Online courses, or MOOCS (massive open online courses) are short courses that are delivered online for free. They do not have entry requirements and can be taken by anyone from anywhere in the world. Those run by universities are led by world-class academics and supported by teaching assistants, while others are led by experts in their field. They are self-directed, meaning that students follow the course materials, complete the readings and assessments, and get help from a large community of fellow learners through online forums. The rise of MOOCs means that people can learn from some of the very best lecturers and professors at the very best universities from all over the world.

Who are Online Courses aimed at?

There may come a time when we will all be studying for our undergraduate degrees through MOOCs however, they currently benefit:

  • those who want to find a little bit more out about a subject, out of interest and curiosity
  • those who want to update their skills in the workplace
  • those starting university who want to understand what to expect of the teaching and content
  • those who do not have access to learning in their area

Self-paced vs. set duration courses

The duration of some courses are set while others are self-paced. Set courses provide an estimated number of learning hours including lectures and additional reading and the number of weeks. Lectures are put up on the website every week and assessments need to be undertaken in a certain timeframe. Self-paced courses offer learners the chance to undertake the course at their own pace. Here, the number of hours needed to complete the course is specified and students can do this over an indefinite period of time.

How to apply?

You can apply through the websites directly. To find out what MOOCs are on offer, use our MOOC search tool.

Entry requirements

MOOCs do not have entry requirements, although they may state that a certain knowledge would be useful, e.g. maths.

Methods of Assessment

Depending on the course and the provider, assessment can take the form of quizzes and examinations, often with fellow coursemates appraising your work.


The majority of MOOCs as yet do not provide a standard qualification, however many offer a Statement of Accomplishment which shows that a student has completed the course with grades above a set benchmark.


Many online courses are free, however if you are looking to gain a Statement of Accomplishment you will have to pay for this - they currently cost about £40. Those that aren't free cost anywhere between £30-£250. Our online MOOC search provides the current costs so you can factor this into your search.

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