Facilitation involves staff members assigned with roles as educators, facilitators, and mentors engaging with learners in the comments of steps. Comments appear by default on all steps except peer review, exercise, quiz, and test steps. Comments work the same way for educators and learners.
Liking, and replying to learners on steps, answering their questions, and pinning strong comments to the top of threads helps learners vicariously learn. Facilitation benefits learners now and in the future. They can read and engage with your past interactions. You can also find out how learners interpret your content and the questions they ask.
Most of our short courses are now on-demand they are available continually for learners to enrol and study. Social learning continues without facilitation. Learners embed knowledge through peer-to-peer discussion in the comments.
Align learner's expectations about your course and what facilitation they will receive by planning in advance and following our top tips.
1. Pin and unpin a comment within an early step in your course to make clear to learners if facilitation is or is not taking place. Avoid amending step content with this information.
Example pinned note about facilitation. You can only pin notes once the course is live
2. If you are going to facilitate for a period of time advertise the dates via facilitation windows on the Course Description Page (CDP). If you arent going to facilitate follow our on demand top tips to avoid implying that educators will reply to learners and utilise our automated social prompts.
3. Assign team members with organisation admin, author or facilitation permission to access Course Creator. Add facilitator’s profiles to the CDP in the details tab, in ‘course educators’. Be sure to check they have an up-to-date FutureLearn profile.
4. Facilitate with purpose. Aim to build a learning community, enhance their learning experience, build rapport, demonstrate your expertise, train fellow staff members in distance learning skills.
5. Utilise the facilitation tab in Course Creator including the facilitation dashboard.
6. Follow our high-level facilitation guidance (at the bottom of this page) for courses with sensitive or technical content.
7. Gain a snapshot of the most recent comments on a course in the Conversations Feed (next to 'to do' tab).
8. Access FutureLearn's facilitation training course our exclusive short course designed specifically for partners. Discover how facilitation can enhance the course learning experience, the role of the facilitator on FutureLearn, and how to use FutureLearn’s facilitation tools. You’ll end the course ready to develop a facilitation approach that works for you, your team, and your learners - and with a certificate of completion to evidence your learning. Join the course using this facilitation course sign-up link or speak to your Partnership Manager.
9 ways to facilitate
1. Pin comments
- To pin a comment, click on the pink pin icon. To unpin a comment, simply click on the blue pin icon.
- Pin up to three strong or important comments to the top of the thread.
- Comments can be pinned by anyone with facilitator, author or organisation admin permissions.
- Learners will see the role of the person who pinned the comment (educator, mentor). If there is no role assigned to that person, learners will see ‘pinned by course team’
2. Reply to learners
- Answer educational questions when other learners have not been able to
- Set an encouraging tone - online learning can feel isolating and requires strong self-motivation without positive reinforcement. Many learners are new to online learning, to online interaction, or even learning itself.
- Answer general functional or technical queries.
- Move conversations back ‘on track’ and intervene if necessary.
3. Like and bookmark comments
- Let learners know that you think one of their comments is good in a ‘light touch’ manner by liking them. They will receive a notification.
- Like comments to show your appreciation, empathy, or agreement with a learner’s contribution.
- Bookmark comments to refer back to.
- Bookmarking a comment does not notify the learner who left the comment.
4. @ Learners
- Encourage relevant discussions, insert @ and the name of a Learner.
- Learners can only mention other learners within a thread and cannot use this functionality in standalone comments.
5. Follow learners and they will follow you
- Follow learners to see all their contributions. Press the ‘follow’ button on their profile, or next to any of their comments.
- Learners and educators receive email notifications for every new follower. Turn off notifications under ‘Email Settings’ and ‘Email me when I have a new follower’ on your settings page.
6. Filter and sort comments
- Filter comments to only see conversations of learners who you follow.
- Reduce comments to a manageable number, build a network.
- learners follow and filter to see educators comments. Educators profiles are important.
- Filter by your own name to look back on your own comments.
- Filter by comments you have bookmarked.
- Sort by ‘most liked’ to see the most-liked individual comments. These might be: thoughtful or insightful, questions that need answering, really useful answers, good rebuttals to bad questions.
- ‘Most liked’ also shows threads of comments that have a lot of likes between them. One individual comment might not have attracted a lot of likes, be the overall conversation has.
7. View notifications
- Click on ‘notification’ to view your feed and who has interacted with you.
- learners will be notified when you reply to them, follow them or like one of their comments.
- Read more about on-site notifications for learners
- You can also change your settings to receive email notifications when another learner interacts with you. To avoid overwhelming you with emails you will receive at most one email per day (per course).
8. Create a URL for a particular comment (permalinks)
- Gain a direct URL to a specific comment (even if it is mid-conversation).
- Right-click (ctrl-click, with a mouse, or long-press, on a touch screen device) the timestamp of the comment. The timestamp will be the date or time the comment was posted.
- Copy and paste the URL (e.g. ‘copy link address’) from the menu e.g. https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/start-writing-fiction/3/comments/5540841
- The URL will change in your address bar once you visit it, e.g. https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/start-writing-fiction/3/steps/28712?page=7#comment_5540841
- These URLs are not permanent. The number of comments on a page will increase over time and eventually the URL will not point to the same comment. Always use the above technique to get the link to a particular comment.
Use comment URLs to:
- Keep a record of particular comments
- Share a comment internally amongst your team
- Include in course notices (with the learner's permission)
- In other comments on the course, for example to point a learner to a related conversation
9. Report and flag comments - moderation
- FutureLearn employs a specialist third-party moderation agency that works on a shift basis, around the clock, every day of the year to reactively moderate all courses.
- If a learner ‘flags’ a comment, this team responds in accordance with moderation guidelines based on our Code of Conduct, Terms & Conditions, and best practices. Read more about how moderation works on FutureLearn.
- Press the flag button and select a reason from the drop-down, to report a comment or learner profile that is inappropriate (picture, username or profile information).
- Comments remain visible, after being flagged until they have been moderated.
- If the moderator finds that the comment broke the FutureLearn Code of Conduct, the comment is removed, and the learner is automatically notified by email that their comment has been hidden.
- If you are uncertain about a comment, it’s better to report it and let a moderator decide what to do, than to leave it to chance.
High-level of facilitation
Highly technical courses, courses with sensitive (health, care) or divisive course content or courses aimed at vulnerable people may be delivered for a limited run period with a high level of facilitation.
These courses benefit from a high level of facilitation because educators can:
- answer complicated questions if learners get stuck and cannot progress. Especially if third-party software is being used.
- provide a sense of authority or calming voice on divisive or sensitive discussions.
- point learners to external specialist communities / dedicated support forums specific software manufacturers.
- monitor dedicated ‘let’s help each other’ discussion steps where common questions can be raised - fostering a culture of learners helping each other.
- invite guest educators for specific periods (e.g. one week) on specific step(s).
The number of facilitators depends on your team, their experience, resources, and other commitments. One person, a group of experts, or a team of ‘hosts’ (who understand the platform and can act as a guide) can all support a course. It is not the duty of facilitators to answer every question or respond to every comment. This isn’t practical. Decide on the time your team can offer, post as much as you feel necessary in the time available.
For technical courses, it is may also be beneficial to switch on markdown in learner comments.
Use learner comments to make course improvements
- Maintain a living FAQ while facilitating your course, in your own records. If the same questions keep coming up from lots of learners on the course, you can use this information to make improvements to future runs.
- Take note of themes and noteworthy comments/discussions to include within weekly emails in future runs.
- Comments do not pull through into new runs.
Screenshots and examples
Facilitator tab in Course Creator (these tabs will appear differently depending on permission level):
Like and bookmark icons appear below posted comments:
Follow a learner:
Filter and sort comments using the drop downs below your own comment box:
Notifications appear next to your profile image in the top right when you are logged into Course Creator:
Report comments using the drop-down:
Create a permalink:
Terminology on this page that you aren’t familiar with? Check out our glossary