Top Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

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MOOC stands for massive open online classes or courses. MOOCs are free or low-cost classes with huge capacities that teach general subjects as well as specialized skills. These classes usually have strong communities and connect learners with instructors or coaches that can help them master content virtually. MOOCs provide activities, quizzes, and projects for learners to engage with content. Here are several MOOCs with a wide variety of course offerings and high capacities.


edX combines the power of top universities including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard, and the University of California to create top-notch open classes. Many of the initial offerings are focused on science and technology topics, with courses including:

  • Software as a Service
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Circuits and Electronics
  • Introduction to Computer Science and Programming

Students learn by doing projects, reading textbooks, completing tutorials, participating in online laboratories, watching videos, and more. Courses are staffed by experienced professionals, scientists, and scholars. Learners who prove their competency through edX courses receive a certificate from HarvardX, MITx, or BerkeleyX.


Through Coursera, learners can choose from over a hundred massive open online courses. Coursera is a consortium of collaborating colleges including California Institute of Technology, University of Washington, Stanford University, Princeton University, Duke University, John Hopkins University, and many others.

Classes start regularly and are available in a wide breadth of subjects. Interesting courses include:

  • Fundamentals of Pharmacology
  • Fantasy and Science Fiction
  • Introduction to Finance
  • Listening to World Music
  • Machine Learning
  • Cryptography
  • Gamification
  • Introduction to Sustainability
  • Modern & Contemporary American Poetry

Students learn through videos, quizzes, readings, and various activities. Some courses also include free e-textbooks. Many courses offer a certificate signed by an instructor or sponsoring university upon successful completion.


Udacity is a collection of MOOCs mostly related to computers and robotics. The company was founded by roboticists originally teaching "Introduction to Artificial Intelligence"—a course that soon grew much larger. Students can choose from nearly a dozen courses including:

  • Intro to Computer Science: Building a Search Engine
  • Web Application Engineering: How to Build a Blog
  • Programming Languages: Building a Web Browser
  • Applied Cryptography: Science of Secrets.

Courses are taught on a seven-week “heximester” schedule with one-week breaks in between. Learners progress by solving problems and completing projects. Students who complete courses receive signed certificates of completion. Those who excel can certify their skills through affiliated testing centers or give their resume to one of 20 partner companies including Google, Facebook, Bank of America, and more.


Udemy offers hundreds of courses created by experts around the world. Some courses offer video lectures, activities, and thriving peer communities. Others offer only one or two avenues of exploration (a few short videos, for example) and can be completed in just an hour or two. Udemy offers MOOCs on just about every subject including:

  • SEO Training
  • The Neuroscience of Reframing
  • How to Do It, Game Theory
  • Learn Python the Hard Way
  • Psychology 101
  • How to Become a Vegetarian
  • Classics of American Literature
  • Play Ukulele Now

Although most of the classes are free, some charge tuition. Udemy tries to bring in courses from recognized experts and industry leaders, so expect to see some from the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayer, top professors, and various authors.

Canvas Network

Canvas Network is designed for professionals in the field of education such as teachers, school administrators, and teacher educators. Free and self-paced courses include:

  • TESOL Methodology (K-12/HE)
  • Establishing Academic Writing Centers at International High Education Institutions
  • Professional Development for Teacher Trainers
  • Assessment of English Language Learners
  • Integrating STEM From Beginning to End
  • The Art and Craft of Remote Teaching
  • Enhancing Learning in Computer Science and Mathematics Using Cross-Disciplinary Projects

Courses may offer certifications. This platform also allows teachers to set up and operate their own classes.

Cognitive Class

Cognitive Class focuses on teaching skills related to technology. Formerly called Big Data University, Cognitive Class is an initiative sponsored by IBM. Some courses include:

  • IBM Cloud Essentials
  • Python for Data Science
  • Introduction to Cloud
  • Introduction to Data Science
  • SQL and Relational Databases 101
  • Using HBase for Real-time Access to Your Big Data

Many of the courses are self-paced and have flexible start dates. Cognitive Class courses include pre-recorded lectures as well as virtual lab environments. Rather than certificates, participants earn "digital badges" showing that they have successfully completed various courses.

Future Learn

Future Learn was founded in 2012 in Britain by 12 universities including King's College London and the University of Leeds. Future Learn provides courses in such areas as digital product management, ecology and wildlife science, and the future of globalization. MOOCs include:

  • HR Fundamentals
  • Fashion and Sustainability: Understanding Luxury Fashion in a Changing World
  • Introduction to Critical Care Medicine
  • Collaborative Working in a Remote Team
  • Bacterial Genomes III: Comparative Genomics Using Artemis Comparison Tool

Future Learn courses are taught by educators and professionals from more than 175 British- and U.S.-based universities and cultural institutions. They use videos, articles, quizzes, and class discussions to teach more than 10 million online learners. Future Learn offers many free courses, but the "free plan" provides short-term access to classes. For longer access, you'll have to pay fees that vary by course.


Iversity offers just over 60 courses in English, German, and French. Classes, provided in tandem with European companies, nongovernmental organizations, and universities, are geared toward higher education and professional development. Choices include:

  • Creating Ambidextrous Organizations
  • Artificial Intelligence in Marketing
  • Digital Marketing: Strategies & Channels
  • Predictive Analytics in Commerce
  • Cryptography and Electronic Banking

Iversity's "pro" courses charge tuition, but Iversity also has free "espresso" classes on a variety of topics. Espresso courses feature a series of brief (four- to five-minute) modules and take a few hours or less to complete. While these cost nothing to complete, you may have to pay a fee if you want a certificate.

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Littlefield, Jamie. "Top Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)." ThoughtCo, Jul. 19, 2021, Littlefield, Jamie. (2021, July 19). Top Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Retrieved from Littlefield, Jamie. "Top Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)." ThoughtCo. (accessed July 29, 2021).

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