(Initial) Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali's blog has now moved to http://blog.mahabali.me

What’s wrong with FutureLearn?

6 Comments

I want to reflect on my discomfort with FutureLearn as an online learning platform. I love the MOOC I am currently taking on it, offered by U of Nottingham, focusing on sustainability. I love the teaching staff, participants, reflective exercises and the content. But I am frustrated with the
FutureLearn platform.

I think there are two main things that are bothering me:

1. The linearity of the content, the way it is presented boxed up and sequential, where you tick boxes that you’ve finished each part. I would not like this in a normal course I am taking, but I really dislike it in a MOOC, where I am likely to want to dip in and out of different parts. I know I can still do so, but it is more difficult to differentiate the resources from the discussions from the assessments. I can’t see a big picture and this does not suit my learning style.

2. The discussions. I hate that there are no separate discussions that can be a) learner-initiated, and b) searched, threaded, and organized in some better way to allow people to truly interact. The idea of “following” people misses the point that sometimes you want to “follow” a thread and see if people are responding to you (Coursera does this better)

As it stands, I am occasionally dipping into the online discussions if I find anything worth responding to in the top five or so posts by others, or if I have some burning comment to add.

I am resisting following the content sequentially (even though sometimes the sequence makes sense… But I need the flexibility)

Otherwise, I think I will focus more on Twitter and blogging, and see if the facebook group turns out well. At least the Twitter and blogging aspects can be a form of advocacy for sustainability beyond the course.

But FutureLearn: i am so disappointed in the platform. I have experienced many others (WebCT, Moodle, Blackboard, Coursera, Canvas) and this is one of the most uncomfortable for me. I was expecting better because i have great experiences with UK online education (my MEd from U of Sheffield, and Edinburgh’s #edcmooc on Coursera), and i thought a UK MOOc platform would be as thoughtful as those experiences, but I don’t like it.

I’m not alone in this, am I? Someone posted on Twitter questioning the sustainability of the MOOC when you find 100s of comments on each topic each day. This is no surprise first week of a MOOC and I expect them to dwindle down over the weeks… But still.. There should have been a better design to help folks deal with info overload. This is a small problem with 20 students but a huge problem with a MOOC

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Author: Maha Bali

Associate professor of practice, American University in Cairo

6 thoughts on “What’s wrong with FutureLearn?

  1. I’d agree with both of those issues being real problems, with the discussions being the most serious in my view. The linearity is restricting, and could be eased by having a ‘contents’ button with the ‘next’ button to make it easier to navigate more freely. The forum problems (no threading, no notifications) are known issues and planned to be addressed, but the question is when. I don’t recall seeing an option for learner- initiated discussions in the feature requests as such, but there is a plan for small-group discussions of up to twenty students.

    • Hey Duncan, good to hear some of the issues are being worked on! I am just surprised that FutureLearn missed them in the first place. Having entered the MOOC scene late in the game, I had expected a superior platform for interactivity and addressing learner needs (also now that we know more about MOOCers, etc.)

  2. Thanks for raising the issue of the frustrating discussions. As a newcomer to MOOCs and enjoying them so far, the only annoyance has been the uselessness of the Discussions. Threads would make them so much more productive, and enjoyable rather than just the opposite.

  3. Hi Vic, what is REALLY sad is that in all my online learning experiences, discussions had been THE most valuable part of the experience… So I am not able to enjoy the course as much as I would like. I interact a bit on twitter but it’s a different kind of avenue for interaction

  4. I agree with your comments Balimaha. There are lots of thoughtful posts but little discussion due to a lack of threading or grouped interaction.

  5. I just started on the Hamlet mooc Maha and the platform is confusing and frustrating especially the discussions. You don’t really know where you are located in the course, do you? No page titles, topics etc.

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