Simon Nelson

Simon Nelson
Chief Executive, FutureLearn

Simon Nelson is Chief Executive of FutureLearn, the leading social learning platform and first UK-based provider of massive open online courses (MOOCs), which has now evolved to offer fully online degrees.

The Open University-backed FutureLearn site went live in September 2013; since then, it has attracted over 6 million registered learners studying 14 million courses between them.

In May 2015, FutureLearn delivered the biggest single run of a MOOC ever, with a record of more than 440,000 people signing up for the IELTs course from the British Council. In May 2016, FutureLearn launched its first credit-bearing MOOCs, a milestone followed by its partnership with Deakin University in December 2016, offering a suite of fully online degrees. Most recently, FutureLearn announced its first partnerships with key educational institutions in America.

To date, FutureLearn has partnered with a quarter of the world’s top 200 universities, including over 90 UK and international universities, and 36 specialist education providers and centres of excellence, including the British Council, European Space Agency, Houses of Parliament, Raspberry Pi and Cancer Research UK, to deliver free and paid for online courses to its global community of learners.

The company was named “Start-up of the Year” at the 2014 British Interactive Media Awards and won ‘Best Education or Learning Experience” and overall ‘Best User Experience’ categories at the 2015 UXUK Awards. The company also won ‘Free Digital Content/Open Educational Resources’ category at the BETT 2017 Awards.

In October 2016, Simon Nelson was invited to deliver the annual President’s Lecture for the Royal Society of Arts in London, sharing his thoughts on the future of education and the opportunities that digital platforms present.

Simon Nelson has a background in digital disruption as a pioneer in taking media brands and content online. He spent 14 years at the BBC, where he was instrumental in putting radio online, and overseeing its podcasting service and the innovative Radio Player. He then moved to head up all digital content activities for its television divisions where he led the development of the BBC iPlayer and other ground-breaking online products and services.

Simon and his teams have won multiple awards for digital innovation and product development, including several Emmys, Webby and Bafta awards, the Prix Italia, Prix Europa and Rose D’or.

Title of the OOFHEC2017 keynote presentation: 'Digital Transformation: the opportunities of education at scale'

Synopsis: Advances in technology are changing the face of many industries, higher education is no exception. The HE landscape is changing and it's become crucial to develop new strategies to meet the changing needs of both students and universities in this evolving era. As we embrace these digital strategies, we’re able to offer educational opportunities at a scale previously impossible. With digital transformation, the future of education is in our hands, today. What will we choose to do with that power?

In this keynote, Simon will discuss:

  • The key challenges currently facing higher education; achieving a credible digital strategy; driving student recruitment and meeting the shared objectives of universities and business in addressing the skills gap amidst the pressure from governments and students to diversify learning delivery
  • The role digital transformation can play in responding to these challenges
  • How digital transformation can open up education; creating pathways into education and reaching those in territories with historically miniscule levels of tertiary education

There will also be an opportunity to ask questions at the end of the presentation. 


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