What Is MOOC And How Is It Relevant In Learning

As part of the movement to make quality education accessible to everyone, universities decided to democratize their content by publishing it on the web. The result is what we know today as MOOCs.

Over the years, several ideas, movements, and strategies have been adopted in a bid to bring education to all, particularly the less privileged. Thankfully, the proliferation of technology in learning has made this vision thrive.

The aim of MOOCs is to bridge the educational divide between individuals in different countries and to give less-privileged individuals access to premium education.

With access to a mobile phone and the internet, you can enroll in MOOCs from wherever you are.

Students can also take them to prepare for their major. And it can even help you land a job, as many employers now count them as a valid source of acquiring knowledge.

However, despite the fact that MOOCs are free and accessible to all, many students find them difficult to complete. Let’s take a deep dive into what MOOC is and a host of things you need to know about it in this article.

What Does MOOC Mean?

MOOC is short for Massive Open Online Course. Massive open online courses are online courses that are open to everyone and can accommodate a lot of people at the same time. Usually, the courses are in video format, and they come with integrated tests.

There are basically two modes of MOOCs. cMOOC, which is short for Connectivist Massive Open Online Course, allows both students and teachers to work together in developing the course materials. This is so that the learning materials are appropriate for future learning.

On the other hand, xMOOC, which is short for the Extended Massive Open Online Course, has specified dates for participants to complete the course.

The only avenue for interaction is the availability of interactive forums to foster discussions and interactions between students and teachers. 

How Does MOOC Work?

Universities create MOOCs, but they rely on course service providers like Coursera, edX, Udemy, and Udacity to distribute them through their platforms.

There are over 12,000 MOOCs provided by over 900 universities, including Ivy League institutions like Harvard, Berkeley, Yale, the University of Glasgow, and the University of London, amongst others.

Furthermore, most MOOCs span between four and six weeks, but start at a specific date. The course starts again after certain periods. However, some MOOC platforms offer specialized courses that may take four to six months to complete.

Learners are expected to complete courses and take tests within the specified time frame. However, courses are open for accessibility throughout the entire time frame, so students can learn at any time, whether during the day or at night.

In addition, some MOOC platforms make the course content accessible only after it ends.

Advantages of MOOC

MOOCs are beneficial in a number of ways, which includes:

1. Doesn’t cost any amount

The major advantage of MOOCs is that they don’t cost a penny to get access to. This serves as an opportunity for less-privileged individuals who are passionate about learning but cannot afford college or university tuition.

2. Learn at your own pace

Another interesting benefit of MOOCs is that participants learn at their own pace since most of the courses are pre-recorded and learning materials are accessible at any time.

This encourages adult education and continuous learning as many working-class individuals can go about their work and take classes at their convenience.

Furthermore, each participant has the opportunity to learn at their preferred time, whether morning or night.

3. Accessible for everyone

The fact that MOOCs are accessible to everyone makes them worthwhile. You can access these courses from any country in the world if you have a phone, personal computer, tablet, and connection to the internet.

However, some MOOCs are not supported in some countries. If not, you can begin to take advantage of these courses through MOOC service providers at any time.

4. Students can prepare for majors in college

As a way of preparing for college or university, high school graduates can take MOCCs to judge their interest in a course. They can equally use it to gain knowledge of what they aspire to study in college and to know what to expect.

Moreso, passing a MOOC test and earning a MOOC certificate can help you stand out when you apply to a college, especially if you took a class in fields that relate to your college or university major.

5. Offers courses in diverse languages

MOOCs are language-based learning. They are not limited to the English language alone. Rather, MOOCs exist in a variety of languages, such as Spanish and French, among others. China also has its own special MOOC platform.

Moreso, courses that are in other languages are transcribed into English. All of this is to create equal opportunities for everyone to learn and to remove language barriers.

6. Foster multicultural acceptance and interaction

Over a thousand students can take a course together and engage themselves in a discussion forum made available through MOOC platforms. This diversity unites students across different races.

As such, they get to learn from each other and tolerate themselves at the expense of racial differences.

7. They offer certificates

Another excellent advantage of MOOCs is that they offer certificates to students, although with a fee. But these fees are nothing compared to college or university tuition fees.

The good thing about the certificate is that employers recognize them and they can help you land a job.

Setbacks of MOOCs

Although MOCCs are beneficial in many ways, they also have some disadvantages:

1. High attrition rate

One of the major problems with MOOCs is the fact that participants barely complete the courses. From research, only about 15% of participants manage to follow through with the course, take tests, and get a certificate.

The issue is that learners often embark on these courses without a learning plan. Also, because they are not paying any fee, participants may not take the course seriously, and they often lack the drive to stay committed.

Furthermore, the engagement level of the courses is not enough to keep learners interested.

2. Learners with visual disabilities cannot access them

Those who are visually impaired are at a disadvantage when it comes to learning through MOOCs. MOOCs do not have specialized teaching for visually impaired learners, and since everything is online, there is no way for them to access it.

3. Internet connection problem

Some communities have poor internet bandwidth or connection while some lack internet connection. Many individuals within these regions from benefiting from MOOCs.

4. Minimal instructor help

Many students who take MOOCs have complained about not getting answers to their questions or responses from instructors after reaching out through the discussion forum.

The truth is that these instructors are lecturers in institutions and they have a bulk of work in their schedule, so they barely have the time to cater to students’ questions on MOOC platforms.

Hence, students who may get stuck or need help while studying have to sort themselves out. And the inability to understand the course may make them lose interest and quit learning the course.

What Are Examples of MOOCs?

There are many examples of MOOCs, however, some of the most popular ones include:

1. Coursera

Coursera is the most popular MOOC platform in the world. The courses are available on the platform and span up to eight thousand two hundred and fifty (8,250) from over two hundred and fifty (250) institutions across the world.

It is owned by Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, who are Stanford professors. It was also officially launched in January 2012. Since then, it has reached well over ninety-seven million students — a record that is yet to be broken by any other MOOC platform.

Coursera is rich in courses in areas such as business, computer science, data science, information technology, arts and humanities, health, language learning, etc.

Many of the courses on Coursera are fully accredited by universities and well respected, so, if you’re considering taking a course on Coursera, I’ll advise that you proceed soonest.

2. edX

This MOOC platform was founded by MIT and Harvard in the year 2012 as a non-profit organization. However, it is now a profit-making organization after 2U acquired it for eight hundred million dollars ($800M).

Today, edX ranks as the second-largest MOOC, with over forty-two million students. Also, edX has about one hundred and forty university partners (140) with over three thousand, five hundred, and fifty courses (3550).

3. FutureLearn

Futurelearn was launched in 2012 by the Open University in the UK. It is the biggest MOOC service provider in the UK, with over seventeen million students (17M).

It has partnerships with universities, particularly in the UK and across Europe, as we have few in the United States, Australia, and South Korea.

There are about 24 degree programs available on the platform including one bachelor’s degree program.

4. Udemy

Udemy is a for-profit MOOC platform. However, some courses are as cheap as twenty dollars ($20). It has a variety of professional courses in IT and software, business development, finance and accounting, personal development, etc.

There are about 130,000 courses on the platform, and Udemy is a great platform to learn new skills as most of the courses available focus on hands-on application.

Why Do Universities Offer MOOCs?

Many universities offer MOOCs in order to

  • extend their reach and access to more students around the world
  • build and maintain their brand
  • conduct research on teaching and learning
  • improve the educational outcomes for students

Are MOOCs free?

Yes. Accessing MOOCs doesn’t require any fee or charge. However, acquiring a certificate upon completing a course requires that you pay a fee.

The payment structure varies for each MOOC platform. Some courses require that you pay a fee to access the complete course while you get a free trial for a number of days, while others require a monthly subscription.

Do MOOCs Offer Certificates?

Yes, MOOCs offer certificates for a fee. Also, you must surpass the minimum score required in a course to get a certificate.

The certificate will contain the name of the service provider and the university that created the course, as well as the details of the students.

Are All Online Courses MOOCs?

No. All online courses are not MOOCs, but all MOOCs are online courses.

Some online courses are not accessible to everyone. For instance, an online course may be created for students of a faculty member or students in the college only.

Students can gain access to course materials by logging into the school website with their username and password only because they are active members of the school.

On the other hand, all MOOCs are available for everyone to access. They are not limited to a number of people, and you do not need to be a member of an academic institution to access them.


Are MOOCs certificates worth it?

Yes. MOOC certificates can give you an advantage when you apply for a major in college or university.

Furthermore, MOCCs have gained prominence; hence, employers count them as an added qualification when you apply for a job.

What courses can you learn in MOOC?

The variety of courses that are available on MOOC platforms is in fields like business, data science, computer science, public health, personal development, and information technology, amongst others.

Is Coursera considered a MOOC?

Yes. Coursera is a MOOC platform with quality courses that you can take advantage of.


In this age and time, there is no excuse for ignorance. Knowledge is everywhere, and you don’t necessarily have to attend a college or a university to get a certificate or learn new skills.

MOOCs have gained prominence. Therefore, considering taking a MOOC is an excellent idea. However, it is important to stay focused and committed while learning because it is easy to lose interest.

Furthermore, Coursera has a lot of free academic courses for you to take advantage of. Also, if you’re interested in learning practical skills, you can check out the courses on Udemy.

Finally, you should check out the article on how to get financial aid if you’re in need of academic loans to further your studies.

I hope this article helped.

Thanks for reading.