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MOOCS Free Online Courses and Where to Find Them

Updated on July 23, 2014
Maybe not this difficult...
Maybe not this difficult... | Source

Online Education - Not a New Thing?

Ever since the early days of the internet, there has been some efforts towards online education. Many leading universities published their lecture notes and some other course materials online, for people to access for free. Institutions like the UK's Open University has been doing distance learning for decades, and much of that has moved online, but the fees amount to several thousand pounds a year. So until recently, free online education has been limited.

Slowly this started to change, and by 2012 free online education started to take off. So if you are interested in taking courses online, whether just for interest or to help further (or change) your career then read on.

MOOCS are now seriously popular and all of the top universities just about everywhere are doing them.

Online Education 2.0

The first generation of online education courses was not very visual or interactive. In mostly consisted of reading - or occasionally listening to - lectures online, and maybe trying some of the course exercises and coursework yourself. If you got stuck you didn't really have anywhere to turn to. The new generation of online courses which started to take off in 2012 is much more sophisticated. Video lectures and classes are the norm, along with interactive 'workspaces' where you can practice and solve problems. Discussion forums also form an integral part of today's online courses, and some also mirror leading university courses.

Here's a guide to a few of the major online education and course providers you might come across:

EdX - A real university education

Of all the online education offerings available at the moment, EdX is perhaps the most distinguished, rigorous, and most like really studying at university. That's because all of the courses you can take at EdX are real university courses from some of the world's leading universities including Harvard, MIT & Berkeley.

EdX features courses from it's member universities, a group which keeps growing. New courses are added all the time, and some of the ones you can choose at the moment include:

'Introduction to Biology - The Secret of Life' - MIT

'Introduction to Computer Science' - MIT or Harvard

'The Challenges of Global Poverty' MIT

'Software as a Service' - Berkeley

Courses feature real video lectures and seminars, challenging problems and support to complete them, online forums, interactive workspaces and lots more. At the end of the course, you will receive a certificate from whichever institution you did the course with. And what's more, the whole thing is free! There are plans to charge a nominal fee for the certificate, but at the moment that is free too.

Coursera is probably the biggest player in the MOOC (Massive Online Open Courses) market. It grew out of Stanford University's online course offerings, and now has over 2.7 million users, and as of February 2013 offers over 300 different courses. A few of the courses now offer college credit for completion, and this is only likely to increase over the coming months and years.

The UK's Open University & Future Learn Ltd

The UK's Open University has been offering online courses for as long as the world wide web's been around, and has been offering work from home degree courses for many decades before that. They're far from free, however they do offer for free course materials online for many courses.

Being a leader in online courses, it was perhaps inevitable that they would enter the MOOC market, and sure enough in December 2012 they announced Future Learn Ltd, a new company they've set up to collaborate with many of the UK's leading universities to offer free online degree courses. They've promised to do something different, and uniquely British. There's no courses available yet, but the first courses are due to launch later in the year.

Code Academy is a different proposition to the many degree level courses being offered online through EdX, Coursera and others. It is a new startup, which offers innovative mini courses in computing, particularly internet technologies such as HTML, CSS & Javascript, as well as programming languages such as Python & Ruby. With Codeacademy, you can take courses at your own pace, spending just a few minutes at a time if you want, and the website's technology allows you to try out and practice as you go.


Udacity is a new startup offering college level courses in a variety of subjects, though courses in computing are where it started out and are still make up a large proportion of the courses. It offers courses in Artificial Intelligence, how to build a search engine, and lots more exciting and innovative courses.

Khan Academy

Any article about free online courses would be remiss not to include Khan Academy ( Founded by Salman Khan in 2006, it offers micro lectures on many different topics. As of February 2013, there were over 4,000 video lectures available to watch. Khan Academy is particularly good for filling in gaps in knowledge, especially if you are taking other courses and get stuck on some maths or the like.

Quick Guide to MOOCS

So billions of people have access to MOOCS from every different topics- computer science to food security, cancer to literature. Whatever your interest there will be a MOOC for you!

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