its own word of mouth and momentum. In February 2015 a after 20 months

FutureLearn registered 1 million users from 190 countries. Good luck to them and their Webby award nomination. Keep doing your great work, demonstrating that London is a great nurturing environment for new digital innovation.

David Reilly is a freelance digital marketing consultant will hosting Futurelearn’s Matt Walton on UX innovation at the London technology Week seminar MOOCS and the Future of Elearning on Tuesday, 16th June

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