By default, videos and article steps that you create on FutureLearn are openly available on the web. This page explains a bit about why this is important and how to change this default setting if you choose.
Courses created on FutureLearn will typically feature both ‘highlight’ and ‘open’ steps. A form of Open Education Resource (OER), open and highlight steps enable the course to attract potential learners and persuade them to enrol.
What are open steps and why are they important?
Open steps are article and video steps in your course that can be accessed by visitors even when they’re not enrolled in your course. We strongly believe that allowing as many people as possible to find, enjoy and share parts of our courses is the best way to spread the word about FutureLearn.
- They enable potential learners to get a taste of what’s on offer and encourage them to sign up to courses.
- They also help partners become more known for a particular subject area, or certain keywords.
- They give you more material to use in marketing your courses, as you will be able to link to highlight steps from your courses to help promote them.
What are highlight steps and why are they important?
Highlight steps are a fantastic marketing tool for your course. They are a subset of open steps, and 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:
- Build trust in potential learners by giving them a sneak peek inside the course.
- Entice potential learners to find out more and enrol.
- Allow FutureLearn to communicate and engage with potential learners on social media.
How to choose highlight steps
Highlight steps typically attract more traffic than open steps. Choose only your best open steps to be highlight steps. Try to ensure they relate to the most attractive elements of the course, that they address some of the biggest issues learners might take your course to solve, and that they relate to some of the top search terms around your course subject.
We strongly recommended that you include at least one highlight step per course.
Differences between open and highlight steps
Highlight steps are available to view even before the course has started, from the course description page, and help FutureLearn to promote your course. Open steps are 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.
Tips for a great highlight step
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.
- Facts about your subject that learners may not know beforehand.
- Stories with images or case studies that illustrate your subject matter.
- ‘Cliffhanger’ moments to build suspense and encourage the audience to enrol.
- 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.
Highlight steps will be shareable and available to all. They will 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.
Will all types of step be open?
No – only article and video steps can be open steps.
How does an open step differ from its counterpart inside the course?
Visitors to open steps cannot:
- See or post comments.
- Download videos and related files.
- Navigate through the course
Where a step is ‘open’ or ‘highlight’, signed-in learners on the course will notice share links appear on their view of that course step to encourage them to share the content. Note that open or highlight step content may be optimized for SEO. Changes to open or highlight steps for this purpose do not affect steps inside the course for signed-in learners.
Who decides whether a step is open?
Newly created videos and articles default to open and the toggle, between closed, open and highlight, is available to anyone with Author or Org Admin access. You’ll need to mark steps as closed for those where you do not have the rights to open them. For re-runs, you will need to manually open any video or article steps which can be.
We recommend making as many steps open as you can, and choosing 5-10 highlight steps from those.
When should a course step not be open?
- When 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.
- When the step contains sensitive content. Some examples:
- The content isn’t suitable for all ages
- Comments previously made in the course are referenced
- Sensitive personal case study information is featured that you would rather not be indexed by search
- When the step doesn’t make sense by itself, or isn't relevant to non-learners. People viewing open content won’t be able to navigate to the other steps in the course, see course notices or take part in quizzes and discussions. If a step prepares learners for an assessment, recaps the preceding week, or is particularly short, it should not be open.
- When the content is already published on the web. It’s bad practice to duplicate content across different sites since search engines prefer unique content. If the content of the step already exists publicly on your own organisation’s website or on a third party, it shouldn’t be made open.
- When interactive 'external tool' content in the step is unsuitable to be shared outside the course. External tools allow learners to interact with third-party websites in windows embedded in article or video steps. If the content in an external tool fails any of the tests above, the step in which it sits should not be open.
Will the open steps be open before the course starts?
No. Only highlight steps are visible before the course starts. These appear on the course description page and are available for anyone to access from the point at which your course opens for enrolment. For this reason, please make sure you flag highlight steps to your assigned Course Development Manager, so we can ensure they are ready to be published when the course opens for enrolment.
How do my open steps appear in search engines?
Your open step will be converted onto WordPress in order to give us the best chance of ranking in Google, a new design, and stronger chances of conversion. We may also link to your open step from areas in the blog and elsewhere to provide better visibility, more traffic, and a better chance of getting enrolments from your step.
Your step title and short description are particularly important as they will be shown in search results like the example shown here from Google.
Make sure to:
- use relevant keywords that learners may use to search for your course material
- use active verbs like ‘explore’, ‘learn’ and ‘examine’ to describe the content and purpose of your steps