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What is MOOC? Is it Tuition-free?

 

By 2025, the massive open online courses (MOOC) market is expected to be roughly $25.33 billion. Now, you may be asking, “What is MOOC?” and “What does MOOC stand for?” MOOC stands for massive open online course. MOOCs have become a popular and proven way to obtain education online that is accessible, affordable, and self-paced. 

 

In this article, we will cover everything there is to know about massive online open courses and how they differ from tuition-free online universities. 

 

Source: Unsplash 

 

 

What are MOOCs?

 

To further break down the meaning of MOOC, we can look at each word within the acronym: 

 

  • Massive because enrollment is technically uncapped – there can be hundreds of thousands of students enrolled at any given time 
  • Open because there is no admission process, meaning that anyone can enroll 
  • Online since classes are all delivered via the internet 
  • Course because it teaches a specific subject or topic 

 

 

A Brief History of MOOCs

 

Since MOOCs are a form of distance learning, they inherently rely on access to technology. The primary purpose of a MOOC was to be able to provide education for all. Initially, this ideological principle was theorized by Nikolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig of Denmark, and this idea of “education for all” transformed into the creation of folk high schools. As technology progressed, this notion was made possible and gained popularity in Europe in the 20th century. 

 

Fast forward to the early 2000s, the world witnessed the advent of the Open Education Resources (OER) movement in the United States. In September 2002, the beta version of MIT OpenCourseWare, out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was made available to the public. This allowed anyone to be able to access dozens of MIT courses online. However, the creation of a MOOC really hit its stride in 2008, thanks to online courses by David Wiley (Utah State University) and Alex Couros (University of Regina). While they initiated MOOCs, the term was first used by Georges Siemens and Dave Cormier to reference a course entitled “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge ” out of the University of Manitoba in Canada.

 

The source states that 25 students attended this course, along with 2,300 internet users. At the time, MOOCs were not as formatted and structured as they are today. That course pulled together various technologies to disperse necessary information, including a wiki, Moodle forum, blog, RSS feed, and more. 

 

It wasn’t until 2011, when a Professor at Stanford University (Sebastien Thrun) and a Research Director at Google (Peter Norvig) led the “introduction to Artificial Intelligence” course online. Over 160,000 students enrolled. This project was pivotal in the development of MOOCs as we know them today. It led to the proliferation of MOOCs as technology advanced and became more organized to support the goal of online education. Now, multiple popular MOOCs exist, such as Udacity, Coursera, and EdX, to name a few. 

 

 

Is MOOC Tuition-Free? 

 

Can we call MOOCs tuition-free? While plenty of MOOC courses are completely free of cost, many courses require learners to pay. As such, MOOC is not tuition-free by definition. 

 

However, there are options to attend courses online for free. In these cases, students typically do not receive any certificate of completion (which is often offered as an additional cost and option granted by MOOCs). 

 

 

Who Can Enroll at a MOOC? 

 

When it comes to attending a MOOC, students can enroll online without submitting much more than their basic personal information. Since everything takes place online, there is virtually no limit to how many people can learn from a MOOC. 

 

Students can also start learning from a MOOC at any point in time. 

 

 

What’s the Class Size of MOOCs? 

 

Since anyone can enroll in a MOOC, the class size is typically uncapped, hence the word “massive” as part of its name. This means that hundreds of thousands of students can access the often pre-recorded and uploaded materials whenever they wish to. 

 

Despite large class sizes, a key characteristic of a MOOC is the collaborative learning environment. Many MOOCs seek to mimic the in-class setup for learning, which involves peers working together, asking questions, and gaining feedback. Technological tools like forums, meetups, and social media groups make it possible for each individual to contribute their thoughts and questions to the larger group. 

 

 

MOOCs vs. Online Universities 

 

While a MOOC is a great option to further one’s education, it is not the only option students have when learning online. In fact, online learning is gaining popularity over time. 

 

For those who wish to earn a degree online, there are options like the University of the People. University of the People is an accredited online university that provides students with access to learning materials and world-renowned instructors. Students utilize the Moodle platform to engage in lectures, discussions, and assignments to earn a degree (or non-degree certificates). 

 

Unlike a MOOC, the class sizes at the University of the People are relatively small (roughly 20-30 students). The programs are all tuition-free in order to achieve the mission of providing accessible, affordable, and quality education to all. 

 

 

The Bottom Line 

 

Thanks to the innovation in technology and proliferation of the internet and internet-enabled devices, people worldwide are gaining or expanding their access to education. There are many MOOC platforms to choose from that host courses from well-known universities (including some from Harvard, MIT, Stanford, the University of California, Irvine, and more). Examples of popular MOOC platforms are: edX, Coursera, and Udacity.  Whether you choose to enroll in a MOOC or earn a degree (or certificate) at University of the People, you will have the opportunity to expand your career potential and knowledge at a minimal cost. To find out more about studying at University of the People, check out what our student ambassadors have to say! 

 

 

 

 

Source: Unsplash 

 

 

Benefits of Learning at University of the People

 

People who wish to advance in their career, increase their salary potential, improve their job prospects, or continue learning have an option to learn with a MOOC. Alternatively, for students who wish to maximize their earning potential, enter a new field, or grow within their current position, a degree or certificate from University of the People can make this dream a reality. 

 

Students benefit from attending a tuition-free university, learning at their own pace online, receiving a quality education, and being able to do so with a relatively low barrier to entry through our simple application. 

 

Unlike a MOOC, students get to actually interact with instructors and work closely with their peers. 

 

 

The Bottom Line 

 

Thanks to the innovation in technology and proliferation of the internet and internet-enabled devices, people worldwide are gaining or expanding their access to education. There are many MOOC platforms to choose from that host courses from well-known universities (including some from Harvard, MIT, Stanford, the University of California, Irvine, and more). Examples of popular MOOC platforms are: edX, Coursera, and Udacity. Whether you choose to enroll in a MOOC or earn a degree (or certificate) at University of the People, you will have the opportunity to expand your career potential and knowledge at a minimal cost. To find out more about studying at University of the People, check out what our student ambassadors have to say! 

 

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