Teachers are one of our biggest audiences on the FutureLearn platform and their ongoing commitment to developing their skills is an inspiration to us all. Helen Bilton trained as an early years teacher and worked as a teacher both in London and Reading before moving into teacher training. She is now Professor of Outdoor Learning at the University of Reading, Director of the Postgraduate Taught Programmes at the Institute of Education and the new Academic Partner in the University of Reading’s Online Courses team. She is also the Lead Educator on two very successful courses from the University of Reading: Supporting Successful Learning in Primary School and Supporting Successful Learning in Secondary School. We asked Helen about the value of online training for teachers and how she, as an educator, experiences the interaction with learners in a digital setting. Helen also shared some words of wisdom for academics who now embark on the journey of making their first online course.
“A good teacher will always love learning themselves and this is why they love FutureLearn and keep coming back to it as a source of learning, particularly as it is sharing up to date research which teachers can use either in the classroom or as part of their practice to improve the lives of young people. The FutureLearn platform works particularly well for teachers because they are busy people and can often only devote small amounts of any spare time they have to their own studies. Learning through FutureLearn enables teachers to do this, working at their own pace and on very specific pieces of learning. I loved reading the discussions that the learners were having on the courses I helped create. I felt that sometimes the responses were more real and honest but still professional than in a face to face classroom setting where there are many students who are simply too shy to share some great thoughts they have. I also learnt from what some of the participants said and they made me really think and have to justify myself and my research.
I think the most important lesson to learn is to listen to your online team colleagues. You may know you subject, be very passionate about your subject, you may even be a good teacher but this is a different way of getting your message across and in some ways involves more innovation in teaching than being in a room with the learners. This means you have to trust that those who live and breathe online courses, know what they are talking about when they suggest x,y, z! Go with their suggestions, listen to their advice, and be humble.”