Who are our learners: Part 2: The ‘Work and Study’ archetypes

Who are our learners: Part 2: The ‘Work and Study’ archetypes

A research-based insight into FutureLearners.

Part 2: The ‘Work and Study’ archetypes.

By Tracey Walker, User Experience Researcher at FutureLearn

In part one, Tracey explained how, last year, the research and data teams set about some foundational research to understand who our learners really are. We wanted to understand their motivations, their personalities and characteristics, where they’re from and other key demographics, and finally, the team wanted to identify their key learning needs. Read more in part 1: what we did and why

In this article, part two of the series, Tracey focuses on one of the groups of archetypes that came out of the research, those who identified themselves as most interested in ‘Work and Study’. Within this category, there were three different archetypes; advancers, explorers and preparers – read on to find out who these archetypes are and what they want from FutureLearn.


Advancers are on their chosen career path. They’re ambitious and self-motivated to do better, progress and not stagnate. They are likely to be employed full-time and a greater proportion are from the 26-35 age group. The highest representation of Advancers were found in Asia (36%)  Europe (30%) and Africa (18%). Advancers made up the highest purchasers of upgrades on the FutureLearn Platform

What do Advancers want from FutureLearn?

  • Work related courses with clear outcomes
  • Up to date information and on trend topics
  • Pathways to specialise further
  • Certificates and accreditation


Explorers are evaluating their options and want to inform their decisions about what to do next. They might be looking to change career, find a better life balance or decide where to start their working lives. They were more likely to come from the 26-35 age group and like Advancers, the highest representation of Explorers were found in Asia (38%), Europe (34%) and Africa (15%).  Explorers had the lowest purchase rate of work and study related groups, but still higher than personal life and leisure groups.

What do Explorers want from FutureLearn?

  • Engaging courses, with cutting-edge, work-related topics
  • Ways to build confidence in themselves, their knowledge and abilities
  • Reassurance about the viability of their chosen path
  • Pathways to more advanced courses


Preparers tend to be starting out in jobs, careers or related study, having already chosen what they want to do. They have specific career or study goals and learn in order to improve their chances of success, improve their career prospects, stand out from the crowd, and increase their confidence. Explorers were mostly in the 19-35 age group and the largest group came from Asia (47%). This group of learners also had the highest proportion of student learners than any other archetype. Preparers had the second highest purchase rate of all archetypes

What do Preparers want from FutureLearn?

  • Courses in up-to-date, job-relevant topics
  • Interactive and engaging learning tools
  • Ways to build confidence in knowledge/skills, e.g. tests
  • Support for non-native English speakers
  • Increasingly advanced courses and learning pathways
  • Certificates and accreditation

Understanding more about who are learners are and what they want from our social learning platform helped inform our strategy. Through this research, we were able to focus on the needs of the learners who were most likely to bring in more revenue and, alongside our partners, build a portfolio of courses to target those learners.

But all of our learners don’t fit into this group of archetypes, so we had more to learn.

Read more in part 1: what we did and whypart 3: Who are our learners: The ‘Personal Life’ archetypes and part 4: Who are our Learners? The ‘Leisure’ archetypes.

Research insights