Teaching & Learning


Delivering a pre-entry online course to over 3000 postgraduates

UCL Careers’ small private online course (SPOC) gives students support before they join UCL. Careers consultants Dave Carter, Sophia Donaldson & Stephen Gurman explain how and why it was developed.

Staff and student computer

18 May 2017

The small private online course (SPOC), now in its third year, gives students a broad overview of careers support through videos, activities, discussion forums and useful information and documents.

The course is sent to postgraduate taught students with a place at UCL over the summer before they arrive.

It is optional and gives the opportunity to engage with careers information remotely before the beginning of what will be a time-pressured, deadline-heavy year for many.

The content covers all aspects of careers development, for example:

  • writing CVs
  • preparing for interviews
  • looking for roles
  • writing PhD applications, and more

Student feedback has been very positive, with over 3000 using the online course before commencing their studies at UCL. Students praised the clear and concise nature of the content and some said that it motivated them to get involved in careers at an earlier stage than they may have considered without it.

Engaging hard-to-reach students and showcasing services

For the consultants, the online course is a platform to engage with hard-to-reach students at a much earlier stage than usual.

It also enables the central service department to showcase some of the other support available to students such as bespoke mock interviews and skills workshops.

For some students, access to the online course has provided support where previously this would have been facilitated only by 1:1 appointments and workshops which forms the basis of individual careers provision at UCL.

Supporting students' employability

More widely, the SPOC feeds in to UCL’s goal of developing students who think about their future throughout their studies. UCL’s Education Strategy 2016-21 sets out the university’s commitment “to expand our co-curricular offer in response to student feedback about employability and our commitment to education in the round.”

The course builds upon on the previous success of the University of London’s massive online open course (MOOC) aimed at career changers using their central consultancy service. Although some of the information was repurposed from the MOOC where relevant, much of the information was created and collated from scratch, taking around four months to finalise.

The technical aspects of the SPOC were developed in conjunction with colleagues in UCL Digital Education: the course uses UCL eXtend, a version of Moodle, the online virtual learning environment used across UCL, and UCL Media Central to facilitate the diversity of media content.

The course will run for its third year in 2017, having been streamlined in response to student feedback.