Review: Futurelearn’s Start Writing Fiction and Week 1 of Global Health and Humanitarianism

Futurelearn’s Start Writing Fiction which can be found here:   is one of the more popular courses in the Futurelearn catalog and was what started my obsession with MOOCs. As mentioned before, I’ve been having something of an issue with writer’s block and I thought that a class focusing on writing fiction might jumpstart the desire to write as that’s what my problem has been. There were some positives to the class, but it was less motivating than I’d hoped.

First, it was very difficult to workshop a piece. In fact, you really couldn’t. You submitted one short 500 word piece and then a 1000 word piece and got some feedback, never for it to be seen again. Which brings me to the second issue, the message board set up for Futurelearn is often problematic, but really, really clunky in this case. You can get back to your work by clicking here, then there, then over there. It’s not organic. By the time you click around there’s even more messages and it goes round and round. For other classes this is not such an issue, I usually just pick and choose, but for workshopping fiction work it’s too cumbersome. This is not the instructor’s fault as this is an issue with Futurelearn as a rule. The biggest issue I had was also not the instructor’s fault, per se.

I’ve done many writing classes, and the title did say Start Writing Fiction, so I should have known that it would be pretty simplistic. But it’s main focus was to keep a notebook. Drink coffee, write in a notebook. Watch TV or listen to the radio, write in the notebook. Wake up in the morning use the notebook. This is pretty standard. It’s not something I do but I do appreciate that many writers, and many famous ones, do indeed keep a notebook. What was irritating was that other than a few excerpts and some small commentary two or three weeks was taken up with talking about this notebook, writing about the notebook, and I’m pretty sure there was even a quiz question regarding the damn notebook. This time could have been spent elsewhere, in my opinion. But, to be fair, it wasn’t the worst class. There was some really good information and the people that I did interact with were lovely, lively, and engaged. I know that classes run more than once, and I’m a firm believer in feedback so my suggestions were to revamp their messaging system and to either offer a more advanced class or to stop with the notebook and give some suggestions to outside writing like Stephen King’s On Writing. which while King does indeed suggest having a notebook, he also gives great advice for other methods to start you on your way. Hopefully by the time they run the course again they will have addressed the forum situation as Futurelearn has admitted to the issues.



  The second class I’d like to talk about is Global Health and Humanitarianism, found here: Global Health and Humanitarianism. This class is very well structured and slightly different than other courses, even those on Coursera.  The typical assessments are there, three quizzes and three writing assignments. but they offer a few short lectures with documentary films added into the mix as well as links to optional readings to further your understanding, which is slightly different from most courses that are generally one Professor talking to the camera without much outside media. One film:

offers a look at the situation surrounding care for pregnant mothers in Bangladesh as well as the focus of sending educators from the community to inform women of their rights and given them information regarding marriage and pregnancy as well as providing the women with access to health care.



The class was stimulating and I enjoyed the extra videos and appreciated looking at Global Health in terms of more than vaccinations and epidemics. One of the aspects of Global Health is obviously access, but access doesn’t always mean economic access. There are also issues with geographic location and violence against women, among others. While this was a very introductory module, it bodes well for future classes.

If I had one little gripe it would be about the Prof. in charge of the lectures. She’s very stoic. I’m sure I’ll get use to her, though, so that’s pretty much a tiny problem.


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