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Free online courses explained

Free online courses explainedMassive open online courses (MOOCs) can improve your skills and knowledge for free - if you put the work in.

What are MOOCs?

MOOC stands for 'massive open online course' - a free course, taught online, which anyone can sign up for. Teaching is done using videos and online discussion, as well as more conventional methods like reading, problem-solving and essay-writing.

Most MOOCs are run by universities, either on their own or in partnership with other institutions or companies.

Do MOOCs offer any qualifications?

Although most MOOCs are run by universities, they don't offer a recognized qualification at the end, which means they aren't a substitute for other kinds of course. However, they could be useful for:

  • Trying out a subject area you might want to study
  • Building skills and knowledge that will be useful for your career
  • Exploring your personal interests

What can I study?

MOOCs are available in a wide range of subjects, from public speaking to medical neuroscience. Many are introductory courses and don't require any existing knowledge, but others will require background skills - especially maths and computer science courses.

The best way to find a course that interests you is to search different providers, or browse through subject areas on their websites. Keep in mind that courses run at a specific time, so you might have to wait a while for the course you want to come up.

How do I take part in a MOOC?

Signing up is simple - you just need to register on the provider's website. Places to find courses include:

It’s also worth checking the websites of particular universities you’re interested in, as they may advertise online courses there even if they aren't part of a larger project.

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