Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are becoming increasingly popular. High school seniors can sample college-level classes in their field of interest before committing to a major. Students can also supplement their learning with these online courses. Professional workers may use MOOCs to enhance their current skill sets in preparation for promotions or career changes. Some online programs even qualify for continuing education credits.
Quality programs cover the topic completely with an engaging and interactive presentation. You shouldn’t feel tortured while you sit through videos, participate in message forums, and complete homework assignments. They are also backed by credible sources and organizations such as universities so that you can be confident you’re learning what you need to know.
Academic Earth offers a directory of courses by universities around the world, including Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, MIT, Standford University, University of California, University of Cambridge, University of Notre Dame and Yale University. It links out to more than 750 courses in categories like design, business, computer science, engineering, humanities, health care, science and social science. Some classes require online and live classroom participation for completion. Follow the class links to visit the provider’s website for more information. Academic Earth also provides single-video lessons in its Video Electives directory that cover topics like “Psychology of an Internet Troll” and “The Economic Cost of Obesity.” You can watch these short 2- to 5-minute videos right on the Academic Earth site.
While Alison offers more than 600 free courses, they are text-based. That means that people who learn through reading can benefit from its business, finance, health, personal development, information technology and language courses. Those who need those audio-visual cues to reinforce learning will probably want to try a different learning site. You can, however, view short video introductions of classes on Alison’s YouTube Channel . Classes are standards-based and certified, according to its website. Many of the courses offered on the Alison site provide a diploma or certificate for a nominal fee. You may also want to look into its paid subscription to remove the timed advertising that displays throughout courses with the free access option.
Connexions , another text-based course site, offers collaborative course development. Anyone can author and contribute, but all content is reviewed and verified by trusted and knowledgeable contributors. Additionally, universities, museums and other institutions develop courses on the Connexions site. You can take advantage of more than 17,000 modules in just about any topic. You will even find learning geared to school-age children. Modules provide information about related textbooks, similar courses and a reference list for further study. Study via the Internet or download materials for offline learning in PDF or EPUB formats.
Coursera offers multi-week asynchronous programs that appeal to auditory/visual learners as well as readers. Its multimedia content includes links to additional resources, quizzes, and other tools to assist in learning reinforcement and retention. Each course offers a week-by-week schedule of video and reading; sometimes quizzes and discussion forum participation. If you hope to gain a certificate from the program, you’ll have to meet all deadlines, however you can view the content at your own pace to learn without credit. Materials are also available for some time after the course completes.
Providers include major universities such as Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Amsterdam, Princeton University, and The University of British Columbia. Contributors also include American Museum of Natural History, Commonwealth Education Trust, and New Teacher Center among other organizations. Courses are offered in about 12 languages and cover many different topic areas. Interact with the instructor and other students through the course wiki and forums and, sometimes, local meetups.
edX also offers courses from big university names such as MIT, Harvard University, University of California, IIT Bombay, The University of Queensland and Caltech. Like Coursera, you can obtain certificates by completing courses by deadlines. Some certificates are free, but there is a fee for certificates issued with identification verification, which may be required for credit by some schools or employers. Some schools also offer XSeries certificates for successful completion of a series of courses. Courses include multimedia presentations, homework assignments, interactive exercises and quizzes, and discussion forums. Subjects range from communications to mathematics, computer science, history and literature.
GCF Learn Free
Learn all about blogging or developing your personal financial budget at GCF Learn Free . Goodwill Community Foundation runs this free learning site where you can use more than 1,000 learning tools covering more than 90 topics. If you prefer to learn on the go, GCF Learn Free offers free mobile apps for Apple and Android devices including Microsoft Publisher, Word, Excel, Access and PowerPoint. As you may guess by the free app offering, GCF Learn Free offers classes for the Microsoft Office Suite in addition to computer basics, career planning and development, everyday life, social media and personal money management. Some classes are text-based and others are video or interactive content. You can often take advantage of linked tools and resources to supplement your learning.
Although a company based in Berlin, Germany, runs iversity , this site offers quality courses in both German and English. Multimedia courses are organized into week-by-week sets of videos and resources created by qualified professors and universities. Subjects include science, design, philosophy, social studies and engineering. Each video engages learners with with real people, fun graphics and music in just the right places. Discussion boards, quizzes, assignments, linked references and attachments, supplemental videos and other components help reinforce learning and enhance understanding.
Khan Academy caters to students in grades kindergarten through 12, but can be a valuable resource for anyone interested in learning mathematics, science, history, economics, computer programming and other topics. This resource provides guided learning through “missions” for testing mathematics and other skills right from its engaging Dashboard. Students can also browse lessons by topic and grade level.
Lesson gamification makes learning fun and provides badges for completing sections and challenges. Learning can also be interactive through the online community, coaching and programs. Teachers, tutors and mentors can become coaches for their students to assist and monitor progress. Graphic reporting can provide valuable information about where you need to focus your learning.
My Course Room
My Course Room offers professional and personal learning topics including relationship management, project management, leadership development, childcare training, stress management, work-life balance, aging gracefully and coping with loss. Course lengths vary from 5 to 25 hours, and some offer accreditations and certifications. Train at your pace on your own time. There are no scheduled start or end dates. My Course Room also provides a subscription-based transcript that outlines your completed courses with links to any certifications you earn. This site presents courses in text and multimedia formats with some quizzes and other interactions.
NovoEd offers both free and paid courses in professional topics for developing business and leadership skills. Providers include Standford University, +Acumen, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Kauffman Fellows Academy, and Strategic Decisions Group. These courses are scheduled, however, and, in some cases, you must begin the course within two weeks of its start date or wait until its next offering. Content is provided in multimedia presentations with captioning and a viewable transcript. Audit the course at your own pace or complete all course requirements for a certificate of accomplishment.
Open2Study offers free courses in education, science and technology, marketing, business, finance, health and humanities. You won’t be able to start most courses until the scheduled start date, but some courses are always open for self-paced learning. Content is video based, with links to additional reading and study materials. They even provide video responses to quiz questions, which makes Open2Study classes a great resource for visual learners. For others, the transcript enables you to read along or skip to specific content in the video. Courses include a searchable classroom forum and you earn badges for completing tasks. Open2Study also provides free certificates of achievement for completing courses.
Udacity offers classes in categories such as business, computer science, design, mathematics and science. Browse courses by beginner, intermediate and advanced skill level. You can begin courses at any time for self-paced learning. Classes are always available. Udacity presents content in short videos that automatically roll from one to the next with a timeline that allows you to skip to specific topics. There may be interactive quizzes and exercises throughout program that require participation before you can move forward. Course wikis and forums offer community and social learning opportunities.
Open Education Database
The Open Education Database allows you to browse courses by subject, including Arts, Business, Education, Liberal Arts and Science. The database includes more than 10,000 free online classes from providers that include Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Michigan, Kaplan University, and Johns Hopkins University. It also catalogs courses from some of these other sites, as well, such as Alison and Khan Academy. You can find free courses related to degrees and certificates, along with information about accredited online degrees. Courses are links to provider websites, therefore content formats vary by provider.
Some Additional Databases and Lists
MOOC List provides one-stop shopping for courses available on most of our referenced MOOC sites above, including edX, Open2Study, Coursera, NovoEd and iversity. Additional providers include Canvas.net, uneOpen, and individual universities and organizations from around the globe. Search its database or browse by category, provider, country, instructor, language or certificate type.
Open Culture offers a listings of certificate courses by availability date, free online classes from top universities by category and topic, free textbooks available for download, and other lists such as movies, ebooks, language lessons, business courses, kids education, science videos and intelligent video sites.
Class Central is similar to MOOC List as it provides links to courses offered by many providers mentioned in this article including Coursera, edX, etc. These lists display in table format, allowing you to sort columns by Course Name, Instructor(s), Subject, Start Date, Length or Initiative (provider). You can also search the database.
CourseTalk can filter courses by subject, tags, university, start date, workload, start type (starting soon, just started, in session, future); top rated, popular and upcoming tabs. It also provides learner reviews of courses.