Free on-line learning & MOOCs

posted in: Education | 3
What is a MOOC?
What is a MOOC?

A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is a course that can reach thousands of students. MOOCs generally are free, have no prerequisites other than Internet access, no specific expectations for participation, and no formal accreditation. The MOOC may have a predefined time-line with weekly topics and quizzes.

To some researchers, MOOCs provide unique opportunities for both learners and teachers. They are the “logical outcome of the ongoing evolution of distance learning” [1]. Some believe that MOOCs are useful for supplementing F2F (face to face) education [2]. Others dismiss MOOCs because of issues with retention, cheating & plagiarism, and student isolation.

Who creates these courses, who gives them? Well, generally anyone can. There is no accreditation process, no rules or regulations. MOOCs often are associated with universities. Why would an academic institution provide these courses? For research and prestige [3]. It can also serve as a global marketing platform for a university. Two for-profit ventures, Coursera and Udacity, evolved from Stanford University’s MOOCs.

Below is a list of some organizations that provide free on-line courses:

Khan Academy is a not-for-profit organization with the goal of changing education for the better. “All of the site’s resources are available to anyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology [4].” Learn about anything; math, science topics such as biology, chemistry, and physics, and even finance and history. Khan Academy is not associated directly with any educational institutions and receives grants from various foundations such as The O’Sullivan foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, Google and Bank of America. They provide a personalized learning environment that will track what you learn and recommend what to do next. Students earn achievement badges and have a dashboard with personal statistics and class performance data.

EdX is a not-for-profit organization based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They offer interactive online classes and MOOCs from MITx, HarvardX, BerkeleyX, UTx and other universities. Topics include biology, business, chemistry, computer science, economics, finance, electronics, engineering, food and nutrition, history, humanities, law, literature, math, medicine, music, philosophy, physics, science, statistics and more. They offer free courses and education, in return they will learn from you! “The edX platform has been specifically designed to not only teach, but also gather data about learning. EdX will use this data to find out how to improve education on-line and on-campus [5].” EdX courses are not eligible for credit at any educational institution. However they do offer ID-verified certificates for a fee.

Coursera is a for-profit education company that partners with universities and organizations to offer free on-line courses. They offer a wide variety of topics, including courses in the Humanities, Medicine, Biology, Social Sciences, Mathematics, Business, Computer Science, etc.

Udacity is a for-profit organization providing Computer Science courses. Udacity courses are created around hands-on projects built by technical leaders like Google, AT&T, and Intuit. Basic support is free but the student must pay for feedback, code review, coaching and certificates.

iversity is a non-profit, multi-lingual organization associated with several European universities.

Note: All of these organizations will collect, use and share certain information about you . Their privacy policies are available on their websites.


[1] North, S. M., Richardson, R. & North, M. M. (2014). To Adapt MOOCS, or Not? That is No Longer the Question. Universal Journal of Educational Research 2 (1), 69-72.  (Doi: 10.13189/ujer.2014.020108.)  Retrieved  from

[2] Martin, F. G. (2012). Will Massive Open Online Courses Change How We Teach?. Commun. ACM 55 (8), 26–28.  (Doi: 10.1145/2240236.2240246.)  Retrieved  from

[3] Cooper, S. & Sahami, M. (2013). Reflections on Stanford’s MOOCs. Commun. ACM 56 (2), 28–30.  (Doi: 10.1145/2408776.2408787.)  Retrieved  from

[4] Khan Academy. (2014). About Khan Academy. Retrieved from

[5] edX. (2014). Student FAQ. Retrieved from

3 Responses

  1. Cathy

    That is so cool, I didn’t know there were courses like that! (psst it’s spelled curriculum). 🙂

  2. Lorna
  3. Jeff

    I spell that word with a K……but then I haven’t taken any online MOOCS as I thought they were for cows only.

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