June 2, 2014, by Helen Whitehead

Making the Most of my MOOCing

Thom Whiffen (left, in photo below), postgraduate researcher exploring Energy Storage Technologies, will be less involved in our MOOC Sustainability, Society and You this summer as he is busy writing up. Here Thom shares some of his thoughts on his experiences facilitating the first run of the course earlier this year. While aimed at his fellow facilitators, Thom’s post may be of interest to learners curious about how the team manages to support such a large and diverse community online.


Thom writes: As I got used to the FutureLearn platform and the Facilitator roles I decided to make note of my typical facilitation activity as I thought this may be of help for those facilitators starting out a fresh in June.

My Typical Activity:
During a typical week and at the beginning:

  • Follow ALL the other Facilitators/Tutors
  • Review fellow Facilitator/Tutors’ recent activity – in particular looking out for anything labelled ‘SUMMARY’
  • Click on these and ‘like’ them (Liking means that users can sort the discussions by most liked and summaries will rise appropriately to the top of the list)
  • Look through your replies and reply appropriately, to further develop discussion
  • Check in with your ‘lead’ week/topic
  • Facilitate discussion with leading and provocative questions
  • Then drop into the current week/activity and facilitate the discussions and comments there.
  • When facilitating discussion:
    • Review previous 10-20 posts (or more if possible!)
    • Comment and ‘like’ appropriately
    • Write a brief, clearly titled, summary

During my ‘Lead’ Facilitator Week:

  • Twice a day check into the main areas of my week.
  • Review posts commenting and liking as relevant
  • Summarise each discussion/comment board at least once – mention links posted on our Delicious bookmarking site
  • When summarising, clearly state at the beginning of your post ‘SUMMARY’ – this helps other facilitators and learners find your summaries and ‘like’ them.

While we had over 37,000 comments posted during the first run of the course, we did not always see extended discussion threads. We have evidence from the course evaluations that learners felt they learnt a lot from their course-mates through reading their posts, even though they didn’t always respond with a further comment.

Most learners post a comment in response to the ‘Think About’ blog prompts that we have on most pages. These have been good and provoked some quality discussion. But next time around, let’s try inviting learners to question one another. As well as thinking for themselves and writing their own statements and questions, something like, – ‘Read a fellow learner’s post and question their assertions from an “XX” viewpoint’ – maybe tagged with “Alternative View?” Or some equally catchy phrase!

These are the end of my thoughts for now! Thank you for having me along for the ride. It’s been great fun. I shall certainly be encouraging more friends and families to join the course next year!

Thom Whiffen

The course team send thanks to Thom and best wishes for his research. Join us on ‘Sustainability, Society and You’ starting June 16th to make your own contribution to the conversation.
Click here to sign up.

Posted in MOOCMOOC TeamSustainability