January 7, 2014, by Helen Whitehead

How to be successful as a student in a MOOC

I was looking at Dave Cormier’s five point plan for getting the most out of a MOOC as a student. It makes a lot of sense. Here’s what it might look like for a participant in Sustainability, Society and You, which started this week.


Each MOOC takes place in a platform that you may or may not have used before – it’s necessary to take a little time to get to know it.  Get used to the layout of the resources, the pace of the weeks, and the tasks you are asked to do and opportunities for discussion that you are provided with.


This is where you make your presence felt, probably in a small way at first.

In FutureLearn you can start commenting on the resources and taking part in the discussions.

There are three ways to locate a place to put your comments:

  1. On FutureLearn each page has associated comments and you can jot down your thoughts, as well as full discussion forums.
  2. If you go to your own profile you can see your own comments and discussion posts to return to (e.g., if anyone has responded) or as a useful record of your participation and learning.
  3. If you click on the logo at the top right of the FutureLearn course page you can see all the course Activity – the comments and posts that have recently been made in any part of the course you are taking.

You can also blog or tweet using the course hashtag (#flsustain)


This is where you begin to read others’ comments. Clicking on someone’s name in the comments or discussions takes you to their profile where you can follow them – it makes it easier to return to their page and see what posts they’ve been making.

If you are a member of other social networks, use the hashtag to find others who are taking the course, or visit our Google plus or Facebook page.

It’s easy to respond to others in the FutureLearn comments and discussions: use the methods in Step 2 to find posts to respond to.


In this stage, you’ll start to find a few people with whom you particularly connect – you’ll be able to identify them by now from their posts, and look out for them. Follow them on FutureLearn (and maybe in other networks), look out for their posts and respond. Establish a connection.


Set up or find a local group with whom you can meet in real time.  Having lunch with a group of people who were taking the same MOOC as I was kept me going and it was interesting to get their perspective on some of the materials and assignments.


About halfway through, as Dave Cormier puts it “my mind starts to wander”. This is where a lot of people drop out. Maybe something happens in your life, or you start to be interested in something new…

Think about and re-establish for yourself why you are taking the MOOC and how it will apply to your life or professional practice – is there a project you can start with which the MOOC, and particularly the other people in the MOOC, can help?

You can watch Dave Cormier talking about these steps in the YouTube video Success in a MOOC

Posted in FuturelearnMOOCStudent experience