More than 380,000 learners from 153 different counties enrolled on the “Understanding IELTS: Techniques for English Language Test” course, which is run by the British Council.
The six-week course is designed to prepare learners for the IELTS English proficiency test. Of those signing up, 55 per cent are female; 41 per cent say they are aged between 18 and 25, with the same proportion aged 25 to 35; and 42 per cent say they are in full-time employment. Some 21 per cent are in full-time education, while 17 per cent are “looking for work”.
Simon Nelson, chief executive of the Open University-owned FutureLearn, said the achievement was “so much more than a simple volume game”.
“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 said.
Referring to criticism that the UK had been slow to launch a Mooc platform, with US organisations such as Coursera establishing and growing quickly, he said the company’s focus on course quality was key.
“We may have been late to the party, but there’s a reason why our learner satisfaction scores are consistently over 90 per cent,” he said.
Peter Horrocks, vice-chancellor of the Open University, FutureLearn’s founder, said the record course was “incredibly significant”.
“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.”
Mr Horrocks was somewhat blunter on Twitter. “UK Mooc snatches world record for sign-ups,” he tweeted. “UK quality beating US $$? Can you hear us Coursera?” he asked on the microblogging site.
Sara Pierson, head of English for education systems at the British Council, said that English was a “language of opportunity” and the sign-up figures showed “just how much people across the globe want to use English…to open up doors whether it be for work, education or to better connect with the growing millions of English speakers around the world”.
A Times Higher Education investigation revealed that Moocs on FutureLearn typically cost institutions around £30,000 to develop, while an earlier analysis showed that, typically, about 13 per cent of people who sign up complete their course.