FutureLearn appoints new CEO to drive social learning

We caught up with new CEO of FutureLearn Andy Hancock to explore the important of the social aspects in hybrid-based education

Andy Hancock has been appointed the position of CEO of leading online learning platform FutureLearn.

A former MoneySuperMarket Group exec, Hancock brings extensive experience of scaling purpose-led consumer brands to the company, whose core mission is to drive wider access to education and technology. 

“It’s been a great opportunity to understand a new sector but also see so many similarities from where I was before,” Hancock told ET of his acclimatisation into FutureLearn. “From a customer perspective, there are many similarities in enabling people to find what they’re looking for and engage with content easily, which is fundamental whichever sector you’re operating in. 

“It’s really important you give your partners the tools and services to enable them to achieve what they want to do as easily and seamlessly as possible, and that’s where I see there’s a real opportunity within the edtech sector.” 

Hancock’s experience with MoneySavingExpert and DMG Media has granted him expert insight into the digital transformation of content and marketplace business; his time with the former, where community and forum was a really big aspect, draws parallels with FutureLearn’s USP around social learning, Hancock told ET. 

“Using technology and data will absolutely form a fundamental part of the learning experience moving forward,” he said. “How we use those technologies to create a more engaging learning experience, to create that environment where you’ve got support from other learners or experts, or you’ve got moderation or facilitation, all the way through to a hybrid model, is really fundamental. 

“I don’t think it’s going to be a case of you either learn in the traditional analog way or you learn digitally – it’s just going to become a seamless experience where some things are completely online and some are a hybrid. 

“I do think things that are completely online are going to evolve because you need to create that peer support environment digitally and that’s where our social learning is really the seeds of enabling people to learn collectively together. 

“Supporting each other and having expert facilitation is the way that platforms are going to move forward. The one thing that you don’t get with a digital learning experience or online course is that support, and that’s something I think is really important in helping people be successful in what they want to do.” 

The Covid impact 

Diving into edtech at a time when the sector is continuing to evolve and adapt due to the pandemic, Hancock is confident that a hybrid model will be the backdrop of future classrooms: “The pandemic has absolutely had an impact on consumer behaviour – it’s the role of edtech and educators to develop services for learners in the immediate formats that they want. There’s been that move from a consumer perspective – what we now need to do is develop new experiences to enable that hybrid learning environment. 

“The days of people getting a job and that being their job for life is just not going to exist anymore – we’ve seen the adoption of the number of younger learners that we’ve got on the platform, and it’s important that we develop services that are aligned to their needs that they can take with them throughout their career. 

“We know that students are going to continue looking for more choice and flexibility, so how can we create that experience where you can deliver affordable lifelong learning, education, everywhere, anywhere, career-based skills?” 

I am confident that Andy’s experience and his vision for FutureLearn brings the company closer to its fullest potential and mission to transform access to education by harnessing the potential of online education. The sector is ripe with innovation and opportunity, and FutureLearn’s unique learner-driven platform remains at the forefront of this as it continues to improve the educational experience of almost 18 million learners across the world – Ron Kalifa, chairman of FutureLearn 

With just over 1,600 course on the platform and 260 partners, FutureLearn offers a range of educational paths at varying lengths; short courses start from just two weeks, ‘expert tracks’ offer longer-term structured pathways, and micro-credentials provide the learner with an academic credit that they can then use towards a degree. 

The social aspect 

A key focus of FutureLearn’s model is the social aspect, which Hancock is keen to drive within his new role: “We see that those customers that engage with our social learning prompts in the course are six times more likely to complete the course, and ultimately our objective is for people to learn more,” he said. 

“Transforming access to education means enabling people to get to courses in ways that they wouldn’t have been able to before, from different geographies, different locations – but also actually in how they learn and the pedological approach that they take. 

“Any way that we can take the learner and hold their hand digitally is really important, because ultimately we need to be focusing on people completing courses and then say: ‘having completed X, would you like to move on and do Y?’. The pathway aspect of lifelong learning is really interesting, whether it’s driven by machine learning, AI (artificial intelligence), or it’s educator led. 

“We’re here to invest in growth. I’ve been hired to transform our technology and data approach to deliver better, more engaging lifelong experiences. It’s building upon what we’ve been really successful at, and I think there’s a big opportunity because there’s a lot more demand. We have to be good in order to retain and engage that demand.”

You might also like: Hybrid classroom: Is it really the future of education?

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