What are the advantages of studying a free course on OpenLearn?

  • Copyrighted image Credit: Cjwhitewine | Dreamstime.com Courses are either adapted extracts from Open University courses - the same as the ones studied by our students - or complete open courses exclusive to OpenLearn.
  • If you're interested in taking an Open University course, but not sure it's for you, you can get a feel for what's on offer before signing up.
  • Most free courses are available now, whenever now is - you can start right away, or whenever suits you.
  • You can work through at your own pace - if you want to do a burst of ten hours in one sitting - be our guest. Want to spread studying over a longer period? That's your choice. Just use the 'enrol' button, and we'll remember how far you've got through for you.
  • Share what you've learned - build your My OpenLearn profile, download records of activity and earn badges on selected courses.

Browse through our list of course descriptions ... or ... chooose from our full course catalogue

What types of free course are available on OpenLearn?

There are three types of free course available on OpenLearn:

  • open courses
  • badged open courses
  • study units

You can find out about the key features of each type of course in the table below.

  Open course Badged open course Study unit
Complete course  YES YES NO
Course extract NO NO YES
Requires enrolment YES YES NO
Start at any time? SOME YES YES
Free certificate YES YES NO
Free digital badge NO YES NO
Free Activity record YES YES YES

Both open courses and badged open courses require enrolment which will allow you to review your activity and progress in your My OpenLearn profile. If you don't have a My OpenLearn profile, no problem. You can sign up for a free account in minutes.

Please note: Our free open courses do not carry formal credit towards a qualification.

Open courses

Some courses have been specially written for OpenLearn; others may be based on existing Open University course materials or adapted from one of our FutureLearn MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). These free courses always have a specific subject focus, which is usually of high topical interest.

The majority of open courses can be studied in your own time and at your own pace, however there are some that begin on a specific date and allow you to work through the content with other learners at the same time.

When you have completed a course, you can download and print a free certificate – the 'Statement of Participation' – which you can use to demonstrate your learning. 

Badged open courses

Some open courses on OpenLearn allow you to gain a free digital badge on completion. We refer to these courses as 'badged open courses'.  Plus, as well as earning your digital badge, you can also download and print a free 'Statement of Participation'.  

For more information about this type of course, please visit our Badges FAQ page.

Study units

There are more than 800 study units for you to choose from. They are small courses themselves and are adapted extracts of past or present Open University courses. They have no start or end date and you can choose to access them at any time. You don’t have to enrol, but if you do, you can log into your My OpenLearn profile and download, print or share online an OpenLearn Activity Record to keep as a record of your achievements.

Browse the full OpenLearn course catalogue to find study units that are of interest to you.