Before the course starts

We realise that many of you will be keen to get started on your journey of discovery. What can you do before the course starts?

Many learners particularly enjoy the two timelines that we have created for the course… however, these are now so detailed that you could spend hours browsing them, so time spent on them now, might make your first two weeks of the course easier!

The team has worked hard to ensure that there are free, online resources available to support learners throughout the course. As an example, this advanced reading*, a chapter from the Oxford Handbook of Maritime Archaeology, sets out a variety of contemporary sources (from traditional boat studies to folklore and ethnography) which maritime archaeologists can and have drawn on in their research. It explores specific examples as well as the ways in which archaeologists use knowledge about maritime communities and traditions to shape their reconstructions of maritime communities in the past. This information is discussed in Week 4. (*This reading is only available during the four weeks that the course is live).

The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology has created a FREE virtual issue, with an introduction by Dr Julian Whitewright and eight articles that relate closely to the content of the course.

How to study this course

  1. use the FutureLearn system
  2. participate in a course with thousands of other learners
  3. apply effective study skills.

The FutureLearn How it works video provides an excellent introduction to get you started, and the FAQ link at the bottom of each page will quickly guide you to detailed explanations of really useful features such as being able to Follow other learners.

Participating in the course

This course is organised as four separate weekly topics, but you are free to join in as much or as little as you want or are able. If you miss a week because you were busy, ill or simply not interested in that topic, you have not ‘failed’ the course. You can catch up later or decide to focus on the parts of the course that really interest you. We have provided links to further reading material and other resources; you don’t have to look at these as part of the four hours commitment to the course though, they are there for you to simply explore if you wish to. So there is no wrong way of studying this course, but you need to find your own personal ‘right way’.

There are many opportunities to post your own comments, read what others have written and add replies. However, you may choose to just watch the videos and read the articles. There is no ‘correct’ way to study the course, but we do think that the more effort and time you put in, the more you will get out.

Participating in an online discussion with thousands of other learners can seem overwhelming, so we suggest that you read through no more than two pages of comments before choosing one or two to reply to. There is a ‘Like’ button for every comment, so you may also want to use this to quickly acknowledge good posts. You will also be able to filter the discussion to see the comments that have the most ‘Likes’.

You can comment on any step, but there are also specific discussion activities where you are asked to give your own answer to questions posed by the tutors. We recommend you type these in to a word processor, then copy, paste and post your response before you look at anyone else’s response. That way you won’t be influenced by what they have written or feel that ‘it has all been said already’.

If questions with fact-based answers have been posed, you will usually find that there is a downloadable answer sheet at the bottom of the page. You might want to note your answers down, but there is no need to post them in the comments!

It is a good idea to mark each step as complete before you move on to the next one – it really helps you see how you are progressing through the course.

Communicating online

  • Comments should be brief and to the point; no more than two or three short paragraphs. This is a conversation, not a monologue – no one wants to read essays!
  • Read your comments and replies all the way through before you post them. If you post in a hurry you may regret it later – you can’t delete or edit your comments.
  • Criticise the idea, not the person – and be polite when you do.
  • Don’t write a reply that you wouldn’t say face to face.
  • Remember that learners vary in culture, age and experience – be tolerant and constructive.
  • Not all learners have English as their first language, so always try to write clearly.
  • Explain any acronyms you use and avoid jargon if you can.
  • If you see a message that you think is offensive, click its ‘Report’ triangle icon. It will be reviewed within three hours by FutureLearn and will be removed if they agree with you.

Effective study skills

One of the great things about FutureLearn is that you can fit your studies around your other activities. Its mobile-friendly design makes it easy to keep up with discussions and fit a single learning step into a few spare minutes. That said, it can be helpful to plan for some dedicated study time each week. Which days or evenings suit you best? Set aside that time and try to avoid letting other activities eat into it.

You will need to actively listen to the videos. We recommend that you make brief notes of the key points as you listen, pausing the video if necessary. You can drag the slider to re-view parts that you didn’t understand the first time. Every video and article has its own comments section where you can ask or look for comments to help you understand. If you prefer, there are also text versions of each video that you can print, read and annotate while you listen.

To summarise, there is no wrong way of studying this course, but you need to find your own personal ‘right way’. The more effort you put in, the more you will get out of this course.

If you want to see recent activity on the course, just open the left navigation, and click the Activity link. If you’re following someone, you can filter this list to show the comments of people you’re following, or see if anyone has replied to a comment you’ve made.


There is a short quiz at the end of each week to help you check your understanding. Note that not all of the answers are specifically given in that week’s steps and so we are expecting you to think carefully and choose what you think is the correct answer. Every answer has detailed feedback, so you may learn something new even if you choose the wrong answer! You will also find shorter quizzes during the weeks.

Video controls, subtitles and transcripts

Once you select the triangular ‘Play’ button, you can see a control bar at the bottom of the video screen.

From the left hand side, this control bar allows you to start / pause the video; the speech bubble icon allows you to toggle the subtitles on / off; the sound icon allows you to mute/adjust the sound and arrows icon allow you to play the video full-screen.

You can download the video to watch offline by selecting the ‘Download this video’ link beneath the player.

Each video has a transcript which is available in PDF format from a link under the video.

Giving feedback

If you want to give feedback to the University of Southampton team about the content of the course, please post it in the comments on the relevant step. If you want to give feedback about how FutureLearn works, please click on the grey feedback button on the left hand side of the screen in FutureLearn (if you are using a laptop or desktop computer); alternatively, you can email

How long should I spend on this course each week?


Within four hours, it should be possible for someone with no prior experience of this subject to watch all of the videos, read the articles, take part in the discussion steps and complete the quizzes.

Articles and videos that are linked to (either within the text, or at the bottom of the page) are not considered to be compulsory reading and are not included in the time allocation. Likewise, it is very easy to spend a lot of time reading the fascinating comments posted by FutureLearners and members of the course team. If you do not have much spare time, we advise that you skim through the comments on 1-2 pages and perhaps have a look at the most popular comments. (The course materials will remain available to you for a year, so you can return to them later, if you need additional time).

At the end of each week, we have included two steps:

  • Explore further – extended reading
  • Explore further – extended reading [Advanced]

These steps contain many links to further sources of information that are available online. There is no expectation that you will read (or watch) all of the links that have been listed. These items are not essential to the course, but we are aware that many learners are keen to develop their knowledge in specific areas. We would recommend that you dip into these steps and when you have participated as much as you wish that you mark them as complete.

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