MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)

MOOCs offer university-level courses without the need to complete an entire programme of studies, and are becoming increasingly popular.

  • They offer a large number of students the opportunity to study high quality courses online with prestigious universities, often at no cost. 
  • They are ideal for independent study and users can select courses from any institution offering them.
  • MOOCs do not always lead to formal qualifications. There are no entry requirements.
  • Video-based, they offer interaction either through peer review and group collaboration or automated feedback through objective, online assessments (including quizzes and exams).

What you need to know

While most courses are free, some are fee-paying. Videos are normally short and much activity takes place on online discussion groups and forums.

  • Drop-out rates are high – up to 90%. Rates are marginally lower for paid-for courses.
  • A reasonable degree of computer literacy is needed.
  • Many MOOC users are graduates seeking to top up their skills and competences.
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Are MOOCS for you?

Why you might consider a MOOC

  • They are low cost routes to accessing quality courses.
  • They can be combined with other study or work.
  • They are accessed from any computer at any location including your home.

Why a MOOC may not be suitable for you

  • MOOCs do not feed into a degree or other qualification but are self-contained.
  • Few students complete the courses.
  • Content from a MOOC offered by a university outside your home country may not match cultural and other conditions with which you are familiar.

MOOCs in the UK

In 2012 the Open University launched FutureLearn, partnering with more than 20 UK and international universities and other institutions such as the British Council, the British Library and the British Museum.

  • A browse through the courses available reveals diverse subjects including How to Succeed at Interviews, Inside Cancer, Understanding Modern Business and Organisations, Election 2015 for AS Level Politics, Dysphagia, and an Introduction to Dutch, offered by UK and overseas universities.

The following UK universities are offering MOOCs via FutureLearn:

And also the British Council, the British Film Institute, the British Library, the British Museum, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the National Film and Television School.

Overseas universities offering courses via Futurelearn include:

University of Auckland, University of Cape Town, Fudan University, University of Groningen, Monash University, University of Oslo, Shanghai International Studies University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Sung Kyun Kwan University, Tel Aviv University, Trinity College Dublin, and Yonsei University.

Who else offers MOOCs?

Universities and other institutions worldwide partner with external providers, the largest including US-based Coursera, Udemy, Udacity, and EdX, and Australian MOOEC. Some providers specialise in particular areas of study.

  • Coursera features 500+ courses, from more than 100 partners worldwide, including Duke University in the US, Peking University (China) and the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
  • Udemy offers free and paid-for courses, many from non-academic instructors.
  • Udacity focuses on free courses, categorised into beginner-, intermediate- and advanced-level. Students may also enrol in a number of paid-for courses in order to gain California State University system credits. Recently Udacity announced a partnership with Georgia Institute of Technology and AT&T to provide a Master of Science in Computer Science MOOC course at a cost of $6,600.
  • EdX is a non-for-profit provider, created by Harvard and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) universities. Today partners include the Australian National University, TU Delft (the Netherlands), and Rice, Berkeley and Georgetown universities in the US. EdX also offers ID verified certificates of achievement, for a minimum fee.
  • MOOEC, launched in November 2013, offers free courses and lessons in English supported by Pier online, the University of Queensland ITCE, Griffith University GELI, Queensland University of Technology, Goldcoast TAFE and many non-government provider. The courses offer English language learning all levels.
  • Around the world, other MOOC providers include EduKart in India, ALISON in Ireland, and Aprentica in Latin America.