A MOOC is a massive open online class - a class that is free has a huge following and includes all of the components you need to learn away from the traditional classroom. MOOCs usually have strong communities and connect learners with instructors or coaches that can help them master the content. MOOCs also provide more than just a course syllabus or a few lecture notes. Instead, they provide activities, quizzes, or projects for learners to engage with the content.
While MOOCs are relatively new, more massive open online classes are being built every month. Take a look at some of the best in this editorially-reviewed list:
EdXHero Images / Getty Images
ed X combines the power of top universities including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard, and University of California Berkeley to create top-notch open classes. Many of the initial offerings focused on science and technology topics, with courses such as Software as a Service, Artificial Intelligence, Circuits and Electronics, Introduction to Computer Science and Programming, and more. Students learn from completing projects, reading textbooks, completing tutorials, participating in online laboratories, watching videos, and more. Courses are staffed by experienced professionals, scientists, and scholars in their respective fields. Learners that prove their competency through edX courses will receive a certificate from HarvardX, MITx, or BerkeleyX.
Through Coursera, learners can choose from over a hundred massively open online courses for free. 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 including 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, and many more. Students learn through videos, quizzes, readings, and various activities. Some courses also include free e-textbooks. Many courses offer a certificate signed by the instructor or a certificate from the sponsoring university upon successful completion of a course.
Udacity is a unique collection of MOOCs, mostly related to computers and robotics. The company was originally founded by roboticists teaching “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence,” - a course which soon grew to epic proportions. Now 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, and Applied Cryptography: Science of Secrets. Courses are taught on a 7-week “heximester” schedule, with a one week break in between. Course units consist of short videos, quizzes, and assignments. Learners are encouraged to progress by solving problems and completing projects. Students completing courses receive a signed certificate of completion. Those who excel can certify their skills through affiliated testing centers or even have Udacity give their resume to one of 20 partner companies including Google, Facebook, Bank of America, and other top names.
Udemy offers hundreds of courses created by experts around the world. This website allows anyone to build a course, so quality varies. Some courses are extremely well-done with 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 tries to bring in courses from big names, so expect to see courses from the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayer of Google, top professors, and various authors. Udemy offers MOOCs on just about every subject including SEO Training, The Neuroscience of Reframing and 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, and more. Although most of the classes are free, there are some that charge tuition. You'll also want to watch out for classes taught by instructors more interested in self-promotion than they are in teaching.