Comparing ds106 and FutureLearn

For this activity I have compared ds106 ( and an ‘introduction to cybersecurity’ course that I previously undertook on FutureLearn ( 

ds106 is an open course for digital story-telling, based at the University of Mary Washington in America  (University of Mary Washington 2020).  An introduction to cybersecurity is a short course that was developed by The Open University in the UK (NB – it does not appear to be running anymore, replaced by two alternative courses).


Technology requirements for ds106 are ‘a real computer, a hardy internet connection, preferably a domain of your own and some commodity web hosting, and all the creativity you can muster’ (UMW 2020).  ds106 is a learner led programme of learning.  As such new technologies are integrated by the learners and a range of social media/communication tools are used.   The website itself feels dated and is a bit clunky to use.

FutureLearn lists requirements for each course separately (FutureLearn 2020).  I did not see technology requirements listed, despite a specific search for this.  The courses deliver content using written word, videos and audio.  There are discussion boards for learners to contribute to, so access to a computer or mobile device is essential to engage in the courses.


ds106 reflects a cMOOC model, where the emphasis is on connectivism with other learners.  The ongoing open ds106 course does not have an assigned ‘teacher’.  Learners help to co-create knowledge through dialogue.

An introduction to cybersecurity reflects an xMOOC, a model where there is emphasis on delivery of content, similar to (or an extension of) a university curriculum.  Each of the courses has a named ‘teacher’ who engages with learners in the discussion forum or through response to questions. Achievement is commonly measured through ‘quizzes’ at points throughout and at the end of the course.

General approach and philosophy.

ds106 ‘runs’ at several times during the year, but also enables registration at any point in the year (not linked to a cohort or presentation) within an open ongoing course.  Student engagement and interaction are actively encouraged and supported.  There is a real sense of openness with students contributing images and assignments to the course website for use by others.  I feel I would be welcome to sign up for this course.

FutureLearn has a very corporate feel.  It offers access to short courses, microcredentials (professional and academic accreditation) and online degrees, formally developed by selected partner universities.  The requirements state who the course is appropriate for (i.e. allergies and when the immune system backfires is designed for healthcare professionals or students studying health sciences, and may be of interest to the general public looking to gain insight into the subject) (FutureLearn 2020).  Some access is ‘open’, but payment is required for long term access and certificates of achievement.  I feel nervous about signing up for these courses that feel more formal.

FutureLearn, 2020. Introduction to Cyber Security – The Open University [online]. Online: FutureLearn. Available from: [Accessed 19 April 2020].

University of Mary Washington, 2020. About ds106 [online]. Online: University of Mary Washington. Available from: [Accessed 19 April 2020].

Published by tanyaandrewes

Associate Lecturer at The Open University and Lecturer in Adult Nursing at Bournemouth University.

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