Archive for category FutureLearn

FutureLearn: ten wishes

With the first run of H880 Technology-enhanced Learning: Foundations and Futures near the middle of its first run, I visited the FutureLearn offices to talk to staff about what is working well and about changes I would like to see in the future. My suggestions were based on the experiences of both staff and students. This was an internal presentation, so I won’t share it here, just the high-level  summaries of the ten wishes.

Ten wishes: increased accessibility, cross-course study groups, upload facilities, social group for all students, Notes tool, appropriate analytics, updated portfolio tool, interventions, search facility, and emojis.


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FLAN London/Melbourne

Tweet about the London eventThe FutureLearn Academic Network (FLAN) has grown, with the addition of an Asia/Pacific chapter. The summer FLAN meeting therefore took place in two venues on 6 June. From noon until 6pm, the meeting took place in Melbourne, Australia, with some talks live streamed from Perth. At 6pm Australian time and 9am UK time, a keynote from Mike Sharples in London united the two groups. The event then continued in London, with talks live streamed in from Indianapolis, Madrid, Sheffield  and Milton Keynes. That’s 13 hours of FLAN – with speakers live on three continents!

Programme for FLAN event in Melbourne 6 June 2019

(all timings in local time)

12.30 Introduction: Marcus O’Donnell, PVC Teaching and Learning, Deakin University

12.45 Where to next with micro-credentials – and why? Beverley Oliver, Emeritus Professor, Deakin University

13.30 Enhancing learning experiences beyond MOOCs: design, use, and efficiency of generous interfaces Goki Miyakita, Keio University

13.45 Role of MOOCs in fostering and hindering global learning: Harsh Suri, Senior lecturer, Deakin University

14.00 Workshop on researching digital education: Philip Dawson and Margaret Bearman, Associate lecturers, Deakin University (face-to-face activity)

15.15 Break for afternoon tea

15.30 Panel: What’s the strategic value of researching MOOCs in the university sector? Professor Kylie Readman (PVC Education: Murdoch University), Professor Nick Barter (Academic Director, Griffith University Online) and Dr Clare Lloyd (Academic Director, Online Learning Initiatives, Newcastle University)

16.15 Assessing postgraduate online students’ perception, engagement and understanding on individualised written, audio and video feedback: Anna Rita Sequeira, Astrid Devine and Robert Sydenham, Murdoch University (streamed from Perth)

16.30 FutureLearn Degrees @ Deakin: Master of Information Technology Leadership (MITL): Nick Patterson, Senior Lecturer, Deakin University

16.45 Design of daily video blog enhancing educators’ social presence in MOOCs: Shun Arima, Keio University.

17.00 Clients’ digital stories: using the lived experience to personalise online learning: Darci Taylor, Deakin University

17.15 Refreshments

Programme for FLAN event in London 6 June 2019

(all timings in local time)

09:00 Mike Sharples: Keynote (livestreamed link with Australia) – Pedagogy at scale: past, present and future

10:00 Layla Croll: Responding to learning design (remote presentation from Sheffield)

10.30 Refreshments

11.00 Shi Min Chua: A corpus-assisted discourse analysis of the use and discursive construction of URLs in MOOC discussions (remote presentation from MIlton Keynes)

11:30 Barbara Conde: Using MOOCS as promising language learning objects to facilitate self-regulated learning

12.00 Matt Jenner: Research at FutureLearn – understanding new features

12:30 Lunch

13:15 Paco Iniesto: Understanding the stakeholders’ perspectives to design accessible MOOCs (remote presentation from Madrid)

13:45 Manuel León Urrutia: MOOCs and competencies for Higher Education transformation: an activity theory analysis

14:15 Reka Budai: Partner archetypes

14.45 Refreshments

15:00 Gaurav Nanda, Abigail Genry & Kerrie A Douglas, Understanding what learners like and dislike about MOOCs across subject areas using topic modeling (remote presentation from Indianapolis)

15:30 Annual discussion of FLAN Terms of Reference and Steering Committee

15:55 Eileen Scanlon: Closing remarks, followed by optional tour of FutureLearn offices


Tweet about FLAN in Melbourne

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OU quals on FutureLearn

Screen Shot 2019-05-17 at 14.15.22Another opportunity to talk to OU practitioners about the experience of putting an OU qualification on FutureLearn. This time the event was organised by the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Faculty at The Open University and was the annual meeting of their Taught Postgraduate Group.

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FutureLearn Academic Network: Dublin

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The FutureLearn Academic Network (FLAN) ran its second event outside the UK in March 2019, with a visit to Dublin City University. I led a short workshop session at the end of the event on the network’s plans for the future.


Faílte – Welcome

  • Mark Brown, Director of National Institute of Digital Learning, DCU
  • Mairéad Nic Giolla Mhichíl, The Ideas Lab@NIDL:DCU

Metrics for MOOCs and Masters

  • Tim O’Shea, University of Edinburgh

Running up that Hill: Cross Course Continuation on Irish Language MOOC Isabel Drury, FutureLearn

  • Conchúr Mac Lochlainn, Dublin City University

FutureLearn Update The World of Teachers

  • Isabel Drury, FutureLearn

Inclusive Higher Education through MOOCs: Integrating an Online Social Enterprise Program into an Indian University

  • Jeremy Wade, O.P. Jindal Global University


  • Eileen Scanlon, The Open University

What are they really feeling? Making sense of emotional data in MOOCs

  • Elaine Beirne, Dublin City University

The Big Debate

  • Mark Brown NIDL
  • Graínne Conole Open Education@NIDL: DCU

The Future of FLAN

  • Rebecca Ferguson, The Open University


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OU qualifications on FutureLearn

Screen Shot 2019-05-17 at 13.24.43The OU runs a series of lunchtime seminars on quality enhancement (QELS) each month. It’s an opportunity for practitioners across the university to share their practice with others. I presented in April 2019 about the experience of launching the Postgraduate Certificate in Open and Distance Education (PGCert ODE) on FutureLearn.


In February 2019, The Open University launched its first full qualification on FutureLearn. The new module H880: TEL Foundations and Futures provides successful completers with the 60 credits necessary to obtain a Postgraduate Certificate in Online and Distance Education. The module team has been the first in the University to grapple with the problems of moving from Moodle to FutureLearn, including the different ways of doing things at the OU and at FutureLearn. We were determined that the move would bring benefits to our students, and that H880 tutors would be happy with the move. In this seminar, Rebecca will talk about the process of adapting a module to FutureLearn, the benefits of the move, and the challenges that still need to be addressed.

If you have an OU staff log-in, you can access a video of this talk via the QELS Intranet site.

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FutureLearn Partner Forum

Brainstorming exercise around the roles of FutureLearn partnersFutureLearn now has more than 160 partner institutions, so even at the biggest meet-ups, there’s only room for one or two representatives from each organisation.

January 2019 was my first opportunity to attend in person, for two days of meetings, talks and discussion held at Friends House, opposite Euston in London.

There was a lot of variety in the talks. In one set of lightning talks, partners from four countries talked about thinking big and scaling up their engagement. Learners talked about how they found the FutureLearn experience and what happened next. MOOC leads from some of the most successful courses discussed how they had gone about recruiting, engaging, and retaining learners.

It was a great opportunity to meet people from universities and partner institutions around the world. I was able to talk about developing accredited courses with educators from Deakin, about research with various members of the FutureLearn Academic Network, and about future plans with members of the FutureLearn team.

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FutureLearn Educators

The new module I’m leading, H880: TEL Foundations and Futures, is the first that The Open University is presenting on FutureLearn. The shift from the university’s Moodle virtual learning environment (VLE) to FutureLearn has meant many changes.

The module is using the conversational learning pedagogy supported by FutureLearn. Learners are encouraged and supported to converse about why things happen, offering conceptions of their learning and questioning the understanding of others, in attempts to reach agreement about their reflective understandings. They ask questions, and share experiences, interpretations and links to resources.

We know, from our experience with MOOCs, that conversational learning can generate an enormous amount of discussion. The first run of The Online Educator MOOC, for example, which ran for just four weeks, prompted comments with a similar word length to Crime and Punishment. H880 has 32 study weeks.

Many of these discussions are ‘water-cooler conversations’, like the ones that take place by an office water-cooler. People come in and out; some contribute, some simply listen. Some stay for a while, some are only there briefly. There’s no expectation that students or tutors will engage with the entire conversation, just with the most recent or the most popular comments.

This is a different model to VLE forum discussion, where students and tutors often read all comments posted, and the main learning activities take place elsewhere.

I therefore ran a one-day briefing on 17 November for the associate lecturers (tutors) who would be working on the module, outlining the differences between the VLE and FutureLearn, and suggesting ways of working. I also circulated the first draft of the ‘Tutor Guide’, a resource that brings together a set of information about the module structure, pedagogy, and ways of working, as well as information about available tools and resources.

The module team and tutors will be working together to put into practice a way of working that provides the same level of support for students as on any other OU postgraduate module, without overburdening tutors.

Student Support Team

Support for students at The Open University doesn’t only come from tutors. There’s a team on the LIbrary Helpdesk, where the ‘Chat to a Librarian’ facility is available 24/7. There’s the Computing Helpdesk team, who provide support every day of the year except Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Easter Sunday. There are also Student Support Teams, who answer general enquiries and provide specialist advice on students’ areas of study six days a week.

All three teams needed to know how a FutureLearn module would be different to an H880 module in order to be able to support students. They also all need to be able to access the module (the registration process currently has to take place manually, rather than going ahead automatically, as it would on the VLE). I spent a day in Nottingham, working with 19 members of the Student Support team who would be dealing with H880. As with the tutors, there were opportunities to discuss what would happen when the module went live, and to consider which established practices would change. And, as with the tutors, there was a determination to provide students with the same level of support as they would expect on any other OU module.

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