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Education & Development

10 things you might not know about OpenLearn's free courses

Updated Monday 5th September 2016

Get the lowdown on 10 facts you never knew about our free courses.

1: Our most popular course over the past 10 years has been 'Start Writing Fiction'

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It seems we have the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King in our virtual midst, given the popularity of our 'Start Writing Fiction' course. Start Writing Fiction will give you an insight into how authors create their characters and settings while encouraging you to pick up your pen and do the same. If you've always had a passion for writing but never quite got it off the ground this is the ideal free course - who knows, you could conjure up a character as well-known as James Bond, or a fantasy world to rival Middle-earth. 

2: Got an e-book reader? You can get our free courses on Kindle, Android or iPad

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Our free courses aren't just limited to ye olde desktop or laptop. We understand how our learners may not have access to the internet at any given time or place - which makes our free downloads from Amazon, Google Play and iTunes ultra handy. Now you can abandon The Evening Standard on your train commute home and immerse yourself into the world of learning instead via e-book - having your brain fully occupied will make those signalling delays just outside of Watford just that little bit more bearable. 

3: We can teach you about the smallest things (pesky mosquitos) or the biggest (deepest, darkest space)

There is no subject, too big or too small (literally), that we won't tackle. Our free courses pick apart the broad subjects or focus in on the more specialised. So whether you want to find out why everyone's holiday nightmare manage to resist insecticides, or explore the scale and variety of items within the Universe - our free courses come in all shapes and sizes. See Mosquito Resitance to Insecticides or Galaxies, Star and Planets to get started.

  • Find out about the biggest event of them all with our 20-hour advanced level free course The Big Bang.

4: For some our courses we provide a free digital badge so you can share your achievement with others

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In the days when some of us may feel inclined to share pictures of what we had for dinner on Instagram, it seems only natural that we would want our skills recognised visually. What's more, we may want to shout about what we have learned on our CV, to our bosses or to our peers. We listened to our informal learners who wanted some sort of recognition; the result is free digital badges for completing our badged courses.

"What's a badged course and why do they differ from our other 800 free courses?" we hear you ask - well, in addition to reading the course, on a badged course learners have to pass online quizzes to earn their digital badge, along with an accompanying Statement of Participation.. So whether you fear fractions and want to to Succeed with Maths or are look for a new job and want to Succeed in the Workplace try our range of badged coursee to give you the confidence and motivation you need.

5: Fancy yourself as the next Fred or Ginger? We have a free course for that...

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With the popularity of shows like Strictly Come Dancing over the past ten years, OpenLearn is nothing if not fashionable with the release of our free course Dance SkillsPerfect for dance teachers of any discipline - from ballet to zumba - our dance course encourages you to teach dance students how to use their body in a safe way while developing a dance vocabulary that'd make the likes of Beyonce green with envy! Additionally, you should be able to promote discussion and debate about dance issues throughout the dance curriculum through what you have learned. 

  • Waltz, step-ball-change or pirouette over to our 12-hour free course Dance Skills

6: Our busy producers publish 10 free courses a month (on average)

ten birthday candles Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: © Elena Schweitzer | - Ten birthday candles

As our tenth birthday approaches, it's particularly fitting that our average amount of courses published per month is 10. Keeping in with the whole 10 theme, did you know that our most popular free courses (besides the invincible Start Writing Fiction) include something for those with an interest in finance, the mind or the classics? See our free courses Introduction to Bookkeeping and Accounting, Introduction to Child Psychology and Getting Started on Classical Latin to find out more. Our top 10-hour courses include The Importance of Interpersonal Skills, Nutrition: Vitamins and Minerals and Design Thinking

7: Our free courses traverse the universe and time - from Ancient Greece to Rigel

You're able transport yourself to a completely different place or era with our range of free courses. Who needs Dr Who's Tardis? You can go back in time to Ancient Greece or the Latin speaking areas by taking our 12-hour introductory free course Discovering Ancient Greek and Latin or you can travel lightyears away with our 16-hour intermediate free course Comparing Stars. We've also free courses on the most widely spoken languages (see our Beginners' Chinese) or ancient languages set in a modern cultures (see Discovering Wales and Welsh: First Steps).

  • Learn about different languages, cultures and communication with our extensive range of languages free courses

8: Our longest free course is a whopping 55 hours 

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If you want a free course you can really sink your teeth into our advanced free course An Introduction to Information Security will keep you going for a while (55 hours, in fact). The course discusses the importance of protecting information, especially in light of the stolen or missing data stories in the news. Alternatively, if you're after something short but still mainstream An Introduction to Music Theory will be right up your street at only three hours long. 

9: 21% of our informal learners don't have English as a first language

Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: © Ozmosis | - English and Phrasal verbs

The English language is a notoriously difficult language to learn - just think of it's use of homophones (e.g. 'I decided to desert my dessert in the desert') to remember why! So imagine the difficulties you may face at academic level if it's not your native language. Luckily we have a free course for that, naturally. If you're not confident with your ability to speak English you can check to see if you're suitable for higher education modules with our free course Am I Ready to Study in English? The course gives you the opportunity to reflect on your English language skills through a series of academic exercises and enables you to identify language areas which require further development. Of course, once you're done with this, make sure you check out our full range of free courses to take your studying further. 

  • If you want to swot up on your English, grammar of business English make sure you take a look at all our English free courses.

10: You could study our free courses for 500 days (if you really wanted to)

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Yes, if you had no sleep, time to eat a quick sandwich or take a toilet break and just flat-out studied it would take you just under a year and a half to complete all the free courses.  Of course, this isn't recommended. A good place to start, if you're new to studying, is brushing up on your study skills to improve your abilities in literacy, numeracy or the digital world - head over to our skills for study page to find out more.

The Open University launched OpenLearn, a website dubbed 'The home of free learning', in October 2006 and since then it has gained over 40 million unique users and won awards recognising its array of valuable free learning content.
To celebrate OpenLearn's 10th anniversary, we are releasing a new listicle centralised round the number 10 on the 10th of every month in the 10 month lead up to October. Check out our Ten Years of OpenLearn hub to enjoy even more free learning!





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