Contributors are people you invite to appear in your course materials.
They can be educators, experts you interview, subjects within case studies, and other guests.
Appearing in a FutureLearn course isn’t quite the same as appearing on TV or in a newspaper – but it still means a degree of public exposure. Learners can offer their feedback directly on the step. Sometimes this can be extremely flattering, and at other times it can be less complimentary. It’s important to make sure that all your contributors are aware of this.
Making personal attacks on contributors is against FutureLearn’s Code of Conduct, but other comments might still be taken personally, particularly if they are critical of, or disagree with, a contributor.
Gaining consent will sometimes be a result of dialogue over time, allowing a relationship to be built between project team and participant. It’s sensible to keep a record of any discussions and to follow up verbal information or assurances with an email or handout.
Whoever your contributor is, you should:
- fully brief the contributor about what the course is, when the course will start, how they will be featured in it, and how learners will use their contribution. Explain that the final content will be a fair and truthful representation of what they say and do.
- ask them to consider the impact of taking part, once the course is live, for themselves and their families.
- agree on their level of involvement beyond appearing in the course materials. Will they be involved in promotion? Will they facilitate the course for a period of time?
- if they are appearing in media, outline the likely time commitment, impact on their daily lives, and the production team’s expectations of filming activities and access
- make clear that you can’t guarantee that they will end up in the final course (if applicable)
- explain that learners may try to contact them via social media, publicly available email addresses, or other public information (such as place of employment).
- give them a Contributor Care form [docx] [pdf] that tells them how to get in touch if they have concerns in the future.
Some contributors enjoy the exposure that appearing in a course can bring, for example attracting followers on social media. Ask any contributors to review their social media privacy settings to make sure they’re happy with what they are making public.
Some contributors may have special needs to take into consideration, for example children, older people, those with mental illness, learning disabilities or other cognitive impairment (such as sickness or other physical or emotional conditions impairing the ability to think clearly).
Other contributors may become vulnerable by revealing distressing or intimate information, such as their medical condition. These contributors need all the same information outlined above plus you should also:
- consider if the person has the capacity to give full consent
- discuss potential consequences in detail, keeping a record of conversations
- assume more responsibility for the contributor’s welfare, as affected by taking part; that may include offering help and reassurance up to the point of the course starting and beyond
- consider including family or friends in any discussions
- engage professional expert opinion, where appropriate.
Some formats can involve contributors displaying their personalities and emotions through their thoughts and actions. This may leave them open to gossip or even the scrutiny of their character and behaviour in the comments of the course.
Such contributors may be psychologically vulnerable. When recruiting these contributors it may be necessary to have them assessed to ensure they are sufficiently psychologically robust to cope with the experience.
Terminology on this page that you aren’t familiar with? Check out our glossary