Universiteit Leiden

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Tips for 2021

Get inspired by these tips from colleagues in and outside Leiden. If there are any tips about (online) education that you would like to add, feel free to send us a message.

In the spotlight

  • Ask the students to prepare the tutorials more thoroughly. For example, for the first two sessions, have them read texts in advance and submit a short note about them on Brightspace or have them think of questions in advance. These notes/questions are then discussed during the first lectures. The discussion during the lecture is immediately more in-depth, especially if several groups address similar problems.
  • Also giving group assignments in preparation (read an article per group and prepare a short presentation about it) works well to create a group feeling. One teacher remarked: 'I went through the notes that students prepared so that in the working lecture I could ask students specific questions or know which student could bring in an original insight. This way students felt seen I think and that encouraged their participation in the discussion during later lectures. This required more work on my part, but good preparation is essential for the first sessions of an online workcollege. In later sessions, I loosened the reins a bit.' 
  • Lectures went well after I got used to the knowledge clips (max. 20 min. each, always four per lecture for clarity). Most important tip as far as I am concerned: announce when you will make the lectures available, and also when you will close them again. Opening the knowledge clips for just a short period of time increases the viewing figures considerably.'
  • Try to indicate the structure of the working groups as much as possible and don't forget to take breaks (and possibly use the break for an informal chat with students)
  • Even more important than usual: try to learn students' names early and give turns. Frequently mentioned: Make sure you are "unpredictable" so students know they can take a turn at any time and address students directly - especially online students. Say that you think it's incredibly important that they always turn their cameras on (that helps).
  • A lecturer notes: "In hybrid education, always ask explicitly if the people who participate online also want to say something/ask questions, that they just have to turn on their microphone and say their say. Always take time for that, because they have to go through a moment of hesitation. If I ask a question to the group, I regularly direct it specifically to the people who are participating online. Try to switch back and forth between the people in the room and at home.'
  • Stimulate group feeling and social interaction: 'At the first lecture, I have the students introduce themselves a little more extensively, by also recounting a personal experience (from the summer). During the break, when everyone is staring at their phones again, I try to stimulate a group discussion about a current topic. At the end of the hybrid lecture, I show the students present in the lecture, who can then wave to those who are sitting at home.'
  • The Kaltura breakout rooms are often cited as an effective means of stimulating discussion and contact. One lecturer wrote, 'To stimulate mutual contact, I occasionally use the Kaltura breakout rooms. I then add the break to the break, so they can catch up with each other in small groups. This stimulates the mutual contact and group feeling.'
  • A lecturer wrote: 'For all my tutorials I indicated that I would be in the liveroom for about 15 minutes after the lecture. In this way, students who were present digitally could ask questions about assignments/dissertations more easily, and possibly also raise personal problems. This worked very well.'
  • A lecturer wrote: 'I split lectures into 3x 30 minutes and that actually worked very well. Even in the last half hour there was focus.'
  • Share sample questions in advance via Brightspace and clearly indicate how the test is structured and the number of questions.
  • Remindo is easiest to review but support is essential when using it.
  • In MS Teams you can create groups (within a workgroup). Students can use these for meetings (video conferencing) and for sharing documents.
  • Kaltura liverooms are great for workgroups (in webinar mode) and smaller lectures (in weblecture mode, good for up to 100 participants). This is the closest thing to the 'real' lecture experience. If desired, you can also record these lectures and keep them available in Brightspace. 
  • One lecturer wrote: 'I project the Kaltura Liveroom via the beamer so that everyone can also see the 'home students'. It works well to point the camera at the class during discussions. Students sitting at home can then better follow the contributions of students in the room. The sound is not always optimal, but I often repeated the questions/comments from the room for homebound students.'
  • A lecturer indicates using MS teams for consultations and conversations, and as a backup if Kaltura should fail. 
  • Tip: 'For presentations, I had my BA2 students record their story in advance, and let them access me through the video portal. This made the videos easy to show in Kaltura, without a long upload time.' 
  • Tip: keep it simple and clear. In Kaltura, there are useful tools available, such as the Breakout Room for group assignments during the workcollege and a quiz. But these tools only work for tutorials that are fully online.
  • Tip: Don't place your own camera too far in the middle, so you can't see the lecturer well, but move it back a little. Then questions from the class are easy for students to hear online. 
  • An option: 'In addition to the webcam on a tripod, I also used my own laptop (with camera), so that you can focus the camera on the group of students present and use the laptop to be visible as a teacher. You can just log into the Kaltura and only have to turn off your microphone and sound (otherwise you will hear annoying crackling and beeping).  
  • Tip: Pre-load Powerpoints into the Kaltura and don't show them by sharing your screen.
  • Tip: I have occasionally used the program 'Menti' to present questions to the whole group. Using Kahoot for some fun multiple choice questions, but it seems you can also do that through the Quiz feature in Kaltura.
  • Tip: Occasionally play a video via YouTube (and then share the link via chat for when the video in the Kaltura falters).
  • If you are holding the oral presentations of the working lecture on campus, have the students who could not attend for some reason record their presentation in advance and post it on Brightspace. Others could then view it and provide feedback. During the lecture itself you can then briefly go into it. This is also a good way of keeping the lecture itself relatively short (for those who followed the lecture on the screen).
  • It is also possible to have students present without a powerpoint or have a handout distributed in advance.
  • Have students give small presentations often, also without powerpoint and with their image in presentation mode.
  • Try to repeat information multiple times and in different ways/platforms.
  • Variety in the form of assignments helps to keep attention. Assign spokespersons / have them assign each group. Alternate by online/offline group when discussing.
  • Very short periods in breakout rooms in Kaltura (5 minutes) can help tremendously to activate students. Longer is also possible, but then you have to give yourself an active role. 
  • Students on campus can discuss in triangles (then three students can discuss with each other without moving from their seats). 
  • A suggestion for students taking hybrid education at home: give them a specific assignment while they follow the lecture at home. For example, to come up with a question or three points that they pass along to the whole group in the chat feature at the end of the lecture. 
  • One instructor wrote, "I had them collaborate in creating a bibliography (via the group libraries function in Zotero), and by having them comment on the first versions of the presentations (in pitch2peer) and on each other's introductions.

N=300, T=120, Proctoring: No, Remindo: Yes

Online Philosophy of Science exam, with the option of collaboration.


Due to the covid crisis, the Philosophy of Science for the Humanities examination could not take place physically. But how do you offer an online multiple choice exam for hundreds of students without encouraging all kinds of cheating?


The two forms of cheating that could easily take place are using books/literature and consulting with other students. Of course, you can try to somewhat discourage this by increasing the time pressure and randomizing the order of the questions, but that doesn't get to the root of the problem. Instead, I have chosen to embrace the new situation. I have made the exam an open book exam, with fewer questions that delve deeper into the texts the students have read. And I gave the students the opportunity to work together with up to three other students. Everyone writes their own exam, but they were allowed to consult with three others; and on the exam form they were asked to mention those other students as well.


Cheating is prevented. Students come into contact with the study material again in an educational way, by discussing it with each other. The questions can delve deeper and become more interpretative. And the grades were not very different from usual.


Of course, you have to think very carefully about the questions you ask. Anything the students can look up within a minute is not a good question - they really need to show some form of insight.


I was inspired by the clip Flipping the Class Exams by Frans-Willem Korsten. (You can watch the video in the Videoportal).

Victor Gijsbers 

Webinar in Dutch

Courtesy of Ionica Smeets 

Do you know what a chatblast is? Do you encourage casual encounters between students online, now that physical chatting after class is not possible? Or do you create a playlist to make waiting until a video lecture begins more exciting? On 12 November, Ionica Smeets, professor Science Communication at W&N, gave a surprising webinar about 'communicating during strange times'. She offers very useful and tangible tips for online education in the context of the new series Nuffic meets...... which she based, among other things, on Dan Levy's article The Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Balancing Act and her own experiences during her lectures.

Ionica Smeets' webinar consists of three parts of about 20 minutes. The first part (starting at 24 minutes) is about science communication, in the second part (starting at 40 minutes) Ionica offers very useful and tangible tips for online education and stimulating interaction with students. The final part is about communicating in an international context.

On the last subject, 'Internationalisation', she is optimistic. Look at what the current situation does make possible. She offers tips on how to collaborate internationally, also on education, with researchers and lecturers from all over the world. Are you already thinking about your lectures and your course in the second semester? If so, invite an international guest lecturer who can offer an interesting (perhaps non-Western) perspective on the content of your subject by having the guest lecturer teach an online lecture.

The link to this webinar will remain available until the end of December 2020.

The webinar consists of three parts

  1. Science Communication (starting at 24 minutes)
  2. Online education: good practices (starting at 40 minutes)
  3. Internationalisation: what is possible during the corona pandemic

See also: synchronous vs asynchronous online education

A simple set-up to make your live online lecture as succesful as possible

In Dan Levy's article The Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Balancing Act you can think carefully about the structure of your online education and prepare yourself with two simple questions:

  1. How do you divide the content of your course into synchronous and asynchronous educational material?
  2. How can I learn to use asynchronous teaching material so that live lecturing becomes better?

The article contains good examples of how you can split the educational content. Dan Levy speaks of the 'laundry test' for asynchronous activities. A student recently told him that if he could fold the laundry during an online lecture, he would watch the recording of the lecture and not participate live.
By building in a step between the asynchronous learning and the live session with students, you can find out more about the students' progress and what concepts they are struggling with. As a lecturer, you can also use this step to allow students to prepare the asynchronous material properly. In this way you can also adapt your live lecture to the students' reactions.
Dan Levy's general tip: start small, change a few lectures first and see if it works.

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