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FutureLearn offers you a powerful new way to learn online. Every course has been designed according to principles of effective learning, through storytelling, discussion, visible learning, and using community support to celebrate progress.

Learning through storytelling

Each partner university has designed a complete learning experience, presented by leading academics in their field. Rather than broadcast long classroom lectures, ideas are introduced via high quality videos and articles. You can then discuss what you’ve learned, testing your new knowledge with interactive quizzes that offer helpful responses and the opportunity to try again if an answer is wrong. Every course tells a story, step by step, with challenges and helpful tips along the way, to test and build your understanding.

Discussion for learning

We learn best when we share and debate ideas with fellow learners, to understand their different experiences and perspectives and to fill the gaps in our own knowledge. But not everyone likes being social, so rather than sending our learners off to separate discussion forums, you can add your comments alongside the content.

You can start by reading what other people have to say about the topic, and then join in when you’re ready. If you particularly like a comment, you can choose to follow its author so that you can easily find the people and comments that are of the most interest to you.

We’ll be building on these concepts of ‘discussion in context’ and ‘following’ over the coming months, so that social learning feels less like a forced conversation and more like a chat with friends about your ideas and what you’ve learned.

Visible learning

One way to enhance learning is to make the process visible, so that you know what is coming next, where you are in the course and how far you have come. The To Do list gives you an overview of the course, showing the activities for each week, and keeping a record of what you’ve completed.

The profile page provides a summary of your own activity, including your courses and any comments you have made. We shall be extending these with further signposts for the course and indications of your progress.

Community supported learning

An intensive tutoring model can’t work for massive-scale free courses, so we need to offer online support without a large network of tutors. The solution is to harness the power of the community, where learners can make immediate use of their newly acquired skills by sharing their knowledge with their peers.

Following other learners is part of a powerful system we are building that will allow you to acknowledge good contributions and promote people who offer helpful advice, and to develop your own reputation. In this way, success comes not just from passing an assignment and completing a course, but also from making a contribution to the FutureLearn community.

Massive-scale social learning

All these approaches need to work with huge numbers of learners, so that comments don’t just flash past, and reputations can be built over time. That’s why we decided to create a new massive-scale social learning platform, drawing on expertise from The Open University, BBC, social media designers, as well as our FutureLearn partners. It’s a new way of learning.

Notes

Visible learning is inspired by the work of John Hattie, to find out more, visit visible-learning.org.

The community support model comes from Diana Laurillard’s work on conversational frameworks for formal learning. Here’s a brief overview.