FutureLearn courses should be an inclusive, approachable, and accessible learning experience. Our courses are open to anyone - and this brings learners from diverse educational, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds, many of whom use English as an additional language.
Adopting a conversational tone of voice within our courses creates a course environment where learners feel welcome to share their ideas and contribute through engaging in course discussions. Transforming complex academic concepts into simple ideas which everyone can understand is not dumbing down content; it is being considerate of learners and what they are familiar with.
Submit example content and a course outline to the FutureLearn content team before you build to ensure a smooth Quality Assurance review. Tone and educator presence are challenging to fix when a full course has been built.
Six top tips
- Use plain English, choose short words (strip out adverbs and adjectives) and short sentences.
- Be selective about jargon and specialist/technical terms. Always expand acronyms. Consider what your learner will understand and provide clear explanations (include a PDF glossary) to avoid alienating or discouraging them.
- Use active voice and present tense wherever possible. Directly address learners individually as “you” and refer to yourself as “I” or “we”. See our example conversational tone of voice sentences.
- Use informal contractions i.e. can’t or let’s. But avoid slang, humour, and other cultural references that are unlikely to translate, unless they’re inherent to course content (in which case add some additional explanatory text).
- Be optimistic and inspiring. Write engaging and charismatic content. Learning should be enjoyable!
- Ask questions. Create a two-way dialogue. Courses should feel like a one-to-one conversation between us and our learners. This models active learner-to-learner comment and discussion.
Course Creator has an in-built Readability Checker, which you can use to check whether the level of writing in your articles matches your target audience. Find out more in Build steps.
Great teachers and lecturers often include their own personal narrative to bring content to life, model best practices and make learning memorable. Learners can feel inspired and reassured by their educator(s), in a classroom or lecture setting. They can ask questions and gain clarity when they don’t understand. The same applies to learning in the online environment.
Start by introducing the FutureLearn Educator or Team in a personal way rather than through an academic biography. Allow learners to form a connection with educators outside of an institutional context. Follow this with a call to action for learners to introduce themselves. Educators have then modelled how to share.
Continue educator presence through course content by writing in the educator’s voice. Educators can narrate the content offering examples and reassurances.
Educator presence is especially important for our default course model which is on demand including ExpertTracks where there will be little or no facilitation.
Throughout courses educators can:
- share their own experiences and stories, inviting learners to do the same, establishing a point of view, an opportunity for conversation and examples of theory in everyday
- share their own motivation and interest in the course's big question.
- explain academic literature in their voice, rather than reproducing lengthy extracts
- highlight the benefits and impact of your course or lifelong learning
- use motivational language, congratulating learners on their progress.
- be lighthearted - using rhythm, rhyme or alliteration, to retain learner’s attention
- consider simple audio or videos to introduce educator as a familiar presence.
More ways to create an educator presence
- Educator profiles including a short bio and image can be added to the Course Description Page.
- Quizzes and tests include feedback from educators. Write this meaningful feedback in the same conversational tone.
- If you are going to the trouble of writing specific weekly emails make them great! Write them in the same educator voice, including top tips, further learning links, stories, and questions to encourage learners to continue studying.
Before you start to build your course, explore our editorial style guide and consider our advice when writing up your content.
Terminology on this page that you aren’t familiar with? Check out our glossary.
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