Innovative teaching

Teaching at Leiden University is closely connected to educational research and technological developments. We are always exploring innovative ways to strengthen (online and on-campus) teaching by using technology. This article sums up multiple ways to innovate your teaching.

Simulations & serious games

What is it?

Serious games use simulation with the purpose of teaching the players something by experiencing reality in a safe environment. In this safe environment, they can fail or repeat the experience to hone practical skills and competences. With simulation, professional roles and skills can be practised, such as those of a coach, a lawyer or a doctor. In addition to professional roles, general cognition skills like communication (such as difficult conversations and giving feedback), social skills, and leadership skills are also practiced.

Why use it?

Simulations and serious games can be used if practicing or experimenting in real life is impossible or simply impractical. You can recreate settings that are difficult to access, such as privacy-sensitive or dangerous situations. It can help students to practise the application of knowledge, skills, and attitudes in a realistic, yet controlled environment and to practice and evaluate realistic decision-making processes.

How to use it?

When you want to design a simulation or serious game, start with the least technical solution, and go with what your students are already familiar with. You can always add more technology if needed. Before starting the simulation or serious game, create a document with the setting and the rules. What is the context? What roles are there? What is expected of each role? What are the rules of engagement? What are the limitations? What is the end goal? Who will make decisions on the consequences of actions? The storyteller or moderator is always right about the consequences of actions, so there is no rules-lawyering. After the simulation or serious game, students reflect with the teacher what the crucial takeaways are from the experience. Grading can be based on active participation and insights.


What is it?

A podcast is an online audio file. You can produce it yourself and your students can listen to it anytime and anywhere. It can enrich your teaching and the learning of your students. You can share knowledge and give expert insights by recording lectures or interviews, but you can also use it for student assignments, for example by letting your students produce their own podcast.

Why use it?

Podcasts can enhance the personal connection felt between student and teacher. Students indicate that they feel to have a one-on-one relationship with their teacher when they listen to the podcast, which sometimes can feel even more personal than during a lecture. Students can also gain ownership of their own learning experience, because they can listen to the podcast anytime and anywhere they want (even offline).

How to use it?

Podcasts are fairly easy to make yourself, because you only need a laptop, a (high quality) microphone or audio recorder, and basic audio editing software (like Audacity). Before you start recording, make sure that you have written down your script, important keywords or interview questions. Try not to read out what you have written down, unless this is an audio book podcast. It is a good idea to add interpolated questions to the podcast, which are questions for the listeners to consider while they listen to your podcast. According to research, this can enhance their knowledge retention. Keep in mind that the maximum recommended length for educational podcasts is 10-15 minutes. If you have interesting speakers, this can be extended to 30-45 minutes.


What is it?

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are free online academic courses for a worldwide audience published by universities on aggregating platforms. It's always available on demand, so there is no set starting date or duration for following a course.

Small Private Online Courses (SPOCs) are online academic courses for a limited audience (usually 20-50 students) published on Brightspace. Courses have a set starting date and predetermined duration, so there are deadlines. In most cases, participants need to apply to take part in a SPOC and it is not necessarily free of charge.

Why use it?

MOOCs allow you to reach a wider audience, because it is available worldwide. They also provide flexibility: Students can study the learning material whenever and wherever they want. They can help develop or improve students' skills and they can refresh or deepen students' knowledge.

With a SPOC, the teacher has more direct contact with the students. There are more opportunities for discussions and deepening the knowledge of the students and there can be live (synchronous) elements to the course such as Q&A sessions.

How to use it?

As a teacher, you prepare and record the online video lectures, the written content, the Q&A sessions (if available), and the assignments/tests. The course participants follow the lectures, make tests, and exchange ideas.


In most cases, the decision for using a certain tool to support your courses depends on what you want to achieve. Please know that there’s not always one right answer and going with what you and your students are most familiar with can be valid reasoning as well.

To read more about the different video platforms, consult this article to compare your options. For other decisions, checkout the tool overview or get in touch with support staff who can consult you in finding the right solution.

You can get custom support. For example, through your faculty support staff or the helpdesk. Checkout this overview to find out where to go.

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