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Course Report

The 100 Most Popular Courses During the Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has increased interest in online education. These online courses saw the most enrollments during the pandemic.

Top 100 Courses During the Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has increased interest in online education and brought MOOCs back into the spotlight. Class Central itself has seen a huge surge in traffic.

This made us ask: what specific courses were online learners signing up for during the pandemic?

In total, the top 100 courses represent approximately 11.7 million new enrollments during the pandemic. Surprisingly, a substantial portion (nearly 20%) of those 11.7 million enrollments came from one course: Yale University’s The Science of Well-Being.

A few courses related to COVID-19 that were launched during the pandemic also made it to the list. Overall, 30+ such courses have been launched by institutions such as Harvard, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Another pattern we noticed was that many of the Coursera courses in the list were part of their free certificate offerings first announced in early April.  Currently, there are 115 such courses offering free certificates till the end of July.


To create our list, we asked three providers–Coursera, EdX, and FutureLearn–to send us a list of the most enrolled courses between March 15 and May 15. We chose March 15 as the date to start tracking enrollment trends because our own traffic data, as well as data from other sources like Google trends, identified March 15 as the first day of the uptick in interest in online courses.

After getting the data from different providers, we cleaned and combined the data. Some of the data we received had a ranking of the most enrolled courses, but lacked the enrollment count for each course. We used archive.org to view the historical pages for each course and to determine the change in enrollment between March 15 and May 15. In cases when archive.org lacked data, we estimated the enrollment data by averaging the enrollment change of similarly ranked courses.

After estimating enrollment data for each course, we combined the three datasets into one list. Finally, we removed courses from the list in cases where the content of one course was split into multiple courses. For example, if a data analytics course was split into “Data Analytics, Part 1,” and “Data Analytics, Part 2,” we only displayed one course.

Most Popular Courses During the Pandemic

  1. The Science of Well-Being from Yale University ★★★★★(14)
  2. CS50’s Introduction to Computer Science from Harvard University ★★★★★(92)
  3. Machine Learning from Stanford University ★★★★★(365)
  4. Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies from Harvard University ★★★★★(6)
  5. Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python) from University of Michigan ★★★★★(17048)
  6. Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects from University of California, San Diego ★★★★★(13153)
  7. English for Career Development from University of Pennsylvania ★★★★☆(21)
  8. Financial Markets from Yale University ★★★★☆(31)
  9. Mechanical Ventilation for COVID-19 from Harvard University ★★★★★(16)
  10. Introduction to Psychology from Yale University ★★★★★(6)
  11. Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasive Writing and Public Speaking from Harvard University ★★★★☆(4)
  12. Contract Law: From Trust to Promise to Contract from Harvard University ★★★★☆(11)
  13. COVID-19: Tackling the Novel Coronavirus from London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine ★★★★★(58)
  14. Fundamentals of Neuroscience, Part 1: The Electrical Properties of the Neuron from Harvard University ★★★★★(13)
  15. Social Psychology from Wesleyan University ★★★★★(75)
  16. Data Science: R Basics from Harvard University ★★★★★(10)
  17. Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills from University of Michigan ★★★★★(14)
  18. Chinese for Beginners from Peking University ★★★★☆(31)
  19. COVID-19 Contact Tracing from Johns Hopkins University ★★★★★(4)
  20. First Step Korean from Yonsei University ★★★★☆(20)
  21. Child Protection: Children’s Rights in Theory and Practice from Harvard University ★★★★★(1)
  22. Algorithms, Part I from Princeton University ★★★★★(60)
  23. Justice from Harvard University ★★★★★(39)
  24. Understanding Fashion: From Business to Culture from Institut Français de la Mode
  25. Using Python for Research from Harvard University ★★★★☆(10)
  26. Modern Art & Ideas from The Museum of Modern Art ★★★★★(5)
  27. AI For Everyone from deeplearning.ai ★★★★☆(4)
  28. Fashion as Design from The Museum of Modern Art ★★★★☆(3)
  29. The Architectural Imagination from Harvard University ★★★★☆(10)
  30. Neural Networks and Deep Learning from deeplearning.ai ★★★★★(15)
  31. Principles of Biochemistry from Harvard University ★★★★★(7)
  32. Hinduism Through Its Scriptures from Harvard University ★★★★★(1)
  33. Science Matters: Let’s Talk About COVID-19 from Imperial College London ★★★★★(6)
  34. Seeing Through Photographs from The Museum of Modern Art ★★★★☆(4)
  35. Buddhism and Modern Psychology from Princeton University ★★★★★(29)
  36. Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science (part 1) from Harvard University ★★★★★(11)
  37. Introduction to Negotiation: A Strategic Playbook for Becoming a Principled and Persuasive Negotiator from Yale University ★★★★★(13)
  38. Understanding IELTS: Writing from British Council ★★★★★(229)
  39. What Is Contemporary Art? from The Museum of Modern Art
  40. Fighting COVID-19 with Epidemiology: A Johns Hopkins Teach-Out from Johns Hopkins University ★★★★★(2)
  41. Stanford Introduction to Food and Health from Stanford University ★★★★☆(39)
  42. Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential from McMaster University ★★★★★(4373)
  43. Psychological First Aid from Johns Hopkins University ★★★★☆(35)
  44. Speak English Professionally: In Person, Online & On the Phone from Georgia Institute of Technology ★★★★☆(4)
  45. Excel Skills for Business: Essentials from Macquarie University ★★★★★(2)
  46. Write Professional Emails in English from Georgia Institute of Technology ★★★☆☆(3)
  47. Pyramids of Giza: Ancient Egyptian Art and Archaeology from Harvard University ★★★★★(5)
  48. The Health Effects of Climate Change from Harvard University ★★★★★(2)
  49. Statistics and R from Harvard University ★★★★☆(20)
  50. Primeros Auxilios Psicológicos (PAP) from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (Autonomous University of Barcelona) ★★★★★(1)
  51. Basic Spanish 1: Getting Started from Universitat Politècnica de València ★★★★☆(215)
  52. Christianity Through Its Scriptures from Harvard University ★★★★☆(4)
  53. Lessons from Ebola: Preventing the Next Pandemic from Harvard University ★★★★★(1)
  54. Teaching English Online from Cambridge English Language Assessment ★★★★★(2)
  55. PredictionX: Omens, Oracles & Prophecies from Harvard University ★★★★☆(1)
  56. Technical Support Fundamentals from Google ★★★☆☆(5)
  57. How To Teach Online: Providing Continuity for Students from FutureLearn
  58. Introduction to Programming with MATLAB from Vanderbilt University ★★★★★(205)
  59. English for Business and Entrepreneurship from University of Pennsylvania ★★★★★(5)
  60. Étudier en France: French Intermediate course B1-B2 from École Polytechnique ★★★★★(4)
  61. Introduction to Data Wise: A Collaborative Process to Improve Learning & Teaching from Harvard University
  62. Marketing Analytics from University of Virginia ★★★★☆(9)
  63. Introduction to Data Science in Python from University of Michigan ★★☆☆☆(44)
  64. Introduction to Python: Absolute Beginner from Microsoft ★★★☆☆(3)
  65. Improving Global Health: Focusing on Quality and Safety from Harvard University ★★★★☆(6)
  66. What is Data Science? from IBM ★★★☆☆(1)
  67. Google Cloud Platform Fundamentals: Core Infrastructure from Google ★★★★☆(4)
  68. Basic English 1: Elementary from King’s College London ★★★★★(2)
  69. Build Your First Android App (Project-Centered Course) from École Centrale Paris ★★★★☆(4)
  70. The Strategy of Content Marketing from University of California, Davis ★★★★☆(4)
  71. Contabilidad para no contadores from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
  72. Python Basics for Data Science from IBM ★★★☆☆(2)
  73. Creative Thinking: Techniques and Tools for Success from Imperial College London ★★★★★(6)
  74. IELTS Academic Test Preparation from University of Queensland ★★★★★(4)
  75. Introduction to Data Analysis using Excel from Microsoft ★★★★☆(6)
  76. Introduction to Philosophy from University of Edinburgh ★★★★☆(70)
  77. Excel: Fundamentos y herramientas from Universitat Politècnica de València ★★★★★(320)
  78. Guitar for Beginners from Berklee College of Music ★★★★☆(18)
  79. Introduction to Probability from Harvard University ★★★★★(1)
  80. Prescription Drug Regulation, Cost, and Access: Current Controversies in Context from Harvard University ★★★★★(2)
  81. TOEFL® Test Preparation: The Insider’s Guide from ETS ★★★★★(4)
  82. The Science of Happiness from University of California, Berkeley ★★★★★(32)
  83. Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python from Massachusetts Institute of Technology ★★★★☆(125)
  84. Principles, Statistical and Computational Tools for Reproducible Data Science from Harvard University
  85. Energy Within Environmental Constraints from Harvard University ★★★★★(5)
  86. Communication and Interpersonal Skills at Work from University of Leeds ★★★★★(3)
  87. A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment from Indian School of Business ★★★★★(465)
  88. COVID-19 Critical Care: Understanding and Application from University of Edinburgh ★★★★☆(6)
  89. Analyzing and Visualizing Data with Power BI from Microsoft ★★★★★(3)
  90. The Data Scientist’s Toolbox from Johns Hopkins University ★★★☆☆(163)
  91. Strengthening Community Health Worker Programs from Harvard University
  92. Introduction to HTML5 from University of Michigan ★★★★☆(43)
  93. Introduction to Family Engagement in Education from Harvard University ★★★★☆(7)
  94. Digital Skills: Digital Marketing from Accenture ★★★★☆(3)
  95. Introduction to Business Management from King’s College London ★★★☆☆(1)
  96. Understanding ADHD: Current Research and Practice from King’s College London
  97. Managing COVID-19 in Primary Care from St. George’s University ★★★★★(1)
  98. Data Science Math Skills from Duke University ★★★★☆(9)
  99. Viral Marketing and How to Craft Contagious Content from University of Pennsylvania ★★★★☆(25)
  100. Start Writing Fiction from The Open University ★★★★☆(20)
Emma Rindlisbacher Profile Image

Emma Rindlisbacher

Emma is a reporter who covers education for national publications.

Comments 6

  1. Marwa MOHAMED

    You’re doing phenomenal job. We greatly appreciate your effort. Thank you Class-Central team

  2. Obakeng Nthoiwa

    Thank you so much this is all been very insightful.

  3. Moira Farrelly

    Hi. I would like to see more high level classes in the Spanish languages. How about exposing people to some of the great writers in this language? Your classes examining the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez were really excellent by the way. The course titled Correccion, estilo y las variaciones was high level and dealt with translation. This class was very challenging and interesting. It was developed in a professional way. It was a university level program. It helped me sheltering in place by giving me a focus and motivating me to continue to develop fluency. I look forward to a writing class in Spanish next summer. Thank you for making coursework available to us, especially in the time of COVID.

  4. Jennifer Harvey

    I’m so grateful this is a wonderful opportunity and I’m sure it will be a great experience as well thanks so much


    Your online learning courses are so much appreciated by the less mobile older generation.
    THis is the answer for Life Long Education. Live and learn.

  6. Tajuana S McNeel

    I have really enjoyed learning online courses.


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