Institutional Context

The National Distance Education University (UNED) is a Spanish public university that provides distance education at national and international levels. It was founded in 1972 to enable priority access to university and further education for all those who, while capable  of pursuing higher studies, were unable to attend on campus classes for work, financial, residential, or other reasons. With more than 260,000 students, it is the largest higher education institution in Spain and one of the largest universities in Europe. It is also the  leader in the implementation of cutting edge technologies applied to teaching and learning, with the largest offer of online courses in Spain The difference between UNED and the rest of universities in Spain lies not only in its student numbers but also on its geographic dimension (national and international) and on the use of a blended-learning methodology an complementary pedagogical tools (television, radio, video and online virtual university campus).

UNED has more than sixty associated regional study centres with more that 100 extensions and classrooms, where tutoring takes place and also the venues for the proctoring of in person exams, allowing students to access all kinds of academic services, including libraries, audiovisual materials, face-to-face tutorials, video conferencing and a virtual campus (telematic tutoring). Furthermore, UNED is present in thirteen countries in Europe (Germany, Belgium, France, United Kingdom, Switzerland and Italy), America (United States, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Brazil and Venezuela) and Africa (Equatorial Guinea). UNED has more than 1,400 academic teaching staff, distributed in nine Faculties and two Technical Schools.  UNED offers 27 bachelor’s degrees, 45 official university master’s degrees and 39 doctoral programs, all to the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). It also offers 110 PhD programs, University Access for candidates older than 2 and 45, respectively, and offers language courses in foreign and co-official languages at the University Centre for Distance Language Learning (CUID). More than 600 professional education courses are offered at UNED, together with more than 900 university extension courses, and 55 senior courses, for people over the age of 55. UNED also responds to the social demand for training groups with special needs, such as people with various disabilities and those in prisons in the country and abroad.

Current situation regarding online learning with MOOCs

UNED is a pioneering university in Europe in the creation of repositories of OER and in the implementation of MOOC. In October 2012, the UNED Abierta (Open UNED) was founded, and since then it has been being the institution responsible for OpenCourseWare and MOOCs at UNED.  The founding Director of Open UNED was one he coordinators of the project, Dr. Timothy Read, who is Associate Professor in Computer Languages and Systems and  Pro-Vice Chancellor of Emergent Technologies at UNED. Open UNED started using OpenMOOC platform and since 2016 is using OpenEdx. Its resources and MOOC can be access on its website ( and the offer of MOOCs on the portal IEDRA (, having at the moment 159 MOOCs available, 60 of them currently active, 125,990 registered users and 194,717 inscriptions.

The ATLAS (Applying Technology to Languages) research group, was founded also by Dr. Timothy Read and Dra. Elena Bárcena, co-director of MOONLITE project and Associate Professor of English Language and Linguistics at UNED and its members are from UNED and Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM). ATLAS is focused on the area of mobile assisted language learning (MALL) and MOOCs for languages (LMOOCs). LMOOCs are those MOOCs which has as main objetive the learning of a second language.

In Spain the first initiative that can be considered LMOOC was in 2012 with the MOOC “Inglés profesional/Professional English” offered by two providers: UNED Abierta and MiríadaX, with two editions and almost 50.1000 participants in total, being one of the 3 most popular courses on the UNED platform. In addition, in the first phase of the UNED Abierta, other English LMOOCs were held,”Start with English: learn the thousand most used words and their communicative possibilities” and “Starting to write English with no mistakes: level B1”. In 2013, the MOOC of “German for Spanish Speakers: Fundamental Notions”, was awarded the 1st MECD-Universia/Telephone Award for the best MOOC and in its several editions has been participated more than 70,000 students. And in the second phase of UNED Open in 2015, a Spanish MOOC and an English MOOC for level B1 appeared,”Spanish online ELE-UNED”, and “How to succeed in the English B1 Level Exam”, with the latter having two editions and more than 8,000 participants. Most of these above mentioned courses are still being offered on Open UNED platform.

MOOCs implemented at the UNED will benefit from all the technical and financial support of the Open UNED and from the experience in design and methodology in MOOCs of the ATLAS group research.