Review: FutureLearn’s “Learn About The Weather”
FutureLearn is a private company, owned by the Open University, which provides free online courses developed by various institutions. I had heard of FutureLearn but never looked at what it offered.
I read about an interesting-sounding course called “Learn About The Weather”, which is billed as of potential use to gardeners, and decided to sign up. The course opened on 11 September and is available for free until 22 October. You sign in online and have access, week by week, to a series of modules which explain why weather happens and how to make good use of information about the weather. The content comes from the University of Exeter and the Met Office.
Generally, the course takes the form of a brief video on each subject, a few paragraphs of text, and an opportunity to have online discussions with other participants. There are also occasional online tutorial sessions, where the course leader is available for online questions and guidance. I am two weeks in and it has been a worthwhile experience. I have learned why weather differs according to whereabouts in the globe you are, so I understand why we have rainforest and desert regions near the equator and tropics. I also know some useful facts about weather closer to home – such as why the prevailing wind in the UK is usually West to East. I feel like I will come out of the course armed with some facts that will help me as I watch the weather and tend to my plants.
The style of the course is a little repetitive, with videos, followed by text which repeats many of the facts in the video, and then a quiz to test knowledge. But this covers a range of learning styles and so I felt pleased that I could pick and choose whether I wanted to watch a video, read, or click and learn. I have not yet interacted with other participants or the tutor as I have not felt the need. Many seem to use the discussion boards just to say whether or not they find the course interesting rather than discussing its content, and it feels a little like many users of FutureLearn may just be looking for ways to fill their time. Others post useful links to related information, and it could be a good way to find other students with similar interests if I was looking for a network. The information on the course is excellent though, and, in a time when extreme weather has hit the headlines and made us wonder what we are in for next, I certainly feel a bit better informed.