First free online course on FutureLearn announced

Wednesday 30 April 2014


The British Council announces its first free online course on FutureLearn

From autumn this year, learners from all over the globe will be able to interact with each other while developing their English vocabulary, and reading and writing skills.

Miami: 30 April 2014 The British Council will offer its first free online course for learning English on FutureLearn, the global social learning platform, later this year. It also will be the first online course on FutureLearn from one of its cultural partners.

With 80 years’ experience in teaching the English language around the world, the British Council has developed the course for non-native speakers with intermediate levels of English language proficiency. It will include learning about British culture and traditions to enable learners to gain a better understanding of life in the UK.

The announcement was made at ‘Going Global’, the British Council’s annual conference for leaders of international education, held this year in Miami April 29-May 1. The news came ahead of a passionate debate at the conference on the future potential of free online learning, otherwise known as massive open online courses, or MOOCs. Experts including the CEO of FutureLearn, Simon Nelson, the CEO of Coursera, Daphne Koller, and Adam Habib, Vice Chancellor of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa discussed whether free online learning courses create opportunities to widen access to education or not.

Commenting on the announcement of the new course, Anna Searle, the British Council’s Director of English, said “We are delighted to be working with FutureLearn to develop a new and innovative approach to English language learning, combining social learning tools with the British Council’s capability to design and deliver high quality English language courses. We have a strong reputation for providing outstanding opportunities to learn English, through face to face courses, working with ministries, and access to online language development. I am excited by the potential of this partnership which will enable us to reach new audiences globally and equip FutureLearn learners with the skills and confidence in writing and reading in English using the FutureLearn social learning platform”

Simon Nelson, the CEO of FutureLearn, said “I’m excited that FutureLearn will offer its first course delivered by one its cultural partners. With its long history of teaching the English language to non-native speakers, the British Council is a natural choice to deliver this course. People will be able to access the learning for free, and what’s more, they will be able to learn English and about British culture by interacting with other learners from all over the world.”

The course will be open from autumn 2014 on

Notes to Editor

The session ‘MOOCs going global, giving access: miracle or myth?’  will be chaired by Prof. Paul O'Prey, Vice-Chancellor, University of Roehamptonand the panellists will be Prof. Apoorvanand Jha, Professor of Hindi, University of Delhi, India; Prof. Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa; Prof. Daphne Koller, CEO and Founder, Coursera, USA; Simon Nelson, CEO, Futurelearn, UK.

The session will be streamed live from 13:30 local time (18:30 BST) via

Simon Nelson is available for interview. The CEO of FutureLearn, Simon Nelson, has a background in digital disruption as a pioneer in taking media brands and content online. He spent 14 years at the BBC, where he was instrumental in putting radio online, and overseeing its podcasting service and the innovative Radio Player around the turn of the millennium. He then moved to head up all digital content activities for its television divisions where he led the development of the BBC iPlayer and other ground-breaking online products and services.

About the new course:

·         The course is intended to be suitable for learners at B1 to B2 level (IELTS 4.5-6.5).

·         The course will directly practise listening reading and writing skills. There is currently no facility within the FutureLearn platform to practise speaking but we will be exposing learners to a wide variety of spoken English through video and we will cover exponents of spoken language that learners can practise themselves in the daily lives.

·         We intend to utilise the social media tools in the FutureLearn platform to encourage peer assessment of written work - this could be formal extended writing tasks, but we would also like to experiment with the use of short informal writing tasks in which texts are created collaboratively.

·         The course content is not designed to link directly with a UK Government recognised Secure English Language Test (SELT), such as an IELTS exam. However, we hope that participants on the course will feel confident to then explore options towards taking a SELT.

For Interviews please contact Tim Sowula at or +447771 718 135

About the British Council’s work in English Language Learning

·         The British Council creates international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. We are a Royal Charter charity, established as the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations.

·         The British Council is a world authority in English language teaching, learning and assessment.

·         The British Council has been teaching English for 80 years. In 2012, over 368,000 learners took part in our teaching centre classes hosted in nearly fifty countries, and worldwide we reached nearly 150 million people via broadcasts, print or digital English teaching. In 2012 we worked with 3.2 million teachers and learners in online communities.

·         The British Council also conducts IELTS tests globally, the internationally recognised English language test required for entry into higher education. Over two million IELTS tests were delivered worldwide in 2013/14. Over 9,000 organisations worldwide, including over 3,000 institutions in the USA, now accept IELTS scores.

·         The British Council was a founder partner of FutureLearn, a social learning platform that is the first UK-led MOOC provider.

·         FutureLearn went live in September 2013 and to date has 26 university partners, as well as the British Library, British Museum and the British Council.

More facts about the British Council’s work in English:


About Going Global

·         The British Council’s ‘Going Global’ conference is the leading annual global event for leaders of international education

·         The conference brings the global experts to share the latest thinking on the issues that really matter for the future of higher education around the world.

·         More than 1,000 leaders in higher education, business and government will gather in Miami Beach from April 29 – May 1. This is the first time the conference has been held in the Americas. Over 70 countries will be represented by a delegation including 125 university presidents, vice-chancellors, pro vice-chancellors, and government ministers.

·         The 2014 conference theme is ‘Inclusion, Innovation, and Impact’

·         Nine pieces of new research will be presented at this year’s conference

·         The British Council’s work keeps the UK at the heart of the international HE landscape and central to its development - and Going Global is a vital part of this strategy

·         Follow the conference on twitter @hegoingglobal

Going Global media contact details

In London, Tim Sowula, or +44 207 389 4871 / +44 7771 718 135

In Washington DC, Alex Dimsdale, or +1 202 588 7837 / +0012026441521

In Mexico City, Daniel Chavez Heras, or +52 (55) 52631981


In Rio, Ana Signorini, +55 21 2172 5202

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.

We work in more than 100 countries and our 7,000 staff – including 2,000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the arts and delivering education and society programmes.

We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A core publically-funded grant provides less than 25 per cent of our turnover which last year was £781 million. The rest of our revenues are earned from services which customers around the world pay for, through education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and supports prosperity and security for the UK and globally.

For more information, please visit: You can also keep in touch with the British Council through and

About FutureLearn

FutureLearn is a global social learning platform that represents the next wave of free, online courses that support learning for life. It offers courses for people to access and enjoy wherever they are in the world on multiple devices. 

The team at FutureLearn is made up of professionals from the media and digital industries. They are backed by educators and learning technologists from the Open University, which has over 40 years experience in distance learning.

FutureLearn partners include the Universities of Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, East Anglia, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Leicester, Loughborough, Kings College London, Lancaster, Leeds, Monash, Nottingham, The Open University, Queen’s Belfast, Reading, Sheffield, Southampton, Strathclyde, Trinity College Dublin and Warwick. In addition, FutureLearn’s cultural partners are the British Council, British Library and the British Museum, which have all agreed to share content and their expertise to collaborate in the development of courses through.