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Frequently asked questions

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Using OpenLearn for the first time

What is OpenLearn?

Interested in a new topic and want to dig deeper? Or maybe you're passionate about a subject? Whether it’s a five minute exploration or a 24-hour expedition into learning that you’re after, you’ll find it on OpenLearn for free.

OpenLearn is a free learning platform, delivered by The Open University as part of its Royal Charter commitment to support the wellbeing of the community. We're proud to say that it reaches over 6 million learners a year.

You will find over 1,000 free courses, topical and interactive content, videos and online games on OpenLearn. Follow us on Twitter (@OUFreeLearning) and Facebook (@OUOpenlearn) where we share all the latest free content.

What is the minimum age for using OpenLearn?

There is no minimum age for general use of the site, including access to free courses, articles and other content. However, in order to create an account you must be aged 13 years or over. This is due to Data Protection law which requires parental consent for those under 13, which we are unable to record and process. We are aware of an issue when creating accounts for learners aged between 13 and 15 using the Safari web browser. We are working on and expect a fix for this browser very soon. All other major browsers are working as expected.

Can I get any Open University qualifications through OpenLearn?

It's not possible to gain any qualifications through OpenLearn. You will need to register for an Open University course if you want to become a student and have the support of a tutor, sit examinations. For more information visit the Courses section of The Open University’s website to view the online prospectus.

I'm interested in enrolling on a free course. What does level mean?

Much of the content on OpenLearn will be accessible to anyone with a general interest in a subject. Each free course is set at a particular level to indicate the amount of previous educational experience expected for you to be able to study the unit without too much difficulty and within the stated hours of study. There are three levels - introductory, intermediate, and advanced - indicated in the summary description of each free course. If you are new to higher education we recommend that you start with free courses at an introductory level.

Can I speak to a tutor?

OpenLearn does not provide you with a tutor. Instead you can connect with other learners. Many pages have a Comments section. Once logged in, you can use the Comments to share your ideas, views and questions with others. Unfortunately, we no longer provide this functionality on our free course pages.

Technical questions

What kind of device do I need to use OpenLearn?

OpenLearn is a website which is easily accessible from any web browser whether it is PC/Mac or a mobile device such as a tablet. OpenLearn is optimised to be enjoyed by users on the current full versions of many widely used browsers.

The majority of our interactive content is HTML based which will work on these browsers, however, some older courses may contain Flash which your browser may not be compatible with.

Why isn’t the content working?

If you have any problems with the content such as videos not playing, please email, and provide details of where the problem occurs (e.g. name of course, together with page or section number).

How do I sign in on the website using my OUCU?

If you already have an OUCU you only need to enter it when signing on OpenLearn. No other information is needed (except your password).

Why can't I sign in?

There could be many reasons but the most probable is that you have simply forgotten your password, are trying the wrong one or are entering it incorrectly. Does your username or password contain a mixture of upper or lower case letters? It should be entered exactly.

You could also try clearing cookies from your browser or trying another browser to see if that helps.

If you're still having problems, please email

Is it possible to save the video files to a disk or to my hard drive?

It is possible to download some audio and video files from the OpenLearn website. We enable this where we have the intellectual property rights to allow these downloads - you will see clear links where this option is available.

MyOpenLearn profile

What is MyOpenLearn?

MyOpenLearn is your user profile. It contains the information about yourself that you have provided on OpenLearn as well as any recommendations of what you may also like, the free courses you have enrolled on and your personal tag cloud. From here you'll also be able to track your progress and access activity records. As we roll out badged courses, you will be able to see your badges here, too.

Why should I create an account?

You will get the most from OpenLearn if you create an account (this is free). Creating an account will give you full access to a range of features that are not available to guests, such as enrolling on free courses. From your MyOpenLearn profile, you will be able to track your progress and download an activity record. You are currently unable to unenrol from courses that you've enrolled on, but we have an 'unenrol' option in development. You do not need to create an account if you just want to read content without participating in activities. You can read about how we handle your personal data in ourPrivacy Statement.

How do I update my profile?

To amend your profile, click on your name, which is displayed near the top of each page. You can control what information you share with other people - allowing you to choose if you want to learn in public, or private, or a mixture of both.

How do I delete my profile?

To request deletion of your OpenLearn profile please complete our contact form, choosing the ‘delete online account’ option under ‘subject of query’.

Your OpenLearn profile is linked to an underlying Open University account. If you only wish your OpenLearn profile to be deleted, please make that clear on the form – in this case be aware that your personal details will still exist in your Open University account. If you wish your details to be fully deleted please make sure you request both accounts are deleted. 

Please be aware that deleting your OpenLearn profile will remove any badges you may have earned, and remove all records of your activity on OpenLearn. It is not reversible, and you will not be able to open a new account with the same email address in the future. You can read about how we handle your personal data in our privacy statement at

OpenLearn courses and badges

What are free OpenLearn courses?

There are nearly 1000 courses on OpenLearn, all of which are currently free to study.

OpenLearn courses cover a wide range of subjects taught across the OU curriculum. Many are based on Open University course materials while others are written specifically for OpenLearn.

All of our courses enable you to earn a Statement of participation and some also allow you to earn a free digital badge. You can use your badge or statement of participation to share your achievement with others although they do not carry any formal credit towards a qualification.

Find out more and explore our free courses here.

How do I start a course?

The starting point is the Introduction, under 'Course content'. You then navigate through the course either using the left hand navigation, or the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons. Further help can be found in Advantages of signing up onto a free course.

What is a digital badge?

Some OpenLearn courses carry a free digital badge this is awarded in addition to a Statement of Participation. These courses are 24 hours in length and require learners to read every page of a course and pass compulsory online quizzes. OU-branded digital badges do not carry formal credit but enable you to demonstrate interest in a subject and commitment to your career, and are used to augment CVs and ePortfolios. You can show your digital badges to others by sharing them on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn and by making them public (should you choose) on your My OpenLearn Profile.

Instructions for sharing your badge on LinkedIn

From 'My achievements' in your OpenLearn profile click on ‘share’ and choose LinkedIn.

LinkedIn presents a form:

  • In Certification name enter name of course
  • In Certification authority ‘The Open University’
  • Tick ‘This certification does not expire’
  • Go back to OpenLearn Profile tab, right click on Download and copy the link
  • In LinkedIn paste in ‘Certification URL’
  • Leave others blank and click 'Save'

On LinkedIn your badge then appears in Accomplishments. If you click on ‘See certificate’ it takes you to the badge details page on OpenLearn.

You can now view all of your achievements with The Open University and OpenLearn together.

Find a badged OpenLearn course to study.

How do I get my Statement of participation?

Once you have enrolled on an OpenLearn course and have completed it, you will be able to access and download a free Open University Statement of participation as a PDF.

To gain a Statement of participation learners must:

a) Read the course Introduction and Guidance.

b) Be enrolled on the course.

c) Read every page of the course and submit any quizzes within it.

d) You will be notified by email if you have received a Statement of participation but please allow up to 24 hours for this to happen.
At this point, it will also appear in your ‘My OpenLearn Profile’ in the Achievements section.

The statement of participation does not carry any formal credit towards a qualification.

How do I return to where I left off?

When you access the Introduction section of a whole course or of a session or week of a course, you will see a blue box above the text that provides a link to the last page you viewed. In your My OpenLearn profile, click on ‘In progress’. You will then see a list of all the courses you have started but not completed and the date you last accessed them. If you click on Activity Record you can see which parts of the course you have started or completed. Alternatively, if you click on the course title and then the Course contents tab, you can click directly through to the parts of the course you have completed, started or are yet to start.

I’m enrolled but the course progress tracker is not updating. Why not?

To make sure that your progress through a course is recorded properly, please ensure that you have enrolled on the course. It is possible to move back and forth through OpenLearn courses meaning that some pages and quizzes may be missed. Please check that you have clicked through all the pages of the course and have submitted all required quizzes so that progress is tracked and the statement of participation and badge for the course (if available) can be awarded.

You need to be signed in each time you study/return to the course in order for your progress to be tracked.

If you're still having problems, please email

Where can I take my learning next?

As you think about where your learning will take you next, we wanted to let you know about two possible routes into studying an Open University qualification.

Access module



Making your learning count module


To find out more about these two modules, head over to our 'Where to take your learning next' page.


Privacy and accessibility

Is OpenLearn an open source project?

OpenLearn is committed to open systems and will share its approach with those who may wish to launch similar efforts. OpenLearn is best described as an open educational resources (OER) project. This means that we are using many of the principles of the open source software movement and applying it to materials and tools that help people learn. All of our educational content can be reused according to the Creative Commons licensing that we have adopted and where this logo is seen:Creative Commons BY-NC-SA licence logo

The software tools that we have developed are also being released as open source to make them available for reuse and for others to contribute to the development. Finally, we are trying to use as many open source components in our work as possible, in particular building the main learning environments on the open source Moodle system and Drupal. We do need to use some proprietary software behind the scenes to fit with how The Open University works, but these do not impact on the final system.

What are 'cookies', and does OpenLearn make use of them on its website?

Cookies are small data files on your hard drive or browser. Cookies cannot read your hard disk or make any information collected by use of a cookie available to a third party. A cookie can only be read by the organisation that installs it. OpenLearn cookies store information about your use of the website, in particular, we use these so that we can recognise that you have visited the site before. This information is used for statistical analysis to assess the usefulness of our site and the effectiveness of our navigational structure, and to identify trends in educational needs and demands; it also helps us tailor the information we present to you. Activity on the site is tracked using Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics packages. You can read more about this in our cookie policy.

What information does OpenLearn collect from visitors to the website?

At OpenLearn we want to understand about your use of our website and how we can help you. We do this in three ways: by logging general activity on the site such as the time each visitor spends on the site and whether they have also used some other sites; by tracking the use of content for learning; and by asking visitors whether they are willing to be involved in research. You can read about how we handle your personal data in our Privacy Statement.

CaPRéT copy reuse tracking

For a short period, we used CaPRéT tracking to explore how users were copying information from the site for reuse elsewhere. This activity, which recorded no personal details, has been suspended as the resulting data was not being used.

Does OpenLearn share the information it receives?

We do not release this information to third parties. Understanding how our users interact with OpenLearn helps us to improve the service we offer. If you prefer not to share anonymous information on your use of the site, you can disable cookies from your browser and delete all cookies currently stored on your computer. You do not need to have cookies turned on to use or navigate through many parts of our website.

Can I decide what information about myself is shared with other users?

If you create an account on OpenLearn, other users will be able to see your name, location and study interests. You can choose whether or not other users can see your email address by editing your profile. To edit your profile, click on your name which is displayed at the top right of each page once you have logged in. You can control how much of the information on your MyOpenLearn profile is shared - and by using the 'public view' button at the top of the page, you can see at a glance what other users will see when they visit your profile page.

What alternative formats are available?

Alternative formats of our course material are available on each OpenLearn course page.

You will find a prominent 'Download this course' box with links to access these materials.

To view these you will need appropriate software on your device, or experience of working with the format.

Formats that are available:

We also provide a range of formats which allow the course to be easily shared through other Learning Management Systems.

  • RSS
  • OUXML Package
  • OUXML File
  • IMS Common cartridge
  • HTML
  • Moodle

We cannot provide support for these formats, and they are made on an as-is basis.

For other content on OpenLearn, such as articles, you can print a copy by right clicking on the page and selecting 'print'. You can also download a PDF version by choosing the print destination to be 'Save as PDF'.

For audio and video materials on OpenLearn, we endeavour to provide transcripts and subtitles. Most of our video and audio has an accompanying transcript, although there may be older items that do not. Whilst we work through our older material to provide these, there may be some missing. If you would like to request a particular transcript that we are missing, please email

We also aim to provide accessible alternative formats for most of our online educational activities. Some older activities developed before 2018 (simulating online-experiments, interactive games and features, etc) are not fully accessible which means they do not run on all device types and players. It is difficult to offer alternative formats for those types of content. We are aware of this and are working through old content to make improvements.

If you are a registered OU student with a disability, and you would like to have alternative formats for OpenLearn educational interactives, please contact

Will OpenLearn be compliant with W3C standards and accessibility requirements?

We aim to make OpenLearn content as accessible as possible. We continue to work towards full compliance with WCAG2.1 standards for all aspects of the site, including providing accessible versions of our most interactive content, where technology permits.

OpenLearn has been reviewed by accessibility experts and tested using a range of different assistive technologies and computer settings. While we recognise there are areas that can and will be improved based on recommendations from these reviews and otherwise identified, core aspects of the site are already provided in a way which meets the needs of a wide variety of users. Users with screenreaders should have no difficulty accessing the text-based content. 

On OpenLearn, to adapt the content to your needs or preferences you can:

  • change the colours, contrasts levels, font style.
  • resize text to 200% without impact on the functionality of the website.

  • use assistive technology to
    • list the headings, subheadings and links in the page and then jump to a location on the page.
    • tab through the content, the current location will be indicated by a clear visual change and also reported by assistive technology
    • use ‘Skip to content’ links to jump over repetitive information to the main content
    • control the embedded media player to play audio and video materials
    • use the provided transcripts or subtitles with most audio and video materials
    • download OpenLearn courses in alternative formats (e.g. Word document, PDF, ePub, Kindle eBook)

We strive to exceed current accessibility standards. However, there are limitations to accessibility. We know some elements of the OpenLearn are not yet fully accessible.

  • Older legacy and archived material might not meet current accessibility standards and might not be up to the standard or more recent material.
  • Some third-party content not created by OpenLearn or the Open University, embedded or linked-to content for example, might not be fully compliant.
  • Sites linked from OpenLearn pages may not be accessible
  • Some activities (e.g. maps, charts, graphs, complex quizzes, interactive games and features) are not fully accessible.
  • Some content uses specialised notations (e.g. mathematics, physics, chemistry, music) that are not fully accessible on the web.

For more information on this please see our Web Accessibility Statement.

Copyright & intellectual property

Who owns the intellectual property in materials published on the OpenLearn website?

Much of the editorial content on OpenLearn is produced by The Open University. Some content we republish comes from other, trusted, sources - we acknowledge this material where it is published and explain which licences (if any) apply in the copyright section on each page.

We use images from a variety of sources, and under a number of Creative Commons, Public Domain and copyright licences. The small symbol in the top right of the image identifies the copyright status and, when clicked upon, identifies the copyright owner and, if under a Creative Commons licence, will provide a link back to the source of the image.

The Open University owns and retains copyright in its free course materials. However, our material also includes substantial extracts from other sources: quotations from books and journals, still and moving images, interviews with academic and subject experts and performers, and so on. We make use of these extracts under licence. We make every reasonable effort to clear and license our use of other rights holders’ work. We will remove promptly any material that infringes the rights of others. If you believe that any of our content is infringing the rights of others please contact us by email at

What can I do with OpenLearn materials?

We believe the primary barrier to access high-quality educational experiences is cost, which is why we aim to publish as much free content as possible under an open licence. If it proves difficult to release content under our preferred CC licence (e.g. because we can’t afford or gain the clearances or find suitable alternatives), we will still release the materials for free but under a more restrictive end-user licence.

In the free courses in which we own copyright, unless otherwise stated, these are licensed for you to use under the Creative Commons licence ‘Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share-Alike’.

This means that you must meet the following three requirements to use the materials:

  • Your use is ‘non-commercial’.
  • You always cite The Open University and retain the name of any original authors.
  • You ‘share-alike’; that is, make any original or derivative works available under the same terms as our licence to you. Derivative works could be redeposited in OpenLearn Create.

We recognise that our materials may be more effective if they are adapted or built on (e.g. translated, disaggregated, mixed with other materials, localised with new case study examples etc.). Therefore, we strive to avoid the use of the ‘No Derivative’ restriction on our content.

Therefore we grant you the right to make use of the materials as they are or in modified form. You may translate, modify, print, network, reformat or change the materials in any way providing that you meet the terms of the licence.

Free course content in which we do not own copyright, and which we have licensed for use from other rights holders, are identified in the acknowledgements of every free course and in the article information of other OpenLearn content. At times we may also identify Open University content in the acknowledgements. These extracts (along with any acknowledged Open University content) may be used freely as part of your use of the website but we are unable to grant the right to modify them or to use them as stand-alone items. The surrounding OpenLearn content may be modified, however, and the extract retained for use in context within the modified version.

Many rights owners make their content available under a Creative Commons or other open licence and these will also be identified in the acknowledgements and may be re-used in accordance with the licence identified.

Canonical linking:

When you directly republish content from OpenLearn on your own website, you must indicate the canonical source of the content (the correct URL) in the metadata. You should add this tag in the area of your webpage:

If you have any queries about this please contact

What does OpenLearn mean by ‘non-commercial’ use of OpenLearn materials?

The Open University considers ‘non-commercial’ to include educational institutions, commercial companies or individuals making use of OpenLearn content on a cost-recovery basis.

We aim to make as much free learning content available as possible. We encourage others to adapt and develop our materials in the development of new free learning experiences.

  • You may charge for learning experiences you provide using our materials on a cost recovery basis under the following conditions:
  • You may represent these materials in any format or medium, including photocopied or hard copy printouts/DVD/SD Card. You may make a charge for the recovery of your costs for printing/duplication.
  • Where the OU open media content forms part of a course you are presenting you may charge for the recovery of your costs for value added services such as the provision of the additional or adapted content or tutoring/teaching and support.
  • You may not charge for services in order to return a financial profit (through sales of the content or through placing advertising around them).
  • You may not charge for these services if you have not made significant adaptations of the materials or if our unadapted content forms the main basis of the course. Aggregation of our content does not comprise adaptation.

Please check the licensing conditions for ALL content that is to be adapted. Exceptions to the CC BY-NC-SA can be found in the acknowledgement pages of our free course content.

If you are unclear we are always happy to discuss the meaning of ‘adaptation’ and ‘significant’ on a case-by-case basis. So if you are unclear about these conditions – or feel your case needs special consideration – please contact us at We are keen to explore how we can support your educational service – however big or small.

How do I cite OpenLearn content?

If you use or amend or incorporate any OpenLearn free course content provided under a Creative Commons licence, use the following attribution: ‘(Name of free course). An OpenLearn chunk used/reworked by permission of The Open University copyright © (Year).’ If a chunk has a named author then the following citation must be added ‘Written by (name)’. If your use is online, you must also include a link to the Creative Commons ‘Attribution; Non-commercial; Share Alike’licence.
If your use is offline include the web address'

How do I contribute my own work to OpenLearn?

Our sister website, OpenLearn Create, has been built with contributors in mind. Take our content, rework it or adapt it for your own use and then contribute it back into the OpenLearn community by placing it in OpenLearn Create. The OpenLearn free course content has been developed with individual learners in mind and we take responsibility for the materials held on OpenLearn. It is not, therefore, possible to deposit materials in OpenLearn, only in OpenLearn Create.

Can I use your materials to teach my class?

Educators are encouraged to use OpenLearn content in the classroom.

Can I link to OpenLearn from my website?

Please feel free to link to pages within the website. There must be no claim, appearance, or implication of an affiliation with or endorsement by The Open University. We cannot guarantee the permanence of any specific link other than those to the homepage.


How do I unsubscribe from the OpenLearn newsletter?

Please click on the word Unsubscribe in your copy of the e-newsletter and this will unsubscribe you. Newsletters are sent quarterly to subscribers.

Can I buy Open University books and TV programmes?

The Open University Students Association (OUSA) sells The Good Study Guide. We are in discussion with other distributors about the possibility of making The Open University's products available for purchase.

When we have more information about buying OU books and programmes, we'll update the answer to this question.

Many OU co-produced TV programmes are available on DVD for private purchase. For broadcasters interested in purchasing programmes, full details can be found at our Media Sales Website or contact our distributor direct.

How do you deal with older content on OpenLearn?

The OpenLearn team have a policy for ensuring the quality of older materials on OpenLearn. You can access the latest version of the older content policy by selecting this link.

How can I make a donation?

In developing OpenLearn, The Open University is very grateful for the generous support of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The philosophy of open content mirrors exactly The Open University's founding principles of widening access to high-quality educational opportunities. Through OpenLearn, the University expects to contribute significantly to the development of both the quality and reach of open educational resources delivery at an international level.

The generosity of our users, supporters and partners will help our dedicated staff to continue the academic, pedagogic, technological and research activities that support OpenLearn.

Making a donation

You can make your donation to The Open University using our safe and secure online form.
Please quote OpenLearn in the 'What prompted you to donate?' box. Your gift - whatever the amount - will enable us to continue to fulfil our mission.

You may also send your donation to:

The Open University Development Office
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes
United Kingdom

Tel: 01908 653786


Will enquiries to OpenLearn be answered?

If you can't find the answer that you are looking for, please contact us at and we will try to respond as soon as possible.

Are there other initiatives like this at The Open University?

The Open University is a world leader in the development of open educational resources (OER) and several prominent projects have emerged in recent years reflecting our work in this groundbreaking new field of Education.

To find out more about the Open University OER projects, current and complete, and to view a showcase of our research and good practice which takes place at the University, please visit the Open Educational Resources at The Open University website.

How can I learn what courses and content are coming up?

There is a ‘coming soon’ page that details many of the courses and content that will soon be appearing on OpenLearn, as well as when we expect them to go live.

Can I find the most popular items on the OpenLearn site?

You can find the current top 10 most popular free courses, articles and interactives here. This is based on the number of visits to these pages on OpenLearn in the last 24 hours.