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OU's free learning site turns 15 and reaches 100m visitors

A turtle swimming underwater, and a white OpenLearn logo

The Open University’s (OU) free learning site OpenLearn is celebrating a milestone after clocking up 100 million visitors in the 15 years since it was launched. 

  • 1,000+ courses and 15,000 hours of articles and videos
  • 1 million visits from Scotland in last 2 years
  • Partnerships with Scottish Government, Job Centre Plus and Department for Work and Pensions
  • Scottish users top 15 OpenLearn courses

Established as a trailblazing open educational resource, OpenLearn has successfully broken-down barriers to education, with over a thousand courses and 15,000 hours of educational interactives, videos and articles.

In the last two years, over one million visits came from Scotland, bolstered by a surge in traffic during the first COVID-19 lockdown. 

OpenLearn creates relevant, topical content quickly, and has attracted a wide audience from furloughed workers looking to upskill, students supporting their own learning, children struggling with home-schooling to healthcare professionals searching for advice.

During the first lockdown in March 2020, average daily visits to the site rose from 40,000 to a regular 160,000 per a day.

With bite-size learning on every subject from ancient Greek to renewable energy, OpenLearn has worked with various partner organisations, including the Scottish Government and even has a dedicated hub for Scotland with resources on the nation's history, society and culture. 

Most recently it collaborated with the Department for Work and Pensions and Job Centre Plus (JCP) to help jobseekers develop valuable skills needed to secure employment.

The programme of courses on ‘soft skills’, such as communication, decision making, and leadership are now being actively promoted by JCP career coaches across its 750 branches in Scotland, England and Wales.  

In 2021, Scottish users most popular courses on OpenLearn were:
  1. Understanding autism (badged course)
  2. MSE’s Academy of Money (badged course) 
  3. Supporting children's mental health and wellbeing (badged course)
  4. Introduction to bookkeeping and accounting (free course)
  5. Forensic psychology (badged course)
  6. The science of nutrition and healthy eating (badged course)
  7. Being an OU student (badged course)
  8. Attachment in the early years (free course)
  9. Introduction to child psychology (free course)
  10. Children’s perspectives on play (free course)
  11. Start writing fiction (free course)

With badged courses, a free OU digital badge is awarded for completing all sections.

Vice-Chancellor of the OU, Professor Tim Blackman, commented:

“OpenLearn has come a long way since it started in 2006, with extraordinary growth in visitors and learners. It is a learning lifeline for millions of people across the UK and across the world.

“There are over 1000 free courses on a huge range of subjects as well as over 15,000 articles, interactive activities, podcasts and videos.  

“This month we are celebrating reaching 100 million visitors, issuing our two millionth free certificate and awarding the two hundred thousandth digital badge.”

Director of the OU in Scotland, Susan Stewart, added:

“OpenLearn is a brilliant resource that truly enriches society by providing so many people with life-changing learning, new skills and greater confidence.

“With plenty of new courses, content and collaborations on the horizon, OpenLearn and its inspiring team will continue to empower millions more to learn for free online.”

To find out more about OpenLearn, visit:


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