MOOCs — Massive Open Online Courses — are free, short courses you can join throughout the year and, as the name suggests, do online, wherever you have access to the internet.
Many MOOCs offer the option of having a certificate of achievement or badge at the end of the course. This is the only cost, but they are totally optional — if you don’t want a certificate you can study entirely for free.
Some MOOC providers also offer some paid for online courses, similar to MOOCs.
MOOCs really are a form of social learning, because as well as content produced by the university running the MOOC, students are expected to contribute to weekly discussion boards, comment on each others’ assignments and, on some MOOCs, connect with each other through social media sites such as LinkedIn and Google Hangouts.
Find out more about the history of MOOCs on the Wikipedia MOOCs page.
There are a number of MOOC providers. In the UK the main provider is FutureLearn which is part of the Open University. Courses are offered not just by the Open University itself but by a large number of other UK and overseas universities and cultural institutions.
- FutureLearn website
Outside the UK
Outside the UK the other best known providers include:
- Academic Earth (includes Harvard, MIT, University of Oxford)
- Canvas Network
- Coursera [Stop press: Coursera appears to be moving to charging for its courses from July 2016]
- edX (incudes Harvard, MIT)
- France Université Numérique (in French)
- iVersity (based in Germany, but many courses are in English)
- Khan Academy
- P2PU (Peer 2 Peer University)
- UdaCity (tech courses, some free, some charge)
The basic concept of MOOCs is that they are:
- open to anyone regardless of qualifications or location
- not restricted in numbers
- bite-sized learning — short courses up to approximately a university module
- offered by universities — so there is an assurance of quality
Other online learning resources
As well as MOOCs there are lots of other resources on the worldwide web for learning including TED Talks, video sites such as YouTube and Vimeo, Wikipedia, language learning sites, sites to help you improve your digital skills, and more.