Tag Archives: futurelearn

Do you do internet shopping? Online banking? Have a fitness tracker? How secure are they? You need our Cyber Security free online course!

We use devices connected to the internet every day. Smart watches, mobile phones, fitness trackers, tablets, bookreaders and more. And they all contain a wealth of personal information: our browsing histories, banking details, passwords etc.

But how secure are they?

In Newcastle University’s newest free online course: Cyber Security: Safety at Home, Online, in Life we explore the security usability tradeoff that we negotiate every time we use an online service.

This enjoyable and engaging three week course will take you about 3 hours a week to complete. By the end of the course we hope you will more informed and understand the risks of fraud and cyber crime better, to help you make more enlightened decisions about how to protect your personal information.

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Meet the Cyber Security Educator and Mentor team. L-R: (Top row) Steve, Dylan, Phyllis, David, Peter (Bottom row) Martin, Charles, Sia, Aad, Kovila, Maryam.

The course is led by Dr Steve Riddle with an Educator and Mentor team drawn from researchers and practitioners from Newcastle University’s School of Computing Science, an acknowledged Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research (ACE-CSR).

We invited some cyber security experts to preview the content. The North East Regional Cyber Crime Unit (UK) said:

I was impressed. The content is really relevant and dynamic and not just your basic security tips – there’s a bit more to it than that. It’s very user interactive.

You can join over 9000 people and sign up now. The course starts on Monday 5 September 2016.

Ageing Well: Falls starts 5 September

Ageing Well: Falls is a four week (2 hours a week) free online course, which starts on 5 September 2016. Previous learners really valued this engaging course which is having a real effect on people’s lives.

This course was excellent, it gave a lot of good information and dispelled many myths about “only old folks have falls”, as well as giving resources to check when problems arise.

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Dr James Frith, Lead Educator, Ageing Well: Falls

As we make the finishing touches to the course before it starts, we asked Dr James Frith, Lead Educator, a few questions which come up regularly:

Are falls really that dangerous?

James: Yes. Falls are hugely common and as we get older our bodies are less robust and are more likely to be injured during a fall. Serious injuries include broken bones and head injuries or serious bleeding. A broken hip can be devastating for some people. But for some people the loss of confidence following a fall can be just as disabling as a physical injury. Fortunately we can reduce the risk of falling and the associated injuries.

What is the most common story you hear from your patients?

James: Falls are complex and are rarely caused by a single factor. in each person who falls there are a mix of factors which contribute, so there is not really a typical type of fall.  However, common things which I come across are:

  1. Falling on the bus as people get up from their seats before it has stopped.
  2. Putting out the bins in wet or windy weather.
  3. Getting up too quickly to answer the telephone or the door.
  4. Slipping in the bath or shower.

What can increase a person’s risk of falls?

James: Researchers have identified hundreds of risk factors for falls, so we tend to stick to the ones that we can do something about. The main risks are having a poor gait or balance, poor eye sight, dizziness, some medications, and hazards in the home or on the street, but there are many more.

What can a person do to reduce the risk of falls?

James: Sometimes it can come down to common sense, such as keeping stairs free from clutter, turning on the lights and reporting dizziness to the doctor. But there are other simple ways too, such as keeping the legs active and strong through gentle exercise, having a medication review with a doctor or pharmacist, avoiding dehydration and having walking sticks measured by a professional.

What is the best way to recover from a fall?

James: If someone is prone to falls they should consider wearing a call alarm or keeping a mobile phone in their pocket, just in case they need to call for help. Some people can learn techniques to help them stand following a fall – usually from a physiotherapist or occupational therapist. In the longer term anyone who has fallen or is at risk of falls should seek help from a health professional to try to prevent future falls. Sometimes falls can be due to medical conditions which can easily be treated.

Everyone knows someone who has fallen. Why not join our friendly team of falls specialists and thousands of people like you to find out what you can do to help yourself, your family, friends or people you care for?

The lead educators were warm and engaging, and they were generous with their knowledge and expertise.

I liked the interaction between participants. It makes you feel you are not alone in your experiences.

Sign up now at www.futurelearn.com/courses/falls

1st FutureLearn Asia Pacific Forum, Shanghai, China

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FutureLearn cupcakes. Source: https://www.jisc.ac.uk/news/the-free-learning-revolution-simon-nelson-futurelearn-22-jul-2015 CC-BY-NC-ND

I was delighted to be asked to represent one of three UK FutureLearn partner institutions at the first FutureLearn Asia Pacific Partner Forum, held in Shanghai, 24 & 25 November 2015.

Partner Forums are one of the things that make working with the FutureLearn partnership so useful. A chance to meet others a few times a year who are facing the same challenges, providing regular opportunities to share experiences and learn from each other, as well as influence the development of the platform. And we do really influence the development of the platform. Previously Partner Forums have happened in London, but with recent expansions in the Asia Pacific partnership, an inaugural Forum was planned in Shanghai, aiming to replicate meetings in the UK, but for Asia Pacific partners.

I set off to meet up in Shanghai with Kate Dickens, Project Lead for FutureLearn from University of Southampton, Joanna Stroud, Project Lead for FutureLearn from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Simon Nelson, CEO of FutureLearn, and 4 of his staff. We took part in a very well organised and intensive two day forum with around 70 representatives from HEIs and specialist organisations based in the Asia Pacific region, from countries including Australia, Malaysia, Japan, and Korea,  as well as several Chinese institutions and representatives from the British Council and Consulate.

In a packed two days, as well as getting to know each other, we got to know a bit about how the approaches developed within UK and European FutureLearn partners were being received by more recent Asia Pacific partners, and had the opportunity to share with each other some of the things we have learned in our time developing and delivering free online courses with FutureLearn.

FutureLearn’s mantra for free online courses, which appears at the beginning of nearly every presentation,  is to ‘Tell stories, provoke conversation and celebrate success’.

As Newcastle University courses have consistently succeeded in achieving higher than average engagement with our courses,  I was asked to present a session on Effective Storytelling in Newcastle’s free online courses, and to sit on a panel discussing approaches to course development and sharing top tips.

For the panel session, which took place on the morning of day 2, I was on the stage with Kate Dickens from University of Southampton, David Major, Learning Technologist from FutureLearn, and Professor Hongling Zhang from Shanghai International Studies University (SISU), Lead Educator on the Intercultural Communication free online course. The session was facilitated by Kate Sandars, Partnership Manager from FutureLearn and was based on questions from the floor, which were many, and discussion around them, which was lively. The session was very much about the practical aspects of developing and delivering free online courses, and about how this aligns with institutional strategy. The panel session overran and there was much continued discussion  in the following tea break.

Just before lunch on day 2 I presented a half hour slot on ‘Effective Storytelling’ in our free online courses at Newcastle University. I was pleased to be asked to do this session, as our courses consistently achieve higher than the FutureLearn average for social learning (engagement of learners with discussion and comments), and we also achieve higher than the average FutureLearn full participation rate (the nearest metric we have to ‘course completion’) – with our Ageing Well: Falls course having the highest full participation rate of any FutureLearn course to date, at 57% of those who started the course.

This indicates to us that there is something about our approach to working with teams of educators on developing our courses which works. Our focus on learning design is crucial to course success and we do focus on it a lot, right from course conception to delivery.

Why is storytelling so important? Well I think that the telling stories analogy is a great one for us to focus on. It enables us to talk about course creation in a different way, it encourages us to examine what is special about storytelling and storytellers. Why do stories work? Why are they compelling? What qualities to they have which are different to campus based courses? How can we replicate some of that in free online courses? And why is making courses online so different to making campus based programmes?

The session went down really well, and there was further lively discussion afterwards over a delicious lunch with colleagues from Monash University, the University of Malaya, RMIT, Fudan University, SISU and others.

An afternoon tea reception hosted by the British Council ended the Forum, which was an amazing privilege to be asked to attend, and which profiled the work of the University and its approach to online course development which has generated much interest from Asia Pacific HEIs.  We look forward to following up with these contacts over the coming weeks.  Many thanks go to Simon Nelson and his team at FutureLearn for asking us to represent established partners, for giving us the opportunity to profile our work and courses in the Asia Pacific region, and for looking after us so well in Shanghai.

What fascinates our FutureLearn educators about Hadrian’s Wall?

With the third run of our Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier free online course in full swing on FutureLearn, we asked our Lead Educator, Professor Ian Haynes and Educator, Dr Rob Collins what fascinates them about the World Heritage site, here on our doorstep in Newcastle upon Tyne. Here are their responses:

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Professor Ian Haynes, Lead Educator on Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier, and Professor of Archaeology, Newcastle University.

Now I must confess that there are times when a walk along the Wall lifts my heart and moves me to poetry. I shall not offer a sample here; my spontaneous compositions would only disappoint, but there is something about the Wall in its landscape setting that is so dramatic it is hard not to be moved by it all. This poetic impulse of course wrestles with another darker perspective. The Wall witnessed many acts of brutality in its long history; in a profound sense it monumentalised division.
Yet if I were to discuss what I find most enduringly intriguing about the Wall, I would have to say that the answer lies somewhere between a love of the Border Country’s beauty and an awareness of its savage past. And it may not surprise you at all that this fascination would concern one of my particular specialities, the auxiliary units and their families, the communities that sustained Rome’s presence on the northern frontier. The place the auxilia occupy not simply on the Wall, but in the wider story of the Roman Empire is something I sought to convey in my book Blood of the Provinces. I can put my fascination with these groups no better now than I did when I wrote that book back in 2013:
‘Marginalised even in many studies of the Roman army, themselves marginal in so much of contemporary scholarship of empire, auxiliary soldiers and the formations in which they served are both classic products and vital instruments of the empire’s ongoing capacity to incorporate the diverse into the whole. They are, furthermore, the invisible made visible. Our knowledge of rural settlement has grown dramatically through major survey projects and innovative excavation in the last few decades, but all too often, students of the empire find themselves at a loss when they seek to address the fate and experience of the mass of the provincial population. In many provinces, the lives and beliefs, homes and graves of the majority have received scant scholarly attention. Yet those who enrolled in even the humblest units of Rome’s armies – the auxilia – become much more accessible to modern researchers. Partly as a result of the very nature of material culture in the provinces and partly as a result of academic fashion, there are vastly more data currently available for these men and their families than those they left behind in the empire’s villages’. Hadrian’s Wall provides some of the richest data for these people, so often treated as the poor relations to Rome’s celebrated legionaries and to my mind so much more fascinating. Working on the Wall, I am constantly encountering their legacy, and repeatedly intrigued by Rome’s capacity to build an empire out of such diverse peoples.

If Ian’s enthusiasm for his subject isn’t enough to get you interested in studying archaeology more, or joining one of our Hadrian’s Wall study tours then perhaps Rob’s passion for the frontier communities in the late Roman period will inspire you?

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Dr Rob Collins, Educator on Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier, and Research Associate, Newcastle University.

Try as I may, I’m not sure I can clearly explain why I love Roman frontier studies and Hadrian’s Wall in particular. For me, it is an interplay of many different aspects. At the foundation is a passion for archaeology – I like the puzzle-solving element of it, and the fact that there are new discoveries every year. Added to this is the frontier element. I know people are astounded by the huge temples and aqueducts that the Romans built, but I find the mix of Roman and native that you find in the provinces much more intriguing – the interplay of imperial culture and local tradition and understanding of this important foreign power. And the army magnifies this aspect, but all in the crucible of a military institution. And finally, I’m particularly keen on the later Roman Empire. I find it to be richer and more interesting than the early imperial period, with new forms and expressions of power and culture emerging as a pre-cursor to medieval Europe. So if you add all these separate strands together into an ‘intellectual rope’ – you get my real passion: the limitanei of Hadrian’s Wall (a frontier and its soldiers) in the late 4th and 5th centuries (late Roman Empire). From the outside, the whole scenario looks a bit like a tangled mess, but being able to wade in with research and tease out solutions to problems, or identify how we can solve a problem stimulates both the creative and the analytical. It’s great!

Andy Bates master leatherworker on Roman shoes

Shoes by Andy Bates
Shoes by Andy Bates

Master leatherworker Andy Bates visited the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at Newcastle University recently during our first year undergraduate archaeology induction week.  He talked about the process and demonstrated how he makes replica Roman shoes, which some of our students filmed on their mobile phones (with Andy’s permission!). We’ve edited some of their footage together, and whilst student mobile phones didn’t give the best sound in the echoey room, we thought you’d be interested to get a glimpse into what an induction session is like. Andy provided shoes for our week five videos filmed in the Commanding Officer’s House at Arbeia in South Shields for Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier.

Frontiers old and new

A lot awful lot of work has been going on behind the scenes following the University’s announcement of our partnership with FutureLearn to deliver free online courses, starting with our first course on Hadrian’s Wall.
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We have  a great team in place for this, our first venture into MOOCs and we were really pleased to get “Team Hadrian” together for the first time on Friday.

You don’t have to be around Prof Ian Haynes and Dr Rob Collins for very long to appreciate their enthusiasm for Hadrian’s Wall and what it tells us of the rich picture of life on this Roman Frontier.  Our Digital Media Team (Stephen, Kevin, Helen and Dave) will be adding creative juices to bring relics and places to life; and Mike and Suzanne are on hand to pull it all together and offer advice on structure, narrative and engagement.

The day’s agenda covered a close look at the FutureLearn platform; discussion of filming practicalities; and a chance to further refine ideas on content to fit our goals and objectives.  As is fitting with a project involving new and ancient frontiers the team moved seamlessly between YouTube, GoogleDocs, BaseCamp and Post-it notes.

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