MOOC programs that take a giant leap for online college classes

Online college classes through MOOCs - OnlineSchools.com

The open-source movement has shifted to the classroom with massive open online courses, known as MOOCs. Varying in structure by university, MOOCs offer college classes online in a range of disciplines to anyone who wants to take them. Most MOOCs are free of charge and do not grant college credit, although some charge a nominal fee and grant credit. Some are taught by professors during a set period of time, while others are student-led and offer open enrollment. While some critics are concerned that MOOCs could undermine campus enrollment numbers, advocates cite that this has not been a problem. Regardless, colleges worldwide are jumping into the movement, with some predicting that institutions will profit from MOOCs serving as the entryway to more affordable education.


Below, in alphabetical order, is a list of 10 universities that represent the diversity of MOOC offerings:

  • Carnegie Mellon University launched the Open Learning Initiative (OLI) in 2002, starting with four free college classes online. By 2013, OLI was offering 17 courses, including American English speech, French, computing, statistics, and chemistry. Courses are student-led and include practice activities and self-assessments. While comprehensive materials and online tools are available, no instructors are assigned to the courses and no certificates of completion are awarded. Carnegie Mellon is enthusiastic about OLI and plans to expand course offerings in the future.

  • Indiana University's first MOOC was in instructional system technology in 2012, a product of Coursesites' Open Course Series. The course was widely considered a success and, in 2013, IU added another MOOC, information visualization. Taught by three instructors, the course is structured around a seven-week curriculum that includes a midterm and final exam. Participants who earn an 80 percent or higher in the course receive a letter of accomplishment and a badge.

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) provides free access to virtually all MIT course content and, according to MIT, MOOCs are permanent fixtures of the university. The 2,150 courses available include those in math, science, and engineering. MIT's MOOCs are available to people all over the world and include translated courses. Having reached 125 million people as of 2013, MIT's goal is to reach a billion people by 2021.

  • Penn State. In spring 2013, Penn State will begin its test year with MOOC by offering two to three courses that will be disclosed at that time. A member of Penn State's MOOC Committee expressed a desire to include courses in digital mapping and geolocation. Once initiated, the courses will be taught by Penn State faculty and are anticipated to be attended by up to 200,000 students.

  • Rice University has partnered with Coursera to offer MOOC courses in general chemistry, software programming, electrical engineering, analytical chemistry and nanotechnology. The five courses, taught by Rice University professors, will become available at different times during the 2013/14 academic year, kicked off by an eight-week computer programming class in fall 2012 that attracted over 54,000 students.

  • San Jose State University collaborated with Udacity Inc. to develop San Jose State Plus, a pilot MOOC program. The program began in January 2013 with two courses in math and one in statistics. Taught by SJSU professors, the courses offer college credit to both SJSU and non-SJSU students, for a cost of $150 per course. Depending on the pilot program's success, additional MOOC offerings could be forthcoming.

  • University of Bristol was one of 11 British universities to join FutureLearn's Open University (OU) initiative, offering MOOC courses to people around the world. As of February 2013, University of Bristol MOOC offerings had not been disclosed, but were expected to be announced sometime in 2013.

  • The University of Edinburgh teamed up with Coursera to offer free short online courses in a variety of subjects. Course offerings have included astrobiology, philosophy, and equine nutrition, and are taught by professors and teaching assistants. Courses run for approximately five weeks and are generally offered two to three times per year. Students who successfully complete courses receive a statement of accomplishment.

  • Wesleyan University became the first small liberal arts institution to partner with Coursera to offer MOOCs at the undergraduate level. Professor-led courses last from five to seven weeks and include choices in literature, law, economics and statistics. Classes began on February 1, 2013. On the first day of registration alone, 10,000 students had signed up.

  • Yale University. Open Yale Courses offers free introductory online classes taught by Yale faculty. The dozens of courses available include African American studies, astronomy, chemistry, physics and political science and include lectures recorded in Yale classrooms. Registration is not required and no credit, degree or certificate is awarded at the completion of courses. The goal of Open Yale Courses "is to expand access to educational materials for all who wish to learn."

The explosion of the Internet has generated online content that has resulted in free and easy access to all even while its validity is sometimes questioned -- critics express worries about how, exactly, online learning can be assessed, as well as about the potential for cheating. MOOCs are a new chapter in this ongoing open-source campaign. Currently, MOOCs offer online classes for college that are relevant and free of charge. In the future, they might make college credits more affordable, and with their ability to reach massive numbers, they could also help colleges stay afloat. MOOC platforms included the Stanford spinoff Coursera -- which focuses on elite institutions and faculty, edX -- a Harvard, MIT and Berkeley collaboration, Udacity -- founded by an ex-Stanford professor, and Udemy -- which allows anyone to create and offer a course, either free or for a fee.


"Penn State preparing to join worldwide trend by rolling out Massive Open Online Courses," Centre Daily Times, Britney Milazzo, January 26, 2013, http://www.centredaily.com/2013/01/26/3478507/huge-open-online-classes-coming.html

"Rice to partner with Coursera to offer free online courses," Rice University News & Media, B.J. Almond, July 17, 2012, http://news.rice.edu/2012/07/17/rice-to-partner-with-coursera-to-offer-free-online-courses-2/

"SJSU and Udacity Partnership," SJSU Today, Pat Lopes Harris, January 15, 2013, http://blogs.sjsu.edu/today/2013/sjsu-and-udacity-partnership/

"UK universities embrace the free, open, online future of higher education powered by The Open University," News from the University, University of Bristol, December 14, 2012, http://www.bris.ac.uk/news/2012/9022.html

"Wesleyan to Offer Free Online Courses through Coursera Partnership," The Wesleyan Connection, Lauren Rubenstein, September 26, 2012, http://newsletter.blogs.wesleyan.edu/2012/09/26/coursera/

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