FutureLearn Fellows was launched in 2018 to recognise individuals across the Partnership who contribute significantly to exploring the future of online social learning with FutureLearn. The aim is to provide richer support to our partners who already carry out research on and around their courses on FutureLearn. We believe it will help enhance both FutureLearn specifically and the understanding of online learning more generally.
Lisa Harris, University of Exeter
Working on how MOOCs can be used to support the development of effective personal learning networks, drawing upon tools created with Nicholas Fair on the Learning in the Network Age MOOC while at University of Southampton. Also investigating how MOOCs can be integrated live within university modules and as building blocks of full degree programmes.
Philip Tubman, Lancaster University
Working on their PhD exploring the question of ‘How can an interactive visualisation encourage social learning practices on the FutureLearn platform?’. Exploring social learning practices using conversation as a unit of inquiry and has developed a taxonomy to indicate diversity and continuity in conversations.
Eileen Kennedy, University College London
How can we (re)design online discussion to make it a much more powerful pedagogy? Can we use carefully constructed discussion prompts (in combination with other tools or exercises) to elicit participants’ (mis)conceptions more effectively and scaffold mentor-learner or peer-peer feedback opportunities to provide more effective support? We will identify courses where participants are not currently engaging in substantial and interactive discussion in comments and redesign the prompt for subsequent runs to examine the effects. Working with Diana Laurillard and Yarik Kryvoi.
Rebecca Ferguson, The Open University
An analysis of conversational learning on a set of MOOCs put together by the OU, Glasgow, Leeds, Birmingham and Monash universities. Wanting to expand this by understanding wider enrolment behaviours and patterns in their cohorts taking history courses. Also looking at educators and how they transition to becoming MOOC educators.
Neil Morris, University of Leeds
The impact of MOOCs on learning, university students, digital skills and employability; investigating the role for unbundled online education to support the digital skills gap. Using FutureLearn data to expand previously conducted research on these data with colleagues from the OU, Birmingham and international universities.
Diana Laurillard, University College London
Working through professionals, in challenging contexts in vocational education and in working with migrant populations in other countries, to develop courses that support them in using digital and non-digital methods with their own students and staff, in their diverse locations, and in sharing and collaborating on appropriate pedagogies with their peers on the courses. Working closely with Eileen Kennedy and Yarik Kryvoi.
Bronwen Swinnerton, University of Leeds
How learners comment in MOOCs – and if that bears significance on how they are retained. Looking at how their evaluation reports and wanting to extend beyond the just data offered – asking how else to evaluate it further or how does such an evaluation live beyond a project? Keen to take code that visualises FutureLearn course data and how this may be extended further into the Partnership.
Kerrie Douglas, Purdue University
Exploring learner behavioural data from pre and post -course surveys using the old SurveyMonkey data collection format. Analysing over 300k responses and cleaning up response data. Generating insight from post course surveys on what worked well, and what could be improved. Working with a number of students studying and researching at Purdue.
Giora Alexandron, Weizmann Institute
Learning analytics and educational data mining. Exploring issues such identifying ‘optimal’ learning paths and discovering resources that are helpful for answering questions correctly and identifying cheating, unauthorised collaboration, frustration, etc. Exploring courses form the learning design to understand the context and then using clickstream data, forum discussion, and meta data on course structure.
We wanted to provide a way for current research students to also join the program. There is little difference between a Student Fellow and a Fellow except that Student Fellows are sponsored by an existing Fellow.
Fereshte Goshtasbpour, University of Leeds
Examine the linguistics accessibility or lexical demands of learning with MOOCs. A corpus-based linguistic study in collaboration with two other colleagues. Project is likely to start in Summer 2019. Also exploring “Learners’ expectations from MOOC educators” which will rely on questionnaires and interviews with learner with the purpose to compare educators involvement in discussions in comparison with what learners expect them to do. To see if there is a mismatch.
Yarik Kryvoi, University College London
More details forthcoming. Working with Eileen Kennedy and Diana Laurillard.
We know that a number of our partners already carry out research on and around their courses on FutureLearn. We want to support and encourage this, as we believe it will help enhance both FutureLearn specifically and the understanding of online learning more generally.
By identifying individual researchers from our partners as FutureLearn Fellows, we want to to:
- Recognise the people who have a dedicated research focus on expanding understanding of the FutureLearn platform and pedagogy
- Provide support to enhance their research outcomes
- Enhance understanding and insights into how people learn online
- Enable more effective learningon FutureLearn.
In order to facilitate this, we plan to put in place an agreement which lays out the gives and gets for Fellows and FutureLearn, supported by the necessary legal agreements to enable appropriate sharing of data for research purposes.
In outline, we plan to offer Fellows:
- A two year appointment recognised by FutureLearn with simple renewal.
- Public and open support for research projects or bids for funding opportunities aligned with the aims above.
- Named contact points for proposals, publications and regular liaison.
- A platform for sharing and networking via FLAN, Partner Forums and related events, and a partner-facing online space to review and share projects.
- Access to known cross-course and learner-based datasets to enable research planning and proposal development and submission
- Public exposure and promotion as a part of our new Research Insights channel and/or supported PR when publishing via external blogs, paper submissions and conference proceedings.
- Input into roadmaps and planning for pedagogic and product development where there is alignment of FutureLearn’s strategic objectives with demonstrable research outcomes.
The benefits for FutureLearn, and the partnership network as a whole, are:
- Relevant research which informs the development and direction of FutureLearn’s platform and pedagogy.
- Advance notice of research interests, proposals and publications (i.e. before project proposals are created and/or are aligned to strategic objectives)
- A robust commitment to the informed and ethical use of data, including adherence to a legal framework and publication guidelines (see below).
- Effective and timely sharing of research outputs and outcomes
- Networked champions who can directly influence strategic directions of FutureLearn and will act as ambassadors for the FutureLearn partnership
- Increased research activity for publication on our research and insights channels and engagement with FutureLearn PR.
- Larger-scale research projects and/or access to funding opportunities through Fellows’ access to research funding, collaboration between Fellows (and partners), and sharing of broader datasets.
We’re in the process of working out the details of the Fellows program, including how we will manage their appointment, and the specific legal framework.
As part of the Fellows programme, we will enable Fellows to use cross-course datasets for research which requires comparisons or aggregations across multiple FutureLearn courses - including those delivered by other organisations on FutureLearn. We will be putting in place a legal framework and guidelines to ensure that data and information about individual partners’ courses is processed in line with FutureLearn’s own data protection policies, and anonymised where any research outputs are shared in the public domain.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who will Fellows be working with in FutureLearn?
Much like how we work with you on courses, Fellows will be supported by the Content Team on a day-to-day level and specialist input from other areas such as Learner Experience, Data and Insight, UX and Research, as needed.
Can a Fellow be a student?
Existing Fellows may ‘sponsor’ Student Fellows within their organisation, taking data ownership and reputational responsibility for them.
How many Fellows will there be?
There will ideally be no limit to number of Fellows - but this is new to us so we’ll need to keep it at a manageable level.
What about payment? Or costs?
There may be opportunities for nominal payments from FutureLearn accounts provided to Fellows. There are no direct costs for being a Fellow.
How will data be provisioned?
- Individualised data from standard surveys, e.g. pre-course, post-course, etc.
- Non-identifiable data from the FutureLearn platform, limited to data which is available via the Course Creator datasets and/or the FutureLearn Data Warehouse (a more extensive dataset) and excluding personal, identifiable user information (e.g. names, partner export IDs, contact details, comments and payment information)
- Data to be generated and shared in response to a research proposal and data specification, within a c. 2 week timeframe and no more than once per month
- Provided in CSV format via SFTP (using SSH key pairs)
- Supplementary additional datasets (e.g. ad hoc surveys), though this may be subject to longer turnaround times and additional partner permissions.
What kind of legal framework is in place?
We have a legal framework to cover data handling and sensitive information. A named Fellow and their institution will be subject to a data handling agreement with FutureLearn which will establish the Fellow and their institution as acting on FutureLearn’s behalf. This will be in alignment with the new GDPR changes with immediate effect. Fellows must adhere to FutureLearn’s own data protection policies (including data retention) and role as data controller.
What kind of output will Fellows create?
Publication of research by Fellows is encouraged - ideally in your own preferred journal or publication in the first instance. Our Research Insights page is also always a good destination for your work and another platform to get noticed on. To maintain academic freedom, FutureLearn does not have sign-off on research conclusions or publications - but the sharing of commercially sensitive information is not permitted. FutureLearn will get advanced sight of draft publications, to provide an opportunity to challenge facts and/or plan any helpful PR. Fellows must also protect the reputations of FutureLearn partners by maintaining the anonymity of partners and courses in published research.
How do I become a Fellow?
This is a new initiative for FutureLearn and will certainly evolve as we learn more about what works well and less well with the scheme.
We are particularly interested in research projects that will help improve the experience for learners on FutureLearn. My colleague Katherine Weber, our Academic Engagement Lead, will be more involved in working with researchers whose projects relate to teaching specific disciplines. Together, along with the rest of the Content Team, we're committed to making FutureLearn Fellows a success for us and our partners.
If you are interested in becoming a FutureLearn Fellow or want to suggest a colleague who might be please complete this application form.
Fellows may apply any time but we reserve the right to review applications quarterly. Fellows should expect to hear back from us from between 2-4 weeks after the application is made. We may ask for more details, or a sponsor, before proceeding.