The University of Southampton

FLAN @ Exeter University

FLAN at Exeter


The University of Exeter hosted the FutureLearn Academic Network (FLAN) event last week in glorious sunshine (thankfully before all the snow arrived).


FLAN connects academics and research students based at FutureLearn partner institutions to share research and explore shared research opportunities. These include joint research bids and publications, comparative studies using shared FutureLearn data, course designs, and methods to evaluate courses. Topics such as learning analytics, social learning, course mentoring and research ethics have been covered at past events.


This time the theme was the integration of MOOCs within university programmes.  Recordings of the livestream and presenter slides are available here .


Nigel Smith, FutureLearn’s Head of Content, began the day with a review of the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and its implications on partners’ research. The guidelines for research using FutureLearn data have already been updated with GDPR requirements in mind, and full details of the process for approving projects are available on the FL Partner Site.


Nic Fair and Manuel Leon from the Web Science Institute, University of Southampton then spoke about their experience of integrating MOOCs into on-campus modules. Perhaps surprisingly, some students had little or no prior experience of MOOCs. Providing incentives by stating the relevance of MOOC topics to exam questions helped to encourage more participation.


David Smith and Suzanne Collins from the University of Bristol introduced the Bristol Futures project which uses open courses to provide extra curricular activities for students. They also noted the degree of effort required to encourage student participation when the work was not linked to assessment.


Damien Mansell and his team of student facilitators from the University of Exeter ran an engaging workshop focused on the unique student/staff partnership developed to support the Climate Change MOOCs at Exeter. Their Student Facilitator model engages taught and research students to become co-creators of learning experiences, facilitate discussion, share stories, answer questions and monitor engagement.


Next up was Reka Budai, Strategy & Insights Analyst at FutureLearn who ran an interactive session to share and obtain feedback on FutureLearn’s survey vision – “what, when and how we would like to ask from learners to get better insights and make course evaluation more efficient.”


Colin Calder from the University of Aberdeen presented his work with Sarah Cornelius and Peter Mtika which considered how MOOCs impact on campus student engagement. They found that students were more likely to engage on the MOOC elements of their module than they were to speak out in class.


Vicki Dale then reported on her findings at the University of Glasgow with Jeremy Singer which investigated a similar area – they noted some resistance from campus students but they did value the videos and flexibility of study time that the MOOC elements offered.


Finally, Ahmed Al-Imarah from the University of Bath presented his PhD research which investigated

the relationship between organisational culture, quality assurance and technological innovation in

higher education.