Massive open online courses (or MOOCs, for short) are a recent and developing addition to the world of online learning. MOOCs are online courses designed for a much larger audience than traditional classes and are available at no cost to participants.

Because MOOCs are so new, they are still being specifically defined. However, below is a video that gives a great overview of some of the key characteristics of MOOCs:

In short, a MOOC:

  • is open. You do not necessarily need to be enrolled in an institution to participate in a MOOC. Additionally, the materials provided in the MOOC are freely accessible to anyone on the Internet.
  • takes place online. Anyone in the world with Internet access can participate in a MOOC.
  • opens doors for networking and sharing information with other participants in the course.
  • is free, but recently some providers have begun offering ways of receiving college credit for participating in MOOCs.

MOOC Resources

Don't know where to get started? Here are some of the most popular and useful MOOC providers:


Coursera has created partnerships with 35 different universities from around the world to make select courses open and available online for free. Currently, Coursera has partnerships with many big-name universities including Brown, Columbia, Stanford, UBC, even the University of Washington. For a full list of participating universities, click here.


Udacity provides MOOCs specific to science, technology, math and programming.


Founded by Harvard University and MIT, edX offers free courses while using them for their research on online learning. The courses offered by edX tend to lean toward the sciences.


Udemy serves as both a platform for instructors to build and teach online courses and for students to take them. Most courses are free, but there are some that require payment.

More MOOC and open course material providers can be found on Learning Technologies' page on Content Repositories.

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