Now that many short courses on the FutureLearn platform have been moved to the 'on demand' model, they will run continuously and therefore will not be facilitated all year round.
By design, FutureLearn courses do not rely on constant facilitation to provide a quality learning experience. Therefore this article can apply to any low facilitation course and provides guidance about how Partners can run courses with limited facilitation while maintaining a rich social learning experience for learners.
Manage learner expectations
It’s important to let learners know the level of facilitation that will be provided as early as possible in the course and the dates when the course may be more highly facilitated. The best places to do this are in the Course Description Page and welcome to course emails, and in the text of an early course step.
Sample course step copy for unfacilitated courses
“The Educators won’t be able to join the discussions themselves or respond to individual comments, but the course encourages a strong learning community. The learning is focussed around debate and discussion - supporting other learners, sharing your own experience and knowledge, and listening to new perspectives. We hope that you will enjoy interacting with and learning from each other in this way. Don’t forget to comment, reply to other learners and ‘like’ comments.”
Week 1 email suggested text for unfacilitated courses
“I will be encouraging you to take part in online discussions with your fellow learners as the course progresses. Use these discussions to ask questions if you’re struggling, and help other people if they’re stuck. I won’t be able to answer any of your questions myself or respond to emails, but I hope you’ll find the feedback videos at the end of each week useful.”
Establish educator presence
There are three key areas where you can establish educator presence within courses without direct facilitator involvement:
- Use ‘I/We’ and adopt a personal tone in step text, including weekly introduction steps and end of week reviews.
- Include personal, encouraging tone in weekly course emails (there are more tips for writing course emails here).
- Add feedback after learner responses on quiz, test and poll steps. This feedback pops up with the lead educator’s profile image.
For courses that will have limited facilitator, make sure the focus of social learning is peer-to-peer and encourage these interactions wherever possible.
During the course production phase pay particular attention to step discussion prompts, weekly emails and other moments in the course where the educator is addressing the learner. Keep the prompt focussed on learner interactions, not the educator’s responses. See Case Study 1 below for an example.
Case Study 1: No facilitation, the Open University’s Bookkeeping for Personal and Business Accounting
This course from the Open University was designed to run with no facilitation. The text below from the Course Description Page and an early step was used to manage the expectation of learners around the level of facilitation.
From the Course Description Page
“Develop ideas through conversation… This course is not facilitated. Learners are encouraged to support one another, share personal experiences, and see new perspectives.”
From Step 1.2 Welcome to the course
“Learn from the experts and develop your own ideas through conversation
This course has been created by Devendra Kodwani, Senior Lecturer in Finance at the Open University Business School. The Business School have spent the last 30 years refining their distance learning approach which allows managers to continue at work while studying and for you to apply new knowledge and skills right from the start.
Devendra won’t be able to join the discussions themselves or respond to individual comments, but the course encourages a strong learning community. The learning is focussed around conversation and you are encouraged to support other learners, share your own experience and knowledge, and listen to new perspectives. We hope that you will enjoy interacting with and learning from each other in this way.”
Everything in moderation
Although your course may not be facilitated, all FutureLearn courses are reactively moderated by a specialist third party moderation service. If a learner ‘flags’ a comment, this team responds in accordance with moderation guidelines based on our Code of Conduct, Terms & Conditions, and best practice. Read more about how moderation works on FutureLearn.
If you would like to discuss designing and/or adapting FutureLearn courses further, contact your partnership manager, or email email@example.com.
You'll find more information about preparing course runs for being 'on demand' in this article.