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Class Central’s Zeitgeist: A Year in MOOCs — 2017

What our internal statistics reveal about MOOCs in 2017

This article is just one in our 2017 MOOC Roundup Series. Find the whole series of articles here, and discover everything MOOCs in 2017 — from the most popular classes, to overviews on developments in MOOC platforms, to looking at the MOOC-future.

zeit·geist noun
the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time. 

More than five million students used Class Central in 2017 to help them decide which online course they wanted to take.

These students wrote more than 11,000 reviews, added courses 2.5M times to MOOC Tracker, and ran 475,000 searches.

Those numbers are just from 2017, and these activities provide a strong and unique data set that captures a student’s intent. Like Google, we have decided to release a zeitgeist and give our readers (that’s you!) a sense of what students around the world are looking at.


Class Central is primarily a discovery platform — students prefer to browse rather than search on our site. Our Subjects page (built using an online course taxonomy, which we open-sourced last year) enables a student to browse courses based on their interests.

Only 4% of students end up using the search functionality, but between them those students still ran over 475,000 searches using around 110,000 unique search terms. The top 25 search keywords are below. These account for 10.5% of all searches.

python, machine learning, java, data science, human resources, english, writing, deep learning, psychology, c, marketing, statistics, excel, javascript, spanish, law, french, photography, music, sql, digital marketing, finance, project management, design, data 

Most Popular Courses

We compiled this list based on how many Class Central users have added a particular course to MOOC Tracker – our watchlist feature (courses have been added more than 2.5M times in 2017 to MOOC Tracker). Learn more about MOOC Tracker

  1. Startup School from Y Combinator
  2. Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential from McMaster University
  3. Mountains 101 from University of Alberta
  4. Personal Finance from Purdue University
  5. The Science of Success: What Researchers Know that You Should Know from University of Michigan
  6. Intro to JavaScript
  7. Machine Learning from Columbia University
  8. Manage Your Prices: An Introduction to Pricing Strategy and Revenue Management from ENAC
  9. Neural Networks and Deep Learning from deeplearning.ai
  10. Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies from Harvard University

Most Followed

Last year we launched a Follow button for Education. It’s a Twitter-like Follow button that enables learners to customize their Class Central experience by following universities, subjects, and course providers. We are on track to reach 8 million cumulative follows by the end of this year.

Here are the top followed items on Class Central in 2017 and the number of total followers they received in 2017

  1. Harvard University — 118,541 followers
  2. Computer Science — 117,673 followers
  3. Stanford University — 112,026 followers
  4. Programming — 111,834 followers
  5. Coursera — 106,212 followers
  6. Business — 93728 followers
  7. Management & Leadership — 84,649 followers
  8. Data Science — 84,476 followers
  9. Personal Development — 83,144 followers
  10. MIT — 82,404 followers
Dhawal Shah Profile Image

Dhawal Shah

Dhawal is the CEO of Class Central, the most popular search engine and review site for online courses and MOOCs. He has completed over a dozen MOOCs and has written over 200 articles about the MOOC space, including contributions to TechCrunch, EdSurge, Quartz, and VentureBeat.

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