Head of Product, Matt Walton introduces the new FutureLearn blog and explains what it’s for and why we’re doing it.
I first became involved in FutureLearn back in January. FutureLearn had just been set up as an independent company by The Open University to provide a platform for universities to run what are known as Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCs). MOOCs had been a growing movement in education over the last year or so and it was natural that The Open University should bring its 40 years of distance learning expertise to the sector.
I joined as one of a handful of individuals tasked with developing our vision for massive open online learning and working out how we would go about delivering it.
The eight months since then have been an exhilarating rollercoaster ride. We’ve gone from a small number of people working in multiple locations to a close-knit team approaching 30-strong. We’ve outgrown the basement in London’s Camden where we’ve been working for the last four months, and now we’re in search of a more permanent home.
Since we began, we’ve been on a trajectory from quietly rapid prototyping to delivering what we call our Minimum Viable Product, on which we began running our first test courses last week. We are now gearing up for our first public courses, which we will be running in beta later this year.
Throughout the process we have been finding ways to share what we’re doing with our university partners, our stakeholders and the academic community at The Open University, with the aim of gathering valuable feedback and insight and providing a transparent approach to our product development.
This blog is the next stage on that journey. As well as being open with our partners and parent organisation about what we do and how we do it, we want to start sharing more with our users and the wider world in general.
Our evolution from a collection of individuals to becoming a coherent team has created our own unique culture, which draws on – but is distinct from – The Open University. It’s a culture that we’re increasingly proud of and we’d like to share the expertise that exists in the team and the innovative, agile approach that we are taking to deliver the product.
There are many organisations and companies who have taken this open approach before, from whom we take some of our inspiration. Notably, the BBC with their Internet blog, GOV.UK with their Government Digital Service blog and technology start-ups such as 37 Signals and SongKick, who regularly blog about what they do and how they do it. Like them, we will be offering insights into our way of working, providing updates and rationales for some of the product design decisions we make, and testing ideas by engaging with our audience.
On this blog you’ll regularly hear from me and other members of the product development team, plus some of the learning experts and others involved in our business. We’d also like to hear from you. We’ll shortly be introducing commenting, in the meantime please tweet @futurelearn or email email@example.com with your thoughts.
We hope you will join us on our journey.