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, and they 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 learn from each other. 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 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
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. Once they have the required permission, make sure to give them the "Educator", "Mentor" or "Host" role so that learners can see they are part of the course team.
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. Use the facilitation tab shown below in Course Creator, including the facilitation dashboard.
6. Follow our high-level facilitation guidance 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. For technical courses, it may also be beneficial to switch on markdown in learner comments.
9 ways to facilitate
1. Pin comments
- To pin a comment, click on the pink pin icon at the bottom of the comment so that the icon turns blue. To unpin it, click on the blue pin icon.
- Pin up to three strong or important comments to the top of the thread - more than this will disrupt the flow of the comment section.
- 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".
Here's what a pinned comment looks like:
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 feedback. 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 to direct a comment to them specifically.
- 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. You can turn off notifications on your settings page - you can find a guide to doing this on our Learner Help Center.
6. Filter and sort comments
You can find the comment filtering menus (shown below) at the top of the comment section, underneath where the course content ends.
- 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 the notification bell next to your profile picture (shown below) 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 and is located at the top right of the comment, as shown below.
- 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.
- Raise concerns about a comment with our moderators.
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, as shown below, to report a comment or learner profile that is inappropriate (picture, username or profile information).
- After you flag a comment, it will remain visible until it has 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 concerned about a comment but not sure whether it breaks the Code of Conduct, please report it anyway and give as much detail as you can in the comment box.
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, particularly 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 or 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.
Use learner comments to improve your course
- 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.
Terminology on this page that you aren’t familiar with? Check out our glossary.