External tools on FutureLearn give you the opportunity to embed tools from other platforms into FutureLearn and into your course, rather than requiring the learner to leave FutureLearn to experience them.
They work in a very similar way to Exercise steps. The main difference is that unlike Exercise steps, learners will see the tool inside the step, rather than having to click through to another page.
The advantage of this is that a learner can interact with the tool without leaving the page which will hopefully result in more engagement with the step. It also allows learners to use comments with the external tool open on the same page.
External Tools are available to be added to Article, Video, Audio and Discussion steps and will be inserted below the other content on the page.
One thing to remember when adding external tools is that it's important to let learners know that engaging with the external content is optional. Please include this in the instructions.
What will the tools look like on the page?
The below screenshot demonstrates how Typeform will look when embedded into a page.
Where to add the link in Course Creator
You can see the additional field available on the edit step page. Below is an example for a Video step.
Advice for embedding external tool urls
Where available, please use the embeddable versions of the external tool. This gives the best user experience by maximising the space given to the content and removing distractions like site navigation and adverts.
Alternatively, you can:
- Click on the Share dropdown
- Select “Embed”
- Copy and paste the HTML code into any word processor or editor, and then copy just the URL and enter that into the “External Tool URL”
For example, in the case below, only use the bit after https:, rather than copying everything in the section entitled ‘Embed this code’.
External tools should follow the same QA guidelines as Exercise steps, details of which can be found on this page.
However, they have been designed to fit the width of our steps, which are quite narrow. As such, they are not suitable for many platforms that have wide content types. We have made a list of tools that are approved for this type of field below. This list is not exhaustive, please liaise with your FutureLearn contact if you would like to try using another platform.
You should inform us about the use of the external tool by submitting an entry to the form on this page, at least 30 days before your course is due to start.
Designing learning experiences which include external tools
Linking to external tools within steps has some exciting implications for learning design. With tools like Replit and Trinket learners can practice code and engage in creative experimentation. Padlet allows learners to share examples of their work produced through a course, and provides them with flexible ways to share resources and ideas. Typeform allows you to capture learner responses, which could be beneficial for gathering feedback or for allowing learners to self assess their skills at different points in a course.
When considering the tools you might want to link out to, it’s worth considering learning in terms of Diana Laurillard’s six learning types. FutureLearn step content enables acquisition, most steps have comments fields to promote discussion and investigation via searching the web for relevant resources and sharing them via comments. External tools like Replit, Trinket and Padlet can promote production, practice as well as collaboration.