Practical suggestions for using FutureLearn short courses
The mobile first, asynchronous nature of FutureLearn courses lend themselves well to the current context where there are disparities in accessibility and availability of resources for learning: moving the onus from primarily ‘live’ to ‘asynchronous’ input means learning becomes more accessible and flexible. FutureLearn’s design means that educators can also easily monitor learners’ progress and completion as they work through courses.
With a little planning, FutureLearn short courses are almost a ready-to-go learning resource - timebound (course weeks), broken into chunks (activities and steps). Courses could stand alone, or perhaps be used to run alongside an existing curriculum to add new perspectives, make subjects come alive with high quality media assets or resources, or form the basis of skills development and autonomy in learning choices.
Here are some suggestions on ways which short courses could be used by educators. We’d love to hear any more ideas you have too!
Blended learning: using short courses to complement and existing scheme of work
FutureLearn courses often contain high quality media assets. Videos and audios or collections of archive material such as documents or images can be an inspiring way to motivate students, and could be used in addition to an existing scheme of work.
The short courses found on FutureLearn can work particularly well as a flipped model where the bulk of course content/input takes place outside of any synchronous or group-specific activity, leaving more time for production and/or meaningful engagement/discussion/tasks with peers synchronously. As students are able to work at a pace that suits them and have more opportunity to navigate with content and activities, they may feel more prepared when asked to input or create something from their study. Flipped learning has been shown to be popular with students, can foster autonomy, and allows for much more differentiation and choice. Here, the course is the content input - it is already designed into stages with a logical flow that students can work through to engage with the content prior to perhaps follow up productive work or synchronous interactions in a classroom (virtual).
Course discussions as basis for reflective learning
Students could be asked to complete a course and work on reflective activities based not only on course content, but also on the in-course discussions they have participated in.
Students could complete a FutureLearn short course then apply their learning to their localised context (which could be done individually or as a group, perhaps through project work or discussion).
Partners may identify a selection of courses for their students to choose from and use these to kick off a deeper analysis of the topic in the form of Project Work. Many FutureLearn courses contain extra resources of readings which could support students in their exploration.
It may be that the course topic itself is less important than what you’re asking your students to do with it - for example, write a report based on their experience studying online, choose a course area as basis for a larger assignment, create something fictional based on what they learned - in that case, you just need to make sure your students have a clear idea of what they are supposed to do and how to engage with both the course and the associated productive or reflective activities. That said, you might wish to offer students a selection of choices to choose from to make sure they don’t deviate too far to an area that is unsuitable for their needs.