Redesigning FutureLearn units to promote active learning



Teaching Online
Good Practice

Two FutureLearn delivered units were recently redesigned to place an even greater emphasis on active learning. Leadership Practice with Impact (MPL700) and Leadership Challenges (MPL701) have been delivered fully online using the FutureLearn platform as part of the Master of Leadership, one of Deakin’s suite of Professional Practice Degrees.

Dr Melissa Parris (Senior Lecturer, Deakin Business School) and Jenny Pesina (Senior Educational Developer, Global Studio) led a team of staff from across the Deakin Business School and Global Studio to restructure the units and review the various student learning activities included in the ‘Your tasks’ section. The team completed the redesign while working remotely, using the online visual collaboration platform Miro to initiate a rigorous design process and collaborating using Microsoft Teams.

The ‘Your task’ section

The ‘Your tasks’ section included in Deakin’s FutureLearn courses is where a student will find activities designed to deepen their understanding of the unit. The ‘Your task’ section of MPL700 and MPL701 has now been re-designed to further promote active learning through reflection and conversation. Activities have been mapped across two main categories: ‘Reflective practice’ and ‘Share your ideas’.

The purpose of ‘Reflective practice’ activities is to invite self-reflection on what has been learnt so far through asking a question or describing a scenario. These tasks also assist with student preparation for the assessment, where students commonly draw on their own experiences to demonstrate their learning.

‘We know that reflective practice is integral to deep learning, encouraging students to think critically about both their own experiences and the theory they are learning’, said Dr Melissa Parris. ‘It is one of the skills we want to encourage for lifelong learning beyond these units. One well-known author on leadership, Professor Warren Bennis, also emphasised the importance of reflection for leadership practice:

Experiences aren’t truly yours until you think about them, analyse them, examine them, question them, reflect on them, and finally understand them. The point … is to use your experiences rather than be used by them … (Bennis 2009, p.92)

‘Share your ideas’ invites students to join in a discussion with peers by commenting and responding to the existing discussion threads. This provides an extra dimension to self-reflection, allowing the students to engage in a collaborative discussion on challenging concepts and problem solving.

‘In the largely self-paced learning environment on FutureLearn, the ‘Share your ideas’ activities are key to active and collaborative learning’, said Dr Parris. ‘These activities can cover current and/or provocative issues and allow students to collaboratively consider different options and the implications for different contexts.’

From the educators’ perspective, this new structure provides a more focused approach to online moderation and student support mechanisms. The range of ‘Share your ideas’ activities means educators have the opportunity to check student understanding of the content and provide further clarification where needed, encourage critical discussion, and propose extension questions for those seeking more knowledge.


Bennis, W. (2009). On becoming a leader: The leadership classic–updated and expanded. Basic Books.

Deakin staff can learn more by visiting the Global Studio SharePoint site.

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