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Meet the Breakfast Club: taking online courses together at FutureLearn

We’ve recently met FutureLearners from around the world, as part of a series of posts to celebrate our first birthday. Here, in our final instalment, Lucy Blackwell, our Creative Director, looks closer to home and explains how we learn together at FutureLearn.

Members of the FutureLearn team meet to take online courses together

I believe that in order to make a great product, you need to be a superuser of that product. You need to live it, breathe it and make it an important part of your life.

Since we started FutureLearn over a year ago, I’ve signed up for many courses, sometimes to understand issues that I need to address from a business perspective, and sometimes because a course intrigues me and I just want to take it and learn more. However, until recently, I had a guilty secret – I’d never actually finished a FutureLearn course. And it turned out I wasn’t alone – many of the team hadn’t either.

The birth of the Breakfast Club

We strongly encourage each other to take courses, both with FutureLearn and with other providers, so that we can more deeply understand the online learning space in which we work, and make better decisions about our product. But we are a super busy team.

I wondered if creating a specific time and space in the day to learn might help, and so the Breakfast Club was born – a weekly meeting where a small group of us would take a course together before work.

As many of us at FutureLearn are interested in doing more public speaking – and I’d heard a number of people voice their fears over this activity (myself included) – I decided that “Talk the Talk: How to Give a Great Presentation” from The Open University would be an excellent topic to start with.

Talking the talk

Ten of us met at 09:00 in the British Library’s cafeteria on the first week of the course. We logged in, started reading, chatting and learning together.

The course was interesting, but more demanding than some of our other courses – it required learners to video themselves doing an introduction to their own talk, and uploading this video for peers to review in the second week of the course. After all, if you’re going to learn public speaking, you’re going to have to practice doing it.

By Week 2, only six of us showed up to the Breakfast Club, and by Week 3, there were only two of us, and neither of us had started to even write talk introductions.

I had a sinking feeling that the Breakfast Club idea was failing. But why? Was it too early in the day? Was the course too demanding? Was it because it was an optional task and not actually required? After all, we’re a pretty motivated team at FutureLearn, so there must be some good reasons why people had dropped out.

Motivating each other

On further discussion with those who had come to the first and second weeks, I realised it was a combination of all of these things. I started to ponder how to motivate people to continue, and while this line of thought was useful, it was definitely not my intended outcome of the Breakfast Club.

I knew that my original reasons for starting it were still important, and so I decided that I must persevere, that I would go home that night and record the introduction to my talk, and upload it to the peer review step on the course.

So I did this, and by midnight, I had two reviews from people I didn’t know. They both gave me constructive feedback on my introduction and encouraged me to continue. I felt amazing!

I remember designing and building the peer review step months earlier, thinking through every eventuality and edge case, but it was not until this moment that I realised it really worked. I had become a “real” user. This was online learning at its best.

This experience gave me the impetus to keep going, and so myself and one other member of the team, Meg, decided to finish the course and set a date to present our talks to the whole company. My talk was titled “How experiences sell products” and Meg’s was “Private and personal: how to unlock your personal life to add value in your workplace.”

More Breakfast Clubs

The good news is that, since the first Breakfast Club finished, others have started. Members of the team have been doing the “Digital Marketing: Challenges and Insights” course together, once a week at lunchtime.

Our CTO, Joel, is currently running a Breakfast Club that’s open to the public on the “Introduction to Cyber Security” course. You can find out more about coming along at Lanyrd.

What we’ve learnt

While FutureLearn courses are built to work for the masses from anywhere at anytime, it’s always valuable to meet people face-to-face, and commit to spending a little time each week learning something new. So if you want to start your own Breakfast Club with friends, family or colleagues, we highly recommend it.

Are you already taking our courses with other people? Do you have a great story about your experience of FutureLearn? Send it to us at yourstories@futurelearn.com. We’d love to hear from you!

FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
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