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Educate it UU


Utrecht University will develop four MOOCs in 2016, each connected to one of the strategic themes of the university. The first MOOC (Clinical Epidemiology) was published in march 2016 on the online platform Coursera. The university aims to use the MOOCs to introduce students to the various disciplines. Using these MOOCs they will have a better understanding to decide from accredited Small Private Online Courses (SPOCs) and the campus education programs.

A MOOC (or Massive Open Online Course) is a free online course, aimed at mass participation, where course material is distributed using the internet. This means that students all over the world can participate. A course takes about three to six weeks and typically includes a lot of interaction between students, who in their place are able to follow the curriculum independent of time and location. MOOCs make great use of videos, quizzes, texts, homework and a concluding exam. A MOOC is not accredited.


The UU aims to use MOOCs to gain experience with the new educational possibilities, while reaching a broader audience with their programs. That’s why MOOCs are coordinated from the Educate-it project.

Other goals for the use of MOOCs are:

– Creating awareness for Utrecht University.
– Contributing to the (international) reputation.
– Showing UU’s excellence, based on four themes.
– Marketing (post)graduate online education and researching whether MOOCs lead to more participants for the UU educational curriculum, especially (online) master’s programs.
– Making scientific research possible by generating data.

UU and online education

Utrecht University has broad experience using online education forms. The MOOCS are an introduction to the SPOCs and the campus education. The university has been developing SPOCs (Small Private Online Courses) since 2012 as one of the first institutions that offered a complete master’s program apart from these courses.

Currently the university offer over 70 completely accredited courses using the platform ElevateHealth, which the UU founded together with the UMCU. ElevateHealth offers small scale education with intensive support and a lot of interaction between students and teachers. This fits perfectly in the UU’s educational model, in which the small scale, personalising and activating education are essential. The advantage of SPOCs is the fact that students from all over the world are able to participate in the curriculum without having to physically come to Utrecht. The UU will use these courses to help students remove deficiencies before they participate in a master’s program as well.

The first MOOCs by prestigious institutions like Stanford, MIT and Harvard have been developed parallel to the Elevate initiative. MOOC platforms offer courses to the masses that can be participated in free of charge. The MOOCs made sure that online education gained international interest. Popularity of online education has skyrocketed.

Since Fall of 2013 various prestigious institutions and MOOC platforms are renewing their focus: apart from the MOOCs they started to offer SPOCs. The latter educational method has a more sustainable business model and a much higher success rate. Expectations are that both educational methods will co-exist in the next years to come. Only time will tell.


The first years of experimenting with the MOOC platforms are over, and the time is ripe to research the possibilities that MOOCs can offer Utrecht University. There is no intention to offer all the on-campus courses online. There is however the intention to develop the parallel between on-campus and off-campus education, as described in the strategic plans concerning internationalising and valorisation. On-campus students could even follow courses or even a master’s program together with off-campus students all around the world.

In 2016 Educate-it wil coordinated the development of four MOOCs that will be offered on the Coursera platform. Each of these MOOCs will be connected to on of four research themes that Utrecht University is invested in; Sustainability, Life Sciences, Institutions and Dynamics of Youth.

More information on the MOOCs that Utrecht University offers is available at the corporate web-site.

More information on the SPOCs is available at the Elevate-site.