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How to study this course

An introduction to explain how FutureLearn works and how to get the most from this particular course.
© University of Southampton

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’. 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.

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 lots 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’ – via the ‘Most liked’ link at the top of the list of comments. You can also choose to Follow other learners and filter the comments to show only those by those people you are ‘Following’. Whether and how you use these features is up to you.

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 post your first response before you look at anyone else’s response. That way you will be able to gauge your understanding, won’t be influenced by what they have written or feel that ‘it has all been said already’. You will find out that one joy of being a researcher is that it has never all been said already! And you can always make another post in the light of what others’ have said. This course is designed to support you to learn with others.

Study Groups

In addition to the comments on each step, you can choose to join a smaller study group. We will be providing questions and activities for these each week and hope that your group will give you the opportunity to develop deeper discussions.

If appropriate you may also choose to summarise a particularly interesting discussion from your Study Group via the general comments – this way all learners will benefit from the great ideas you had in your Study Group! Make sure the other people in your Study Group are happy for you to do this.

When you click the Study Group link at the top of any page you have the option to join a group. You’ll be assigned to a group which you will then stay with throughout the course. Click this link on any step to return to your group. You might want to Follow the other members of the group so you can easily find their comments elsewhere on the course.

You can leave the group and join another but note that if you do, you won’t be able to get back to your previous group and its discussions. To reiterate, if you leave a group you will not have access to the comments you made in the group.

Getting help

We value your input and encourage you to use the support link 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 mentors 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’ flag icon. It will be reviewed within three hours by FutureLearn and will be removed if they agree with you.
  • All comments must be in English, but we have provided Italian translations of some content, including our own Portus Project website and the course blog. We can also respond to comments to the course blog in Italian and via twitter. If you are interested in helping us to translate the course into other languages please get in touch!

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 are short quizzes 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!

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 can now visit Portus without an arranged tour, although booking is still advised. Please do not turn up at the site without checking the website or the information point at Fiumicino Airport. The link below provides details of how to visit.

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