Archive for category MOOCs

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

Screen Shot 2019-05-17 at 13.36.32.png

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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European MOOC Consortium – Labour Market

Snow on cafe tables and chairs in BrusselsIn January, I was in snowy Brussels with Beck Pitt for the kick-off meeting of our new, Erasmus-funded project, ‘European MOOC Consortium – Labour Market’.

Project description

MOOCs and digital continuous education/training are a flexible and scalable solution for a transnational, truly European response to the needs of the economy across Europe. They can keep innovative knowledge and skills of the workforce up to date and anticipate on careers of tomorrow.

MOOC platforms in the European MOOCs Consortium (EMC) look for solutions to reach better the labour market. In this knowledge alliance, they opt for a structural collaboration with public employment services (PES) active on the national labour markets, with companies and with a sectoral industrial organisation. The alliance is anchored both in the world of work (PES, companies, sectoral organisation) and in the world of education and training (universities, platforms). It shows which role MOOC platforms, universities, PES and companies jointly play on the labour market.

PES and companies are not only mediators between MOOC platforms and individual learners, but also as allies in the (co-)development and (co-)delivery of MOOCs and digital continuous education and training (CE, CT)

The main purpose of the alliance is to strengthen the partners by sharing experience and expertise on MOOCs and digital CE and CT; to create a framework for structural collaboration on the development, delivery and use of MOOCs for the EU labour market; to empower all partners on MOOCs for the labour market, and to implement a responsive and large-scale outreach to the EU labour market. This will facilitate the exchange and flow of knowledge, strengthening Europe’s innovation capacity. The visibility and accessibility of MOOCs for CE/CT will be increased by a joint portal for the EU labour market, surveys and a marketing plan.

Last, but not least, EMC-LM will contribute to regional, national and European policies for continuous education and training, employment and growth, proposing strategies for change and action plans. By doing this, it contributes to the Modernisation Agenda and Digital Education Plan.

Project partners

  • 1. EADTU Vereniging van European Distance Teaching Universities, Netherlands. (MOOC platform OpenupEd)
  • 2. FUTURELEARN, United Kingdom
  • 3. GIP-FUN France Université Numérique (MOOC platform), France
  • 4 TED Telefónica Educación Digital (runs MiriadaX MOOC platform), Spain
  • 5 UniFg University of Foggia (lead partner in Italian MOOC platform), Italy, EduOpen
  • 6 OUUK The Open University, United Kingdom
  • 7 VDAB Public authority for the co-ordination of the labour market in Flanders, Belgium
  • 8 ANPAL National Agency for Active Labour Policies, Italy
  • 9 OPCALIM French government agency in charge of Vocational Training for the food-processing  industry, France

Our first big task in the project will be to produce a state-of-the-art analysis of MOOC provisions for the EU labour market.


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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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Tina Papathoma: viva success

Tina, two supervisor and her examiners

Tina Papathoma celebrates a successful viva

On 17 January 2019 one of my doctoral students, Tina Papathoma, successfully defended her viva. Her subject was ‘MOOC educators: who they are and how they learn’. Her examiners were Martin Weller from The Open University and Jen Ross from The University of Edinburgh in a viva chaired by Karen Kear.

The acknowledgments at the start of Tina’s thesis include a glimpse into the process of completing a thesis.

‘A PhD journey is often a lonely one. I tried to make it more sociable, and at times funny and adventurous, by going to the office every day for the duration of the project. I got to know nice people, during our many light and serious discussions. I want to thank all my office mates, who listened when I had bad days, and especially Lesley Boyd and her hugs! Thanks to all the people at the OU: to the security team who were there to deactivate building alarms as I went to work on Christmas day and bank holidays; to the man who helped me out of the lift when I got stuck and whose name I don’t know; to Mark Gray from Estates, who helped me when I had a head injury in the car park and who secured my bike when I left it unlocked. There are so many such moments that escape me right now!’ (Papapthoma 2019, p3)

Abstract: Tina Papathoma

This study set out to answer the following research questions: who teaches in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and how do these different educators learn to teach?

To do this, it utilised Tynjälä’s theoretical model of Integrative Pedagogy that brings together different elements of professional expertise. To this end, a ‘multiple case study’ was conducted, with a focus on teaching activities and who is involved in them, as well as on educators’ ‘processes of knowledge building’, and the forms of knowledge they integrate. The data comprised 28 interviews with professionals with teaching responsibilities in seven MOOCs on the subject of History and of Politics on the FutureLearn platform. The seven cases were analysed using different strategies (theoretical propositions, ground-up data, and rival explanations).

The analysis showed that the role of ‘educator’ is filled not only by those with the titles used by the FutureLearn platform, but also by other professionals who take pedagogical decisions. MOOC teaching activities are diverse, different from face-to-face teaching and it is difficult for them to be carried out by a single individual. Educators in different courses and different universities used diverse models of work practice, each of which had advantages and disadvantages. MOOC educators learned to teach effectively when they had a shared goal, worked in transparent ways and involved interdisciplinary teams in a timely manner.

These findings can help institutions and platforms to design better Continuing Professional Development programmes and, ultimately, more effective MOOC learning journeys. Drawing on this evidence, the original contribution to knowledge of this thesis is a new conceptualisation of who the educators of MOOCs are, developed by uncovering the roles of professionals who carry out teaching on these courses, the wide variety of teaching activities involved and the ways people learn to work towards these.

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