The 20 most popular MOOCs

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The 20 most popular MOOCs

More people are turning to MOOCs, or massive open online courses, to pursue alternative credentials and build new skills. And the most popular online courses—some with up to 500,000 active learners—may provide insight into higher ed’s future.                                                        

Two of the largest MOOC providers, Coursera and EdX, recently released lists of their most popular courses and their partner institutions, reports Jeffrey Young for EdSurge.

Here are the 10 most popular courses for each provider:

Coursera (over past 12 months)

  1. Machine Learning, Stanford University
  2. The Science of Well-Being, Yale University
  3. Learning How to Learn, University of California San Diego
  4. Neural Networks and Deep Learning,
  5. Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python), University of Michigan
  6. Algorithms, Part I, Princeton University
  7. Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies, Princeton University
  8. Convolutional Neural Networks,
  9. Sequence Models,
  10. Improving Deep Neural Networks,

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EdX (all time)

  1. Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  2. Introduction to Linux, Linux Foundation
  3. CS50’s Introduction to Computer Science, Harvard University
  4. Analyzing and Visualizing Data with Excel, Microsoft
  5. IELTS Academic Test Preparation, University of Queensland
  6. English Grammar and Style, University of Queensland
  7. The Science of Happiness, University of California, Berkeley
  8. TOEFL® Test Preparation: The Insider’s Guide, Educational Testing Service
  9. The Science of Everyday Thinking, University of Queensland
  10. Introduction to Python for Data Science, Microsoft

The majority of courses on the list (13 of 20) teach computer science or coding. A testament to the growing popularity of tech, these courses can take advantage of the online platforms to allow students to upload assignments directly to the software and automatically receive a grade with feedback.

Almost as popular are self-help courses, like Yale’s blockbuster course The Science of Well-Being and UC San Diego’s Learning How to Learn.

Learn more: How to improve online student retention (Yes, it can be done)

The most popular online courses—particularly those that teach coding—can bring in millions of dollars in revenue split between the providers and partner institutions. But it’s not all about the money: “We really do this from a place of how can we share Yale’s great expertise with the world,” explains Belinda Platt, assistant director of digital education at Yale. “We will try to recoup our costs for production. Any additional revenue or profits go back to the professor,” she says. Similarly, many institutions, like the University of Michigan, reinvest the funds into teaching initiatives and free MOOC access for its on-campus students.

Not all popular MOOCs are delivered by elite colleges with massive production budgets. Barbara Oakley, an engineering professor at Oakland University in Michigan, teaches a relatively low-cost online course from her basement that has enrolled more than two million students.

Oakley, who describes herself as “not a top-tier university person,” encourages professors across the country to embrace MOOCs and show off their teaching talent. “There is so much untapped potential of great, great teaching,” she says (Young, EdSurge, 6/19).

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