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This content is taken from the University of Southampton's online course, Archaeology of Portus: Exploring the Lost Harbour of Ancient Rome. Join the course to learn more.

How to study this course

If this is your first FutureLearn course, you may wish to view a brief introduction to how it works. More detailed guidance is provided via the FAQ link at the foot of every step.

Participating in the course

This course is organised as six separate weekly topics, but you are free to join in as much or as little as you want or are able. If you miss a week because you were busy, ill or simply not interested in that topic, you have not ‘failed’ the course. You can catch up later or decide to focus on the parts of the course that really interest you. We have provided links to further reading material and other resources; you don’t have to look at these as part of the four hours commitment to the course though, they are there for you to simply explore if you wish to. So there is no wrong way of studying this course, but you need to find your own personal ‘right way’.

There are many opportunities to post comments, read what others have written and add replies. However, you may choose to just watch the videos and read the articles. There is no right or wrong way to study the course, but we do think that the more effort and time you put in, the more you will get out.

Participating in an online discussion with thousands of other learners can seem overwhelming, so we suggest that you read through no more than two pages of comments before choosing one or two to reply to. There is a ‘Like’ button for every comment, so you may also want to use this to quickly acknowledge good posts. You will also be able to filter the discussion to see the comments that have the most ‘Likes’.

You can comment on any step, but there are also specific discussion activities where you are asked to give your own answer to questions posed by the tutors. We recommend you type these in to a word processor, then copy, paste and post your response before you look at anyone else’s response. That way you won’t be influenced by what they have written or feel that ‘it has all been said already’.

Getting help

We value your input and encourage you to use the question mark at the bottom of each each page to send us comments or suggestions relating to the platform or the implementation of the course - for example to alert us to broken links or unclear text.

For discussion or questions about the course content, please use the comments. We have a team of facilitators monitoring these, and of course we hope that you will help your fellow learners as well.

Communicating online

  • Comments should be brief and to the point; no more than two or three short paragraphs. This is a conversation, not a monologue - no one wants to read essays!

  • Read your comments and replies all the way through before you post them.

  • Criticise the idea, not the person – and be polite when you do.

  • Don’t write a reply that you wouldn’t say face to face.

  • Remember that learners vary in culture, age and experience - be tolerant and constructive.

  • Not all learners have English as their first language, so always try to write clearly.

  • Explain any acronyms you use and avoid jargon if you can.

  • If you see a message that you think is offensive click its ‘Report’ triangle icon. It will be reviewed within three hours by FutureLearn and will be removed if they agree with you.

Effective study skills

One of the great things about FutureLearn is that you can fit your studies around your other activities. Its mobile-friendly design makes it easy to keep up with discussions and fit a single learning step into a few spare minutes. That said, you really need to plan for some dedicated study time each week. Which days or evenings suit you best? Set aside that time and try hard to avoid letting other activities eat into it.

You should avoid distractions so you can focus and concentrate. Find a comfortable working space where you will not be interrupted. When you are online you are one click away from many distractions, so close down Facebook and just keep the FutureLearn window open.

You will need to actively listen to the videos. We recommend that you make brief notes of the key points as you listen, pausing the video if necessary. You can drag the slider to re-view parts that you didn’t understand the first time. Every video and article has its own comments section where you can ask or look for comments to help you understand. If you prefer, there are also text versions of each video that you can print, read and annotate while you listen.


There is a short quiz at the end of each week to help you check your understanding. Note that not all of the answers are specifically given in that week’s steps and so we are expecting you to think carefully and choose what you think is the correct answer. Every answer has detailed feedback, so you may learn something new even if you choose the wrong answer! You will also find shorter quizzes as part of each ‘find of the week’ activity.

By the way, it is a good idea to mark each step as complete before you move on to the next one - it really helps you see how you are progressing through the course.

Studying at Portus

We run the Portus Field School each year on site in Italy. This course is drawn from activities taking place there and we hope to provide you with a virtual experience of being a Portus Project member working at the site. If the course inspires you to go further you might like to join us in Italy in the summer. Details of how to attend the Portus Field School are online here. No previous experience is required, and you will be studying alongside people from all over the world, in addition to our own undergraduate, masters and PhD students.

Visiting Portus

You cannot visit Portus without an arranged tour. Please do not turn up at the site without this as you will not be able to enter.

However it is possible to arrange a visit in advance following the instructions at the bottom of the following page. If you do visit please share your photos via the Flickr pool and perhaps write in the comments about your visit!


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This article is from the free online course:

Archaeology of Portus: Exploring the Lost Harbour of Ancient Rome

University of Southampton

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Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: