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What is a MOOC? Best MOOC Sites For Online Learners

There’s a lot of different ways to learn online. However, massive open online course sites – or, as they’re also known, MOOC sites, are probably the most popular way to learn.

Here, we’ll give you a guide to MOOC courses, and go through some of the best MOOC sites for online learners.

What is a MOOC?

As we discussed before, MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course:

  • Massive: There’s no limit on enrollments.
  • Open: Anyone can enroll, so there’s no admission process.
  • Online: Do I have to explain that one?
  • Course: Or this one?

MOOCs typically comprise video lessons, readings, assessments, and discussion forums.

For example, here’s the information page of a MOOC that shows you how to teach online. As you can see, there’s legit university instructors teaching.

Who Creates MOOCs?

MOOCs are usually created by universities and colleges. There are some extremely prestigious colleges that create MOOCs too. Harvard, Stanford, and MIT are just a few of the colleges that supply courses. Which, is pretty damn impressive!

There are also some companies that create MOOCs too. Microsoft and Google are just two companies that invest in MOOCs.

The Best MOOC Sites For Online Learners

Like we mentioned earlier, MOOCs are usually created by learning Universities and companies. However, the usually won’t distribute these courses.

For this, we have sites dedicated to MOOCs. Here, we’ll look into a Coursera and EdX, who are two of the biggest sites.

If you want to know more, read Coursera Vs EdX

Coursera: Best For Tech-Related College-Level Courses

Coursera is arguably the most well-known MOOC if you’re looking for college-level courses. The site does specialize in tech, business, and science-based courses though. Sure, there are some other categories listed, but they’re not as big as their main categories.

Coursera: Best For Tech-Related College-Level Courses

Coursera works with colleges to deliver college-level courses to people for a tiny financial commitment. Some are even free!

Learn More At Coursera 

Edx: Best For General College-Level Courses

If you’re after college-level online courses but after a wider range of categories, then EdX is your best option.

Edx: Best For General College-Level Courses

EdX has a lot of the same benefits you’ll find with Coursera, with schools like Harvard offering some of their courses for free! There is a small fee to get accreditations for your courses though. So if you’re looking to add your course to your CV, then you will have to pay a little fee (the cost changes depending on the course).

Learn More About EdX


Below, we’ll look at some common questions around MOOCs.

Do MOOCs Have a Start Time?

It really depends. Because there’s so many universities offering courses, schedules differ. Some start at regular intervals. Some begin every few months, some every year – maybe even more.

Why Would you Enroll in a MOOC?

There are a few things you need to ask yourself before signing up for a MOOC.
Maybe you want to switch careers
You might want to improve job prospects
Become better at your current job

However, it isn’t just that easy. Some MOOCs take a lot of time to complete. Here are some things to ask yourself before signing up.
Do you want to dedicate the time every week?
Does the course align with your goals?

Every MOOC signup page will have details about the course including how long it takes to complete, and how many hours a week are expected. You’ll also be able to find out if the course in beginner, intermediate, or advanced

Does a MOOC Have a Deadline?

While some MOOCs are self-paced, most run on a schedule. That means that you’ll receive the lessons periodically over the duration of the course. This is to make sure all deadlines and assignments are consistent throughout.

Even where there is a deadline though, a MOOC is still self-paced to a degree. You can study at whatever time of the day suits you.

How long to complete a MOOC?

A typical MOOC ranges from around 4-16 weeks to complete. However, some are done in only a week, where others can take years!

Are Students Tested in MOOCs?

Yes, MOOCs usually include assessment and there’s usually a mix of the following.

Peer-assessed work: Students grade one another’s work according to a rubric.

Online quizzes: Usually automatically graded

These assessment types are to save the lecturers time as grading papers for an entire MOOC would be too large a workload.

Your overall grade and certificate will depend on how well you do in your assessments.

How Much Do MOOCs Cost?

There may be some payments needed to receive accreditation after completing your MOOC (usually under $100). However, sometimes graded assessments can also be hidden behind a paywall.

Besides certificates, other MOOC components may be hidden behind a paywall — for instance, graded assignments. There is the occasional MOOC that’s completely behind a paywall (even though they’re not technically “open”).

You can audit the courses for free though, which means you can access all of the course content but not complete any assignments. This is great for those who are interested and looking at increasing knowledge but don’t need the accreditation.
If you’re interested in financial aid, there are also options for that. Read more about Coursera’s payment options here. 

What Access To Instructors Do I Get?

As you can imagine, a full-time lecturer who also has to teach the content of a MOOC on the side to thousands of students, you don’t get a lot of access to instructors. At most, you’ll get some interaction on discussion forums.

While you may not get a lot of interaction with your instructor, the forums are a great way to chat with other students.

Will I get Academic Credits with MOOCs?

The answer here is, sometimes. There are times where you’ll get academic credits for the same unit in the institution you enrolled in for your MOOC.

For example. If you completed a beginner’s course to Python Coding from MIT and received the certificate, then you could potentially get accreditation at MIT for that unit. It’s unlikely that other institutions will recognize your MOOC certificate as equivalent learning. However, that is completely at the Universities discretion, so you can ask.

What are MicroCredentials in a MOOC?

A micro-credential is a series of related courses that you can take on a single topic. Usually, you sign up to complete all courses and need to pass each one to achieve your micro-credential.

Some examples of these are:
– MicroMasters — EdX
– Specializations — Coursera

Can I get a MOOC-Based Degree?

One really cool part about MOOC sites like Coursera and EdX is the ability to get a full degree. Yep, like, a complete degree. From a MOOC. Pretty cool, isn’t it.

Don’t get too excited though, these would be better thought about as a degree using a MOOC platform. You’ll still have to go through an admission process and pay tuition fees.

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