Back in October 2011, Stanford professors launched three free online courses, open to the public. One by one, these courses went massive, with enrollments topping 100,000 students each. Soon the media was calling these courses MOOCs, short for massive open online courses. Since then, more than 900 universities around the world have launched free online courses. In addition to the larger global platforms (Coursera, edX, FutureLearn), many national governments around the world have launched their own country-specific MOOC platforms, including India, Italy, Israel, Mexico and Thailand.
By the end of 2020, more than 180 million learners had signed up for at least one MOOC. Due to the global pandemic and travel restrictions in many countries, MOOC platforms have seen a surge in both course numbers and enrollments. Of all the learners that ever registered on a MOOC platform, one third did so in 2020, making 2020 MOOCs’ most consequential year since the “Year of the MOOC”.
At Class Central, we try to catalog as many MOOCs as possible, and our listing currently includes more than 16,000 of them. But due to limited resources (and sometimes a language barrier), we cannot index every single one. If you’re looking for MOOCs from around the world (many in languages other than English), this list is our best attempt to catalog all the MOOC platforms that are out there. It includes 35 different platforms. The list has been adapted with permission from Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential by Barbara Oakley (Tarcher-Perigee, April 2017). We first published this list in 2017. It was last updated and expanded in 2021.
Coursera / United States
Two Stanford professors, Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, officially launched Coursera in January 2012. With over 76 million students and $464 million raised in funding, Coursera is the biggest MOOC provider in the world. It has over 150 university partners and more than 50 industry partners, offering approximately 5,500 online courses. Beyond single courses, Coursera offers its own credential, known as a Specialization. Coursera’s catalog currently lists more than 550 Specializations. The platform also hosts fully-online master’s degrees in fields such as computer science, data science, business, and public health. Coursera for Business makes online courses available to business clients.
edX / United States
Founded by Harvard University and MIT in 2012, edX is a non-profit organization. It’s the second largest MOOC provider in the world, with more than 35 million students. EdX offers approximately 3,100 courses and boasts 139 university partners. EdX offers a number of different types of certificate programs, including MicroMasters (which offer a pathway to credit), XSeries, Professional Certificate, and Professional Education. In 2020, edX launched a new credential called MicroBachelors, started offering higher-priced Executive Education courses, and launched a new product line for universities called edX Online Campus. Like Coursera, edX has launched multiple online degree programs.
FutureLearn / United Kingdom
FutureLearn is a UK-based MOOC provider. The Open University launched FutureLearn at the end of 2012. After a recent investment round, FutureLearn is now jointly owned by the Open University and the Australia based SEEK Group. With almost 15 million users, FutureLearn is the UK’s biggest MOOC platform. Most of its university partners are located in the UK and Europe, but it also has a few university partners in other countries, including the United States, Australia, and South Korea. FutureLearn offers its own credential program, which is known as FutureLearn Programs. In 2021, FutureLearn launched a new type of microcredential, ExpertTrack. Among MOOC platforms, FutureLearn leads the way with its degree offerings, with 15 degree programs currently available (including one bachelor’s degree).
SWAYAM / India
SWAYAM is India’s national MOOC platform. It offers over 2,150 courses taught by close to 1,300 instructors from over 135 Indian universities. One aspect that sets it apart from other providers is that it allows students in India to earn academic credit online. Since the platform was launched in 2017, over 16 million learners have taken courses on SWAYAM. At the rate it’s growing, in a few years, SWAYAM could become the world’s largest MOOC provider.
Udacity / United States
Udacity has pivoted away from its prior identity as a MOOC platform. It was the first of the original MOOC platforms to reach unicorn status (> $1 billion valuation), and it partners with technology companies to create Nanodegrees that train students for technology-focused jobs. Nanodegrees cost around $1,000, and they can take a few months to complete. Although Udacity has stopped releasing free courses, it still has some courses in its catalog that are free to audit.
As of fall 2020, Georgia Tech’s online master’s in computer science (OMSCS) isn’t offered through Udacity anymore. Udacity partnered with Georgia Tech to create and launch the first MOOC-based degree, a low cost, completely online Masters in Computer Science degree. To date, the program has enrolled more than 9,000 students. Recently, Udacity has undergone multiple changes, as the company strives to improve its performance.
Kadenze / United States
Kadenze is a MOOC platform that specializes in creative and arts education. It partners with some of the best art institutions and universities around the world to launch online courses. It was co-founded by Ajay Kapur, a classically trained Indian musician and computer scientist. He is Associate Dean for Research and Development in Digital Arts at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). In October 2013, he taught a course called “Introduction to Programming for Musicians and Digital Artists” on Coursera. However, he soon realized that some of the things he wanted to do with arts education were not possible with Coursera, so he created his own platform.
Kadenze has also launched its own certificate initiative, which is called Kadenze Programs. Typically, the first course in a Program is free. Students can also earn academic credit for many Kadenze courses and Programs.
Canvas Network / United States
Canvas Network might not have the big names, but they do have a number of free online courses taught by various institutions around the world. Some of their courses still offer completely free certificates and badges. They shifted their focus to professional development (PD) courses for educators, removing some courses that were not in this specific field and currently listing 600 courses. Some courses have paid options that can be used for official credit for licensure renewal (LR) or university credits.
Canvas Network is based on the Canvas LMS, which was developed by Instructure.
Stanford Lagunita / United States
Stanford had self-hosting courses for a long time. It used Open edX, the open source version of edX. In 2020, Stanford moved its courses to edx.org and announced the shut down of Stanford Lagunita.
Miríadax / Spain
Miríada X is a regional MOOC platform that has more than 600 courses in Spanish and Portuguese. These courses are created by its 91 university partners, which are located in Spain, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and other Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries.
MéxicoX / Mexico
MéxicoX is a MOOC platform funded by the Mexican government, and it has more than 40 partners (universities and institutions from the Federal Public Administration). It has more than 2.5 million registered learners, a majority of whom are located in Mexico.
France Université Numérique (FUN) / France
FUN is the official MOOC platform for France. The French Ministry of Higher Education launched the project in July 2013. FUN has more than 100 partners among higher education institutions that create MOOCs, including three universities in Belgium, one in Switzerland, and two in Tunisia. FUN has more than 550 MOOCs and has more than one million registered students.
EduOpen / Italy
EduOpen is a MOOC provider funded by the Italian government, launched in April 2016. EduOpen is a network of Italian universities, but it is also open to EU universities. At the moment it involves nineteen institutes, which include a mixture of larger and smaller institutions from both northern and southern Italy.
Federica Web Learning / Italy
Federica is a MOOC platform created by the University of Naples Federico II. Currently it has over 60 free online courses listed on its platform. One of its courses, Connectivisim and Learning, is taught by Stephen Downes, who is credited with teaching the first ever MOOC.
ThaiMOOC / Thailand
ThaiMOOC is one of the newest platforms in this list. It was launched in March 2017. It is the official MOOC platform for Thailand. The ThaiMOOC platform is built on Open edX and currently lists more than 200 courses.
NPTEL / India
The National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) is a collaborative project of some of India’s best higher education institutions to deliver university-level online courses covering engineering and science. NPTEL’s catalog has now been integrated into SWAYAM, India’s national MOOC platform. NPTEL also has a YouTube channel with over 1.8 million subscribers where you can watch the video-lessons that comprise their courses.
Complexity Explorer / United States
Complexity Explorer provides online courses and educational materials about complexity science. Complexity Explorer is based out of the Sante Fe Institute. Its course, Introduction to Complexity is on Class Central’s list of the Top MOOCs of All Time.
Campus-Il / Israel
Campus-Il is the national MOOC platform of Israel. The platform offers courses in Hebrew and Arabic. The platform is run by the Israeli Ministry of Social Equality. Courses are directed at an Israeli audience that includes university students and professors, high school students preparing for university, job seekers, and government workers. The platform also includes courses designed to serve underprivileged communities, on topics such as digital literacy and financial literacy.
XuetangX / China
XuetangX is China’s first and biggest MOOC platform. It was founded in 2013 by the Tsinghua University under the supervision of the China’s Ministry of Education Research. It’s probably the fastest growing MOOC platform. When Class Central interviewed XuetangX’s Chairman of the Board back in October 2016, the platform had five million users. At the end of 2020, XuetangX had crossed 60 million registered users.
The platform was originally built upon a heavily customized version of Open edX but moved away from it, redesigned the platform and went international in the beginning of 2020. Over 3500 free courses are offered on the platform.
XuetangX also has a cloud learning management system (LMS) product that is used by universities across China, and which is currently used by more than 48 million Chinese students.
Chinese University MOOC / China
Chinese University MOOC, also often called iCourse, is another massive Chinese MOOC platform. According to its “about” page, it is an online education platform launched by Netease and Higher Education Society. The platform went international with free courses in English in April 2020. It hosts 9228 free courses with free digital certificates from over 700 Chinese universities. Many courses have been reused as also credit SPOC for over a thousand of universities during the pandemic in 2020.
Zhihuishu / China
Zhihui Shu, which translates to “Wisdom Tree”, was launched in December 2012. It has the particularity of allowing its university partners to share credit-bearing courses with one another, which effectively facilitates academic credit mobility across China. It provides over 8000 courses and over 1400 free courses are open for social learners with free certificates.
CNMOOC / China
In April 2014, Shanghai Jiao Tong University launched CNMOOC, a MOOC platform promoting the integration of MOOCs into China’s on-campus higher education system. The platform offers over 2000 courses and around 1000 of them provide free digital certificates.
Xue Yin Online / China
Xue Yin Online, launched in November 2017, was developed by The Open University of China and Chaoxing Group. Its purpose is to serve as a “credit bank” for vocational skills, facilitating the transfer of credit and the recognition of prior learning across different universities. The platform offers nearly 6000 free MOOCs with free digital certificates.
Edraak (Arabic) / Jordan
Edraak means “realization” in Arabic, and this is a non-profit Arabic platform for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). It launched in May 2014 and is affiliated with the Queen Rania Foundation for Education and Development (QRF). Edraak has more than two million learners registered on its platform.
eWant — education you want / Taiwan
eWant is a MOOC platform that was launched by National Chiao Tung University in 2013. National Chiao Tung University is one of Taiwan’s leading public research universities, located in Hsinchu, Taiwan. It hosts more than 1900 courses from 93 different universities. Its goal is to educate the global Chinese speaking population.
European Multiple MOOC Aggregator (EMMA) / European Union
EMMA started as a 30-month pilot action supported by the European Union. It aggregates and hosts courses provided by European universities that wish to provide their courses in multiple languages.
OpenHPI / Germany
OpenHPI is a MOOC platform hosted by Hasso Plattner Institute (HPI) in Potsdam, Germany. It offers courses in English and German. It was one of the early players in the MOOC space and was launched in September 2012.
Open Education (openedu.tw) / Taiwan
Openedu.tw is a MOOC provider from Taiwan. The platform is based on Open edX and offers over 531 courses in subjects including computer science, business management, and humanities and art. that offers over 380 free online courses.
gacco / Japan
Gacco is a MOOC provider part of JMOOC (Japan Massive Open Online Education Promotion Council) that partners with universities in Japan to offer online courses in Japanese. Gacco has over 850k students enrolled on its platform at the beginning of 2021. The platform has other features like peer grading and a premium face-to-face learning service.
Fisdom / Japan
Fisdom is another Japanese MOOC provider. It was launched in February last year by Fujitsu, a Japanese multinational company. Fisdom’s tagline is “Freedom is Wisdom. Knowledge is Freedom.”
OpenLearning / Japan
OpenLearning Japan, as the name suggests, is a MOOC provider. It was launched by Net Learning Inc., an education service company based in Japan.
JMOOC / Japan
JMOOC is not really a MOOC provider, but it is a non-profit association aimed at promoting MOOC education in Japan. It has its own certification standards process which assesses the quality of MOOCs in Japan. The courses that pass this examination process are qualified as JMOOC-certified courses. The three Japanese MOOC providers listed above all have courses that have been JMOOC certified. JMOOC currently offers 430 courses.
Open Education (openedu.ru) / Russia
This MOOC provider was created by the Association “National Platform of Open Education,” founded by leading universities: MSU, SPbPU, St. Petersburg State University, NUST, MISA, NRU “Higher School of Economics”, MIPT, UFU, and ITMO. It currently lists more than 650 courses.
K-MOOC / Korea
K-MOOC, or Korean MOOC, is the official MOOC platform of Korea. It was initiated by the Ministry of Education and first went live in 2015. Currently, it lists 858 courses and around 100 participating institutions.
IndonesiaX / Indonesia
IndonesiaX is a non-profit organization that offers MOOCs made by universities and companies in Indonesia. It was launched in August 2015 and currently offers almost 40 free online courses.
Prometheus / Ukraine
Like many other MOOC providers, Prometheus is a non-profit organization. It was launched in October 2014, and partners with Ukrainian universities and companies to launch free online courses. It has around 120 courses and more than 250K registered users.