MOOCs: high quality international education at your computer

Have you got good intentions about furthering your education, but the time, the place and the costs keep you from actually doing anything about it? In that case, 2015 may well be the year of the MOOC for you.


MOOCs stands for Massive Open Online Courses. These are online courses that are accessible for anyone anywhere in the world, with no specific requirements needed. The courses are offered by universities throughout the world, and offer high-quality, but low-threshold teaching.

Each course lasts for a fixed number of weeks, and consists of video lectures, reflection questions and interactive assignments. As a participant, you decide for yourself how active a part you will play, and whether you will follow just a few video lectures or the whole programme including questions and assignments. You will have contact with the lecturer and work together with other participants by means of an online forum.

Anywhere, any time and it’s free

The advantage of MOOCs is that you, the participant, decide for yourself when you do the work and at what pace. You can view lectures and complete assignments in principle anywhere that you have internet access. Participants vary in age from 18 to 85, and are from all parts of the world. The MOOCs offer a platform for making contacts and exchanging ideas with a very diverse group of people. And another not unimportant factor: registration and participation are completely free. The only thing you will be asked to pay is a small contribution (50 euros) in advance if you wish to receive an official certificate at the end of the course.

Top MOOCs from other universities

• Think Again: How to reason and argue - Duke University

• Data science (specialization) - Johns Hopkins University

• Introduction to Public Speaking - University of Washington

• Gamification - Wharton University of Pennsylvania

• Leadership through Emotional Intelligence - Case Western Reserve University

MOOCs from Leiden University

A number of universities are now offering MOOCs. Leiden University has offered successful MOOCs since 2013 via the Coursera MOOC platform. MOOCs such as Terrorism and Counterterrorism and The Changing Global Order have been offered several times and have attracted huge numbers of students.

Reactions from a number of participants to the Leiden MOOCs:

Joella Givens (50), GIS Manager state government - Department of Transportation, USA: 
'This was a highly enriching experience. I have learned a lot; in particular the different perspectives of participants from throughout the world that cropped up in the discussion forum were extremely valuable.’


Charles Cameron (69), Blogger Religious Studies, UK:

'Over the past 15 years I have studied specific aspects of my field of work, but I lacked the broader context. This course has given me an insight into that. It also gave me the chance to make contacts that I hope will develop into friendships.’

Make a start with a MOOC

Two new Leiden University courses will start in February and March, but the total range of programmes offered is very diverse. The Leiden MOOCs can be found on the Coursera page of Leiden University. For more information on MOOCs and for a complete list of the courses, visit the websites of the MOOC platforms Coursera and edX.

Forthcoming MOOC from Leiden University: 

• Miracles of Human Language: An Introduction to Linguistics - starts 30 maart

Last Modified: 26-02-2015