What are MOOCs?

MOOC is an abbreviation for Massive Open Online Course – web-based classes offering lectures and study materials on a variety of subjects to students all over the world.

As the name suggests, these types of courses are designed to admit a large number of students, even hundreds at a time. They are open to anyone and accessible from different geographical locations.

MOOCs are offered by professionals, institutions, many universities, or even private companies like Microsoft and Google. They can cover a variety of different subjects from economy and business, through languages and arts to soft skills.

MOOCs are commonly hosted on big learning platforms. They can include different types of learning material – videos, text, presentations, study assignments, quizzes, and more. The lectures often use innovative instruments to keep in touch with their students – online boards, social media groups, and forums.

MOOCs are usually self-paced and everyone can learn at a schedule that accommodates to their busy daily life, and progress as quickly as they want. However, sometimes course material might be released gradually. In either case, students have greater flexibility to plan their own time.

Why MOOCs?

This type of course offers an opportunity to many busy professionals to develop new skills at a low cost.

MOOCs biggest advantages:

  • Open to anyone – There is no admission process and requirements. This means that you can start learning a new skill from zero without having to worry about your background or lack of experience.
  • Flexibility – Courses come in any shape and form and can answer any need. Some MOOCs can be as short as a week, others can be a few months long. There are courses at different levels of expertise - introductory, intermediate, or advanced – and on a variety of topics.
  • Innovations – MOOCs take advantage of the progress of technology. They often include modern teaching methods and a variety of digital instruments. Most of them are organized in a user-friendly manner and allow you to explore different teaching methods.

Learning Platforms

There are many learning platforms offering MOOCs. Depending on where you live, there may even be a local learning platform offering MOOCs in your native tongue.

The biggest learning platforms provide courses in foreign languages as well; however, the majority of the courses are taught in English.

These are a few of the biggest learning platforms:

  • Udemy – Founded in 2010 by Eren Bali, Gagan Biyani, and Oktay Caglar. It offers more than 155000 courses and 40 million students.
  • Coursera – Founded in 2012 by Stanford University, it offers more than 3,000 courses in 40 languages.
  • edX – Founded in 2012 by Harvard and MIT, it offers 2000 free courses from 140 leading institutions worldwide.
  • Udacity - Educational organization founded in 2021 by Sebastian Thrun, David Stavens, and Mike Sokolsky. It accommodates the needs of 2+ Millions students.
  • FutureLearn – Founded in 2021 and jointly owned by The Open University and SEEK Ltd., reaches 12.5 million users.

Are MOOCs paid?

Usually, MOOCs offer two options of enrolment:

  • Free – This option allows students to access almost the entire content of the course, including learning materials and discussion forums.
  • Paid – In addition to the above, students often get access to more specialized content or advanced assignments, and most importantly they received a certificate upon completion. 

If receiving a certificate upon completion of the course is something you value, make sure to read carefully the course description before enrolling. In most cases you will have to pay a fee to receive it.

In case you cannot afford a certain course you are interested in, don’t get discouraged. Many learning platforms offer financial aid for a number of their courses. For example, there is Coursera’s guide to financial aid.

How do you choose the right course?

Before enrolling in a MOOC make sure you have read the course description to avoid unpleasant surprises and save yourself some time. Although there are many courses offered on the internet, not all of them may provide the quality you seek.

This is what we advise:

  • Check the course syllabus/topics – It is important to know what exactly you will learn. Sometimes a course could be too general or too specialized and will not serve your purpose.
  • Google your instructors – Most courses include short information about the instructors who will teach you. Check their bio and research their experience so you can decide for yourself if they are knowledgeable enough on the topic you want to study.
  • Check rating and student feedback – Most courses include rating information, usually in the form of a 5-star system. Take a note of it, and don’t skip reading the comments left by people who have already taken  the course. You will find valuable information that will hint at the course’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • Know your learning style – Do you prefer audio or text? Do you learn through exercise or through videos? Make sure to check what learning tools the course includes so you can benefit the most from it.

No matter if you want to learn a new skill, advance in your career, or just develop a new hobby, MOOCs can be a good option for you.