Developing an evidence base

As part of Unthinkable’s flexible role at FutureLearn we have been regularly asked to create new evidence to inform decision-making and strategic development for the company. Although we pride ourselves on the delivery of practical strategies and the development of digital products and services, we have ensured that we have the capacity to focus on discrete research challenges, and to make sure we know just the right people across a range of sectors who can make our research efforts highly insightful and practical.

For FutureLearn we have taken on number of discrete research projects. We developed FutureLearn’s understanding of the research excellence and focus of UK universities for one project, for another we developed FL’s understanding of the funding culture around education. We also developed a report on ways in which FutureLearn can work with the publishing industry.

Our approach

For research projects we always work with researchers with specific experience for the area of enquiry. We worked with our own Lorna Palmer, who built on her knowledge of Higher Education research strengths. Margaret Koval, who now is now a Head of Development for University of Oxford, joined Unthinkable to help us understand how FutureLearn sits within the potential funding landscape. We brought in industry expert Penelope Woolf, who is currently Strategic Project Manager at Oxford University Press, to help us evaluate different ways for FutureLearn to work with publishers.

All of our research projects have been fast and effective. We can deliver that way because we start by selecting the right lead researcher who can give us all a head start, knowing just the right questions to ask and having built enough trust in their industry that they can get the inside view by reaching out to their network.