General Education

What Are MOOCs and Why Do People Like Them So Much?

What Are MOOCs and Why Do People Like Them So Much?
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KeriLynn Engel June 25, 2014

We answer the most frequently asked questions about MOOCs, including why they're so popular, and how they make learning really fun.

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MOOCs have taken the world of higher education by storm, but it’s still far from being a household term.

What exactly is a MOOC, and how do they work? Here are answers to those and more of the most frequently-asked questions about these new online courses.

# What does MOOC stand for?

MOOC stands for Massively Open Online Course. It's an online course that anyone can enroll in. There are no limits on the number of students, and it’s common for thousands or tens of thousands to register for a single course. MOOCs are often taught by college and university professors through a dedicated MOOC website like,, or

# How do MOOCs work?

Course materials usually include video lectures, reading assignments, online quizzes, and online interaction with other students. The structure allows you to participate on your own schedule instead of having to be in class at a specific time.

# How is my work graded?

The massive size of MOOCs prevents teachers from individually grading papers. Instead, evaluation is done by computer or by your fellow students. Interactive quizzes and tests can provide immediate scores automatically, while written assignments can be peer-reviewed by your fellow students following a grading rubric provided by the instructor.

# How much do MOOCs cost?

MOOCs are free for anyone to register and take. Some MOOCs offer a certificate verifying your identity and course completion for a small fee. Coursera, for example, offers a Signature Track that costs between $30 – 90.

# Will I get college credit for a MOOC?

Most MOOC organizations, such as Coursera or Iversity, do not offer college credit. Some colleges will allow you to transfer credit from a MOOC, but only if you’ve taken the paid version of the course and have a certificate proving you completed it.

# What are the benefits of MOOCs?

For college students, MOOCs can help you learn topics that may not be offered at your university, and save you a lot of money if you can meet the qualifications to transfer credits.

Some experts say MOOCs are revolutionizing higher education by making college-level courses available to everyone with a computer and Internet access. Since they’re free or low-cost, MOOCs open up higher education to those who may not have the means to afford enrolling at a university.

If you’re interested in participating in MOOCs as a part of your college education, talk to your advisor to find out how you can integrate MOOCs into your education. They may be able to work with you to design a more customized degree with course offerings not available at your college.


Online LearningOffice of the Provost. (n.d.). What are MOOCs? Retrieved June 25, 2014, from University of Chicago

Johnson, J. (2012, September 24). What in the world is a MOOC?. Washington Post. Retrieved June 25, 2014, from Washington Post

Coursera. (n.d.). Coursera. Retrieved June 25, 2014, from Coursera

Anders, G. (2013, July 10). Coursera Hits 4 Million Students — And Triples Its Funding. Forbes. Retrieved June 25, 2014, from Forbes

Duhring, J. (2013, May 10). Massive MOOC Grading Problem – Stanford HCI Group Tackles Peer Assessment. Retrieved June 25, 2014, from MOOC News & Reviews

Jong, R. D. (2013, September 17). What Do MOOCs Cost? Minding The Campus. Retrieved June 25, 2014, from Minding The Campus

How much does Signature Track cost? (n.d.). Coursera. Retrieved June 25, 2014, from Coursera

Will I get university credit for taking these courses? (n.d.). Coursera. Retrieved June 25, 2014, from Coursera

Bishop, T. (2013, September 7). Colleges offer credit for massive open online courses. Colleges offer credit for massive open online courses. Retrieved June 25, 2014, from MSN News


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