The FutureLearn Academic Network event at the University of Leicester provided a chance to catch up with Futurelearn developments, including:
- Intended audiences for courses: Several institutions are aiming FutureLearn courses at their own students and/or wanting to track impact of publically available courses on their students. Professional CPD is another growth area. There are debates to be had about the relative merits of CPD courses being closed or open to a wider audience.
- Course evaluation and analytics: There were some wonderful presentations on how data extracted from courses can be used to understand learning taking place in FutureLearn courses. Sylvia Gallagher’s research at Trinity College Dublin uses visualisations of FutureLearn discussion to identify discursive themes and analyse whether comments are ‘on task’ (related to the intended learning outcomes). Sylvia is also evaluating the impact of infographics summarising each week of the course. Ben Fields from FutureLearn is exploring time on task; the amount of time that elapses between a learner first starting a step and marking it as complete. This could appear as a report in the platform to aid educator in the future. Southampton University are using data to try to predict dropouts and comparing stated weekly learning time with the actual time learners spend on platform.
- Futurelearn and relevant external tools: Futurelearn are ready for a further roll out the long awaited group tools. Early indications are they can work for courses where the design is heavily structured towards group work – food for thought for Bristol Futures course design. An external tool called Georama may also have application for Bristol Futures. It is an Immersive technology that could give a learner some feeling of engagement with a live event from a distance, for example a field trip. As with the group function, the purpose would need to be clearly thought through. Would a live experience be of enough benefit to enough learners to make using this worthwhile?
- Methods of accrediting and verifying learning: Professor Mike Sharples (Open University) outlined some future looking research using ‘Blockchain’ technology. Blockchain was developed to verify bitcoins, but is now being piloted to verify learning achievement. Could this become a more mature version of Open badge technology? See The Blockchain and Kudos: A Distributed System for Educational Record, Reputation and Reward. OU experiments include using within an ePortfolio.