The following article lists frequently asked questions on research.
When should I notify FutureLearn about my proposed academic research?
If you are planning to conduct research as part of a course, you must let your Partnership Manager know as soon as possible. Please specify the kind of research you plan to conduct, your ethics approval documentation, and the channel you plan to use. Partnership Managers will require notice of at least 30 days to approve your request (assuming all required content is supplied) and put your research in place in the most appropriate way. Some requests may take longer to approve and process, depending on the channel used.
Who can conduct academic research via FutureLearn courses?
Requests to conduct research via courses must be made by a representative from the lead partner for the course/s in question: someone employed by the partner organisation with active involvement in a FutureLearn project. Research requests may be made by a lead partner on behalf of co-creators or affiliated academics (including PhD students)*, provided that both the independent contract between the lead partner and the Co-creator, and the contract between FutureLearn and the lead partner permit the research and any required sharing of data.
* PhD students must have full support and guidance from the project lead or academic lead at the partner organisation.
Where should I share academic research findings?
As a courtesy, we ask that all partners conducting research in courses share the results with us, whether via the final publication or informal reporting. You may also be interested in sharing your results with the FutureLearn Academic Network.
Where can I find the learner-facing statement on research in courses?
Where can I find FutureLearn's research ethics statement?
Our research ethics are available publicly on our website. We ask all partners conducting research in FutureLearn courses to read and embrace these.
What is "data that could allow a partner to identify a learner"?
Data that could allow a partner to identify a learner includes items such as name, contact information, location, and the learner_id field. For more information on learner_id, see Pseudonymity.
How can course datasets be used in research?
Partners may use the datasets generated in the stats dashboard for their own course runs for research purposes. If you wish to quote a learner’s comment, you should follow the same process as you would for a testimonial; request permission from the learner to use the quote, and attribute per their preference, anonymously or with their name. If you identify a learner in order to obtain this consent, you should never add to the data you have on this user with other information you can glean from their account (eg race, location).
When downloading datasets for research, you should use the latest version available. This helps ensure that your research complies with the GDPR right of erasure (‘right to be forgotten’).
Can poll steps be used for research purposes? What about external polls?
If you wish to use a poll step, an externally hosted poll survey, or an exercise step for research purposes, please see these instructions. Please note that poll steps and exercise steps must have a learning objective in addition to any research objective.
How should I attribute quotes to learners?
We consider comments that learners leave in courses to be potentially personally identifiable information, even when given anonymous attribution.
To ensure that your use of comments is GDPR compliant, please contact any learner whose comment you would like to use via the ‘reply’ function and request permission to use the comment, describing how and where you plan to use it. If you are unable to request a reply in this way (e.g. the course has ended), please contact your Partnership Manager for assistance. Learners are also able to request the removal of their comments at any time. See our related guidance on testimonials.
Additional survey questions not part of an academic research project
What if I want to ask learners ad-hoc questions to help improve the course, improve your understanding of learners on the course, or demonstrate course impact?
If you would like to ask learners ad-hoc questions that are not included in the standard FutureLearn surveys, and which do not collect personally identifiable information, this may be permitted once per course with your Partnership Manager’s approval.
How can I send ad-hoc questions to learners?
Inform your Partnership Manager of the questions you want to ask. When these are approved, set up an external survey and use the template text recommended for the channel you are using (course step or email). You can then insert the text with the survey link into the relevant course step or send it to your Partnership Manager for email delivery.
Requests for learner details to promote further learning opportunities
What if I want to collect learner contact details to let them know about further learning opportunities opportunities outside of the FutureLearn platform?
If you wish to follow up with learners for commercial rather than academic research reasons, you must use our Lead Generation tool instead, which is designed specifically for marketing purposes.
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