Advice on using MOOCs

What You Need

MOOCs are easy to get into  
Registering for a MOOC is far easier than buying something on-line. Start off with FutureLearn, which offers courses which usually require no previous subject knowledge. These are written by universities and put online by the Open University.  

MOOCs offer great flexibility 
There is no need to stick to a weekly schedule, FutureLearn  material is  left available for  many  weeks and some resources may  be downloaded and kept.  

There's no penalty for dropping out, so if you find the course isn't what you expected, or something crops up in your life - just leave it. If things change and you want to restart; you may be able to register for the course when it is repeated. 

There are no compulsory tests or assignments – there may be a certificate or exam offered (for an extra charge) but you do not have to take these. Certificates of participation will be offered to you when you have completed most of the course. (You mark off activities as completed both to keep track of what you have done and so FutureLearn can keep track of your progress.) When a certificate is offered to you, read the terms and conditions to decide if you do want it. 

What you need
You will need  access to the internet. The recommended browsers are Google Chrome, for pcs, and Apple Safari, for Mac.) Latest versions of Google Chrome can be downloaded free if you have problems seeing course pages/resources using your existing browser.)   

To register you  need an e-mail address. Although  some  MOOC  registration forms have lots of  optional boxes for you to give more information, very little is compulsory: usually just your name and e-mail address. Choose a password you will remember (but, if you do forget, there will be a link to request a reset password on the login page). Some providers, including FutureLearn, show logging with Facebook as the first option. If you do not want to do this, just look for the option to sign up and / or log on with email and password.

FutureLearn courses have videos where the educators introduce each topic. To see these online they recommend a connection with a consistent speed of 1.5Mbps to avoid "buffering". You can check your connection speed at Although, be aware that some ISPs may perform better in the test than in real world scenarios. If you do find you are having problems watching online consider downloading the video to your own computer (there is usually a link just below the video to the right) or reading the transcript (just below to the left).

Some general internet security tips

If you are worried about sharing your contact, details you can apply for a second address from Google, Yahoo, etc. and keep this just for the courses you are studying.  

It is wise to not use a password again which you already use, particularly those for your banking/credit cards etc.   (It is very unsafe to reuse only one password as it is then only as safe as the company with the poorest security.)

Since you can get a password reset easily try to choose strong passwords. Passwords are more secure if they are longer, include both lower case and capital letters and/or figures – avoid birthdays and family names.  For example, Daffodil2015 would be a strong password as it has 12 characters, a capital letter and some figures, but is still meaningful and therefore memorable.

Getting the most from your course
The  FutureLearn  courses have lots of opportunities for you to post comments and develop conversations with others.

At the end of each post are words in colour will let you “reply” or “like” comments – over the course the “Likes” will help you to pick out the more interesting comments.

At the start of each discussion topic you will see this

"Everyone" "Following" "Most liked" "My comments"

One of these will be in blue showing which set of participants’ comments is showing – click on “Most liked” to change to just those others are finding interesting. (You don’t have to read everyone’s – being selective keeps it interesting.) 

If you know someone else is also doing the course, or feel you are interested in someone’s comments because they clearly have a lot of prior knowledge or an interesting point of view, you can “Follow” them. This allows you to change from seeing “Everyone” in the discussion to seeing the posts from those you are “Following”.  Tip: To see more about who you are thinking about following click on their name (above their post) to see their profile statement.

To link up to follow a friend click on your own name above your first post and copy the address line for you own profile page (click in the address bar to select and press Ctrl and C together to copy): exchange this link with your friend’s so they can follow you by pasting it into an e-mail (either right click and chose the Paste option or press Ctrl and V together).  

Other languages and accessibility
At present FutureLearn courses are in English only but translation is promised for later developments.  

There is a transcript provided for all FutureLearn videos and the site is tested to accessibility standards. 

Need further help?
If you have a problem which isn't covered here, or in the FutureLearn FAQs, Ian Hunt, MOOC chief in Perth, has agreed  to give one to one advice.