Open and highlight steps are steps open to search engines. When creating video and article steps in Course Creator, you can select a step to be an open or a highlight step and are prompted to write a description of the step.
Open steps are then converted onto WordPress in a slightly different design. This version ranks higher in Google and is publicly available without having to enrol. They are a form of Open Education Resource (OER) and their purpose is to attract potential learners to your course.
By default, video and article steps that you create on FutureLearn are set to be open. This means they will be migrated into WordPress versions openly available on the web.
Courses with open steps get 375% more enrolments than those without
Selecting an optimum number of the best and most suitable open steps and highlight steps has a significant impact on both course performance and GMV.
Watch this YouTube video to find out more about the value of open steps.
- Enable potential learners to get a taste of what’s on offer and encourage them to sign up to courses.
- Help partners become more known for a particular subject area, or certain keywords.
- Give you more material to use in marketing your courses, as you will be able to link to open steps from your courses to help promote them.
- Only available when a course has begun, and can only be found through web search, helping the course to appear in search results and attract a wider audience.
Visitors to open steps cannot:
- see or post comments
- download videos and related files
- navigate through the course.
Open and highlight steps contain share links to encourage people to share that content on their social profiles. The blog versions of these steps are also sometimes edited for marketing purposes so that they perform better as open steps. These edits will only be reflected on the open step and will not affect the in-course experience.
Select open steps
Select your open steps before Quality Assurance.
Newly created videos and articles are open by default. Anyone with author or org admin permission to your course can select whether a video or article step is closed, open or a highlight step. At the QA stage, Editorial Specialists may close some steps at their discretion if they are not appropriate (for example, if they refer to an exercise or recap the week).
You are welcome to open as many steps as you like as long as they are appropriate.
- Shorter courses (2–4 weeks) should have at least 8 open steps
- Medium courses (4–6 weeks) should have at least 10 open steps
- Longer courses (6+ weeks) should have at least 15 open steps.
Do not open steps that:
- introduce the course or team
- include recaps of that weeks learnings
- refer to or prepare learners for an exercise
- contain sensitive content i.e. the content isn't suitable for all ages
- you don’t have the rights to make the content publicly accessible to all. You may only have permission from the copyright holder to display the content to signed-in users taking part in the course.
- the content is already published on the web. It’s bad practice to duplicate content across different sites since search engines prefer unique content.
- contain an embedded 'external tool'.
Open steps should always make sense by themselves as a single unit of content, without having to see the previous or next step. People viewing open steps in WordPress won’t be able to navigate to the other steps in the course, or take part in quizzes and discussions.
Prioritise steps to be open if they:
- answer to ‘how to’ or ‘what is’ questions
- compare two concepts or things
- are long-form content articles with in-depth explanations
- are information-rich or focused on data
- are ideally 250+ words.
Optimise open steps
Your step title and short description are particularly important as they will be shown in search results like the example shown here from Google. Be sure they are descriptive and include active verbs like ‘read’, ‘watch’, ‘explore’, ‘learn’ and ‘examine’ to describe the content and purpose of the step.
- They need to make sense in isolation.
- Some courses have the same name for multiple steps, but all open step names should be unique.
- Make sure to use relevant keywords in the description that learners may use to search for your course material.
In order to improve readability and SEO performance, make sure that you:
- break up long-form content with relevant H2 subheadings that explain what's in each section of text
- turn long lists into either bulleted or numbered lists
- put figures and data into simple tables.
How to videos
Highlight steps are a fantastic marketing tool for your course. They can be viewed by anyone who lands on a FutureLearn Course Description Page. They appear underneath the ‘Try It’ section, linked to at the top of the page. Highlight steps appear on the CDP 24–48 hours after they are selected, and only after the course start date has passed (they will not appear on a CDP that is published and open for enrolment but has not started yet).
They can help:
- build trust in potential learners by giving them a sneak peek inside the course
- entice potential learners to find out more and enrol
- FutureLearn to communicate and engage with potential learners on social media
- gain more traffic and better rankings than open steps, so should be the best and most relevant examples of content in your course.
Highlight steps are available to view even before the course has started, from the Course Description Page, and help FutureLearn to promote your course. Please bear in mind that it can take up to 24 hours for highlight steps to show up on the Course Description Page after you’ve selected them.
Select highlight steps
Highlight steps typically attract more traffic than open steps. Every course should have 2–3 of the strongest open steps as highlight steps.
A good highlight step will pique interest in potential learners by offering at least one of the following:
- high-quality articles or videos relating to core themes in your course and addressing problems that your learners want to solve
- being related to top search terms
- facts about your subject that learners may not know beforehand
- stories with images or case studies that illustrate your subject matter
- relatable information to draw the audience in and create a desire to know more
- tips, tricks and advice from educators
- infographics relating to your subject matter
- compelling content that will drive enrolments
- clear descriptions will help learners find the steps when they search for relevant terms.
Follow the same guidance as that for open steps above regarding step title, length, and which steps not to choose.
Watch our YouTube video about choosing great highlight steps.
Highlight steps will be shareable and available to all. They should relate to the course title and make sense to someone encountering the course for the first time, so they need to be simple, short and easy to digest. They should also have a clear call to action at the end and an idea of what to expect in the next step.
When creating and editing video and article steps in Course Creator, you can select a step to be an open or a highlight step:
The short description you provide for the open or highlight step appears in Google searches, be sure to include keywords that learners may search for, that are relevant to your course: