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The Open University's free learning site turns 15 and reaches 100M visitors

A turtle swimming under water with the words OpenLearn above it

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.

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 200,000 visits came from Northern Ireland, bolstered by a surge in traffic during the first COVID-19 lockdown.

With relevant, topical content created quickly, OpenLearn 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 day.

With bite-size learning on every subject from ancient Greek to renewable energy, OpenLearn has worked with various partner organisations, including the Department for the Economy on initiatives such as ‘Transition to HE’, a package of free resources to prepare students for their first steps into higher education.

Most recently, OpenLearn has partnered with Invest Northern Ireland to offer a range of free training and learning resources to re-power businesses. The programme of courses on leadership and management, entrepreneurship development, and digital skills are available to all SMEs across Northern Ireland to support with recovery after the impact of COVID-19.

In 2021, the most popular content amongst Northern Ireland learners was:

  1. Collaborative problem solving for community safety (free course)
  2. MSE’s Academy of Money (Badged course)
  3. Introduction to bookkeeping and accounting (free course)
  4. Online training support for businesses (hub)
  5. Understanding autism (Badged course)
  6. The science of nutrition and healthy eating (Badged course)
  7. Being an OU student (Badged course)
  8. 57 genders (and none for me?) - part two (article)
  9. Beyond belief: talking to the dead (interactive)
  10. Do you have a photographic memory? (interactive)
  11. Everyday maths 1 (Badged course)
  12. The Belfast linen industry (article)
  13. Supporting children's mental health and wellbeing (Badged course)
  14. Attachment in the early years (free course)
  15. The geology of Northern Ireland (article)

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 Ireland, John D’Arcy, added: “OpenLearn has provided so many opportunities across Ireland for people to step into learning in a unique and accessible way.  It really is a treasure trove of courses from ‘Bookkeeping and accounting’ to ‘Understanding autism’. OpenLearn brings to life our mission of being open to people, places, methods and ideas. We are pleased to see 200,000 visits across Northern Ireland and how it is growing every year. We encourage anyone who has not explored this amazing resource to do so and learn something new and join the other 100 million learners today.”

To find out more about OpenLearn, please visit:

A picture of Christine Murphy who has fair curly hair and is smiling and wearing a white jumper

For media enquiries please contact:

Christine Murphy, Communications Manager

Tel 028 9053 6219