Newcastle University is bringing learners around the world to Hadrian’s Wall with its first ever free online course on the FutureLearn social learning platform.

The six-week course, entitled ‘Hadrian’s Wall: life on the Roman frontier’, offers a comprehensive introduction to the most heavily fortified frontier in the Roman Empire, its people and their lives, and raises fascinating issues concerning colonisation, cultural transformation, immigration, integration and imperialism.

The course starts on 22 September, and free registration is open from 2 June.

Exploring life on the Roman frontier

Exploring life in the region before the construction of the Wall, the changing face of the Roman army and the civilian population, this interactive course is open to anyone. The rich archaeological evidence for the garrison, their families, the native population, slaves, merchants and settlers will be presented by world experts, who will be on hand to discuss questions. This is the only free online course in the world focused entirely on this iconic 73 mile long landmark, which is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Professor Suzanne Cholerton, Newcastle University Pro-Vice Chancellor Learning and Teaching, said: “Our partnership with FutureLearn offers a unique opportunity to anyone, anywhere in the world to experience the historical and cultural significance of Hadrian’s Wall in a stimulating learning environment.

“This free online course draws on the University’s long-standing academic reputation and FutureLearn’s social learning leadership expertise. It was developed with an extensive range of specifically designed interactive resources to offer an engaging way to learn about the history of this important place in Roman history.”

Strong narratives and social learning

The CEO of FutureLearn, Simon Nelson, said: “The course on Hadrian’s Wall from Newcastle University promises to showcase compelling storytelling techniques while delivering effective learning. This is a hallmark of FutureLearn courses, which use strong narratives alongside social learning to bring education to life for our hundreds of thousands of learners.”

A joint effort

Professor of Archaeology from Newcastle University’s School of History, Classics and Archaeology, Ian Haynes, who is leading the course, said: “I am delighted to have this opportunity to reach a large audience with the exciting story of Hadrian’s Wall. Newcastle University has a strong relationship with the Wall both ancient and modern and the free online course is a marvellous opportunity to celebrate this and provide new ways of exploring this amazing landmark.

“Multiple organisations joined us in the preparation of this important project, including Newcastle City Council, English Heritage, The Clayton Trust, National Trust, Vindolanda Trust, Tyne and Wear Archives & Museums and the Senhouse Museum.”

Videos and forensic case studies

The course features videos from key archaeological sites along Hadrian’s Wall, such as Vindolanda, Arbeia, Segedunum, Maryport, Corbridge and Chesters. In addition, online participants can interact with each other, tutors and experts via discussions, and online live events.

As part of the course participants can explore real forensic case studies in detail such as The Bairn in the Barracks, The Strange Case of Skull 8556, and a mystery at a reconstructed Roman banquet, all designed to illuminate the complexities of daily life on Rome’s most famous frontier.

Registration is free and is open now until the end of the course in October via FutureLearn.

FutureLearn: A social learning platform

FutureLearn is a social learning platform that brings together 27 leading universities and three renowned content providers – the British Library, British Museum and British Council – in a unique partnership to deliver free online courses in a wide-range of academic disciplines.

Free online courses have grown rapidly in a short period of time. Currently there are more than six million people enrolled worldwide.