Universiteit Leiden

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Online learning

Small, large or even massive online courses from universities all over the world, for free, or in some cases a fee. That is what we call MOOCs (massive open online courses) on worldwide platforms, or SPOCs (small private online courses) in a more closed setting where the learner is invited.

Learners can pay for a verified certificate or in some cases can even gain study points (microcredentials), or an entire degree. Teachers make use of automated elements and extensive data analytics of the course to improve the quality of the content.

Open online learning offers learners a large set of possibilities to gain knowledge in their own tempo, at a time of their own choosing, from a teacher or institute of their choice. It is ideal to combine with another study, a job, raising children, or whatever else the learner has going on in their lives.

MOOCs and SPOCs audience

A MOOC is online on demand, meaning a learner can start at any time, and open to thousands of participants at the same time. The sky is the limit. There can be interaction between participants, but the teacher usually interacts only with pre-created materials in video, text and programmed quizzes and peer reviewed essays. 

A SPOC may be designed in the same way as a MOOC, but the teacher has more direct contact with the learners, usually between 20 and 50 per course. There might be live (synchronous) elements to the course, such as Q&A sessions, in addition to the asynchronous material, and there is a time bound run of the course with a deadline. In a SPOC the teacher has more room for deepening of knowledge and discussions with the group. If a SPOC is combined with physical meetings on campus, we call it Blended Learning, also known as Flip the Classroom

Leiden University & Platforms

Leiden University has a contract with two MOOC platforms:
•    Coursera – worldwide, biggest market, with special attention to business, datascience
•    FutureLearn – focus on Europe & British Commonwealth, with more attention to humanities, law and health

Both platforms are commercial companies. Between those two platform Leiden has over 35 courses, often on both platforms at the same time. Leiden currently does not offer an online degree programme on either platform.

  • The accountholder for Leiden University for both platforms is Leiden Learning & Innovation Centre (LLInC).
  • For SPOCs the platform of choice is the same as for the rest of the regular education: Brightspace.

Using MOOCs and SPOCs on campus

Here are some ways that you can use existing material of MOOCs and SPOCs, of your own, or from other people, in your own teaching:
•    You can download specific videos from online courses (either from the platform or for instance from YouTube). To avoid copyright infringement please contact the teacher you would like to re-use their material. Often the teachers are more than willing to share.
•    You can simply recommend an on-demand course to your students, for a specific module or video. Because you are not removing the material from its context, this is allowed use.
•    You and your entire group of students follow the entire online course together. At the MOOC platforms it is possible to request a closed session specifically for your group through the teacher (turning a MOOC into a SPOC).

At Leiden you can contact LLInC if you wish to set this up with one of our courses.

Since the COVID19 crisis SPOCs (or simply fully online courses) have become part of the regular education portfolio of Leiden University. You can ask fellow teachers if you can re-use their material. Check out the Kaltura Video Portal for material. Through contacts in the Netherlands between institutes in the same field or for instance SURF, you may also have access to materials of other universities that you can easily repurpose. The concept of open and free sharing of educational material is called Open Educational Resources.

Creating your own MOOC or SPOC

Read more about SPOCs and Blended Learning on the Teacher Support Website of Leiden University, and in the Video Toolkit to learn about making your own material. You can create your own courses for Leiden students on Brightspace.


Do you wish to disseminate your research results for free, perhaps as part of a grant? Give more visibility to your institute or programme? Recruit students? Then consider creating your own MOOC.

LLInC is responsible for the technical maintenance & support of the courses on both Coursera and FutureLearn.  They will assist you with hosting provided you and your institute can commit to keeping the content of the course up to date for at least 3 years. They can also assist you with design and production for a fee (or you can arrange that through your faculty by contacting your ICTO coordinator).

More information

Please contact LLInC (hello@llinc.leidenuniv.nl)to discuss possibilities.

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