Most FutureLearn short courses run on our upgrade model.
Learners who join a course for free will get access to the course for its duration (e.g. 4 weeks of access for a 4-week course). If they joined the course ahead of its start date, the access period will start on the first day of the course; otherwise, it will start the moment the learner joins.
If the course closes for enrolment during this free access period, this will not affect learners who have already joined.
To regain or retain access to the course content and earn a certificate, they can either:
- Make a one-off purchase of a course upgrade, which applies to just that course, or
- Subscribe to FutureLearn Unlimited, which gives them the same benefits on all Upgrade model short courses
The benefits of purchasing an upgrade or Unlimited
Long-term access to a course
On upgrading or subscribing to Unlimited, LAYOP restrictions are removed and the learner can access all the course content at once. They will retain access to it indefinitely, unless the course is returned to draft or completely removed from FutureLearn or they are unenrolled.
Learners who have not yet upgraded a short course on the upgrade model or purchased a FutureLearn Unlimited subscription can access course content week by week for the duration of the free access period. This means that they will only be able to access the first week of content for the 7 days after they join, the first two weeks of content for 14 days, and so on.
Access to any tests
Course tests (summative assessment) are only available to paying learners. Access to tests will require upgrading.
Quizzes and peer-reviewed steps (formative assessment) are free. Learn more about our assessment types.
Certificate of Achievement when they complete the course
Learners who have paid for a short course upgrade will receive both a printed and digital certificate.
To receive a Certificate of Achievement learners must upgrade and:
- Mark as complete at least 90% of the steps on a course
- Attempt all test questions
- Attain an overall course score of at least 70% (where the course includes a scored step - a test)
If a learner upgrades their course, but doesn’t achieve a high enough test score to qualify for a Certificate of Achievement, they can contact the Community Team to reset their test score.
Learners who have joined via Unlimited will receive only a digital certificate.
How do we encourage learners to make a purchase?
FutureLearn informs free learners about their personal free access end date in several ways:
a comparison table on the Course Description Page showing what each option offers the learner
- Calls to action within course (see our article on "learn at your own pace" for details)
- an email sent 10 days before the learner’s free access ends
- an email sent on the final day of a learner’s free access
- an email sent 3 days after a learner’s free access ends
- on the ‘Your Learning’ page
Does the limited access period apply to the course team?
Partner users with any of the following permissions will have unlimited access to courses and access to tests on course runs across FutureLearn, without buying a course upgrade:
- Organisation admins
- Run authors
- Run reviewers
- Run facilitators
- Run markers
Please note that users with these permissions cannot earn a certificate at the end of the course.
Limited course access and extended enrolment
The extended enrolment window defines how long learners will be able to join after the final week of the course. By default this is an extra six weeks on most courses (but it can be adjusted by FutureLearn).
Extended enrolment does not extend a learner’s free access period. It only extends the period within which a learner may enrol. For learners who enrol for free on an upgrade course in the extended enrolment window, the normal rules about free access apply.
Example: a four-week course starts on 1 November with a six-week enrolment window. A learner can enrol until 9 January. If a learner enrols for free on this course on 20 December, they will have access until 16 January.
Do free and upgraded learners share the same learning experience?
Yes. Free and upgraded learners on the same course run will access the majority of the course content together, and will interact with one another through social features such as Commenting, Liking, Replying, Following, Peer Review and Study Groups, which will still be available to all learners on the course.
Terminology on this page that you aren’t familiar with? Check out our glossary.