What We Hope to Learn from Our New Partnership with FutureLearn

Lauren Atkins-Budde, Associate Director of Design Management

Cait Holman, Associate Director of Research & Development

On September 24, the Center for Academic Innovation announced a new partnership with the innovative, UK-based social learning platform FutureLearn. While we’re very excited for the opportunity to reach millions of new learners and further expand the University of Michigan’s global learning community, as learners ourselves — ok, learning nerds, if we’re honest — we’re excited for all the ways in which this collaboration can deepen our research, skills, experiences, and knowledge.

After all, it’s not every day that you get to onboard with a whole new platform partner.

We know that our global learning community is interested in better understanding Python code, how to negotiate, and how to improve their sleep. But, you might ask, what is the Center for Academic Innovation interested in learning?

Developing and Sustaining a Portfolio Across Three Platforms

With this new partnership, the U-M’s MOOC portfolio now exists across four different global learning platforms. Every new partnership helps us further refine and strengthen our platform-agnostic strategy for developing online learning experiences that can meet learners’ needs regardless of where they may be, physically or digitally. With the FutureLearn partnership, we’re excited to explore answers to questions like:

  • How can we better prepare our team and faculty partners to develop courses that will co-launch on two or more platforms?
  • How do we think about the iteration cycles of courses on multiple platforms?
  • How do we refine our data strategies to better optimize the analytics we receive from each platform?
  • How can we better create consistent experiences for learners across multiple platforms and what independent tools could we develop to plug into and across those platforms?
  • How can we help learners better utilize Michigan Online to find the right course experience(s) for them?

Getting to Know Our Learners Better

We’re also excited to know more about our new learners: their goals, preferences, needs, backgrounds. FutureLearn thinks about their learners in interesting and compelling ways and has done great work to better understand demographics, motivations, satisfaction, learning outcomes, and why learners continue with, or leave, a course.

We look forward to building upon our own existing research to better understand each of those characteristics. What are learners hoping to do with their lives? What are they interested in? What jobs are they hoping to get? How do they want to learn and how do they want to engage with other learners? What makes them leave a course, what compels them to keep going? How can we better help, guide, and teach them? How can they help teach us?

Given FutureLearn’s audience is more than 60 percent women, a unique characteristic amongst MOOC platforms, there’s much we hope to learn about increasing gender diversity in MOOCs, as well as other methods of enhancing equity and inclusion across the online learning landscape.

Lessons that Help Us Teach Better and Help Others Learn Better

With access to FutureLearn’s user, engagement, feedback, outcome, and impact data, we’ll be able to develop evidence-based strategies to support our broader learning community and  start to answer other questions, such as:

  • How can we use what we learn about this audience to help faculty better prepare to teach these learners?
  • How can the social pedagogy-based features of the FutureLearn platform be best leveraged for optimal learning?
  • What kinds of scaffolding and support do these different kinds of learners need to be successful in their goals?

The unique perspective that FutureLearn offers is truly exciting to us as we consider how to best serve learners across the globe. There’s so much we want to learn, do, and share. We could not be more thrilled to embark on this adventure with FutureLearn. Do you have suggestions for content you would like to see us create with FutureLearn or ideas for how you think we could create engaged learning opportunities? Reach out to us via social media or our contact form. We love to hear directly from learners about their learning experiences and interests.

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