This week the University of Leeds and the Open University announced its first series of short courses that will lead to University credit on the FutureLearn platform (see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-36378572). The Leeds courses are collectively known as the FutureLearn Environmental Challenges Program and are now live for sign up either as individual courses or as a program.
From a design perspective our main challenge was to keep it as simple as possible although the remit was complex. We started with scenarios – who are our perspective audiences, what is their ideal learning journey? This exercise led us to develop five short 2-week courses. The range of audiences required different learning journeys and the definitions of different learning durations; the aim was to provide consistency and a clear route for all learners.
The design format for each course is similar, introducing new concepts in week one with further detail and reinforcement provided through a topical case study, an ‘expert’ discussion and a peer reviewed exercise in week 2. This subject lends itself to research, discussion and reflection and we were keen to use the full functionality of the FutureLearn platform to include these options. We have built in the new FutureLearn group tool to allow learners to research and discuss a topic in a small group and then report back a collaborative response to the cohort.
Each of the five courses introduces a different skill required by those working in resource management; we introduce this early through self-assessment exercises with a focussed, peer reviewed, exercise in week 2. The subject matter does not easily lend itself to MCQ self-assessment so we have designed exercises to provide short answer response questions.
Some of the learners will want to complete all five courses and then join an invite only final assessment course to gain University credit. For these learners we have also included a weekly optional revision activity which includes a synchronous Q&A session with the lead educator – we are planning to use Blackboard Collaborate for this session.
We have intentionally incorporated the FutureLearn peer review step into each course to prepare those learners moving off to take the final assessment; this tool is used within this final course for self, peer and educator marked assessment. This tool allows a learner to have their contribution reviewed by at least one other learner. In addition, they also gain the experience of reviewing the work of another learner.
Our first program runs from September to November with a second run scheduled for January. I will report back on how it goes.
Carol Elston, Digital learning Manager
University of Leeds. C.A.Elston@leeds.ac.uk
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