9 Online Learning Platforms For Students Of All Levels

A Short List Massive Open Online Courses – Dueling Librarians Back-to-School Series


The advent of the internet brought with it a plethora of new ways to connect with others via chat rooms, instant messaging, forums, and email. Recently this amazing and life changing technology began allowing people to further their education through online learning platforms, also known as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). MOOCs let people learn on their own time by linking students to classes and instructors around the world. All you need is an internet connection and the drive to learn. The best part about MOOCs is that they are free of charge, and provide classes by some of the world’s top universities. Whether you’re a working professional looking to gain more knowledge in your chosen career, a high school or college student looking to pick up some extra credits, or a self-proclaimed autodidact who loves to learn for learning’s sake, there is an online learning platform for you. Here is a short list of some MOOCs out there as well as aggregators that help connect people with online courses.

MOOCs Providing Verified Certificates

1. Edx:  This non-profit online learning platform was created by founding partners at Harvard and MIT. Edx offers certificates of achievement for completing courses, verified certificates of achievement, and XSeries certificates of achievement which are gained by completing a series of courses under the XSeries heading (check out the student faq for most information on certificates). Additionally, Edx offers verified high school courses which help prepare students for AP exams, navigate the maze of college admissions, language and introductory math courses, as well as computer science courses. Edx classes are ongoing, allowing students to begin anytime.

2. Coursera: With over 400 courses from nutrition to languages to higher math available, Coursera will have something for almost anyone. Coursera has over 100 university and non-university partners located world wide, and offers both verified and specialization certificates for a fee. Part of the grading criteria is based on peer assessments, so be sure to be engaged and play nice.

3. FutureLearn (Beta): Owned by UK based The Open University, this MOOC was launched on September 18, 2013. Getting a bit of a late start, FutureLearn is hoping to make a splash by incorporating smart phone optimization, and creating an strong online community of learns through the creation of user profiles where students can follow and be followed by other online learners (Gibney. 2013). All courses offered by their partners are free, however there is a fee for certificates.

4. iversity.org: This European based MOOC offers college level courses that comply with the European Credit Transfer System benefiting students who wish to apply their credits to collaborating European universities. Courses are offered in English and German, and provide free classes and paid certificates options. As with other MOOCs on this list, auditing a course gives students access to the same material and information as the verified certificate track, but without your work being applied to university credit or otherwise.

Non Credit Bearing MOOCs

5. Academic Earth: Started in 2009, Academic Earth was one of the first MOOCs to be created and offer free university courses from some of the world’s top universities. Academic Earth offers students access to online journals and trade magazines which is pretty impressive. This is a feature usually found only in libraries and educational institutions. In addition, Academic Earth offers several elective videos on a variety of topics in the hopes viewers will engage through comments, sparking discussions.

6. MIT Open Courseware (OCW): This web-based platform offers a majority of MIT’s classroom content free to online users, and employees a creative common’s license, allowing lessons to be augmented and shared across almost any media source. Since MIT OCW does not offer accreditation for their courses, there are no prerequisites or fees. Anyone can view and use the course materials, take quizzes, and engage other students through forums and email.

7. Kahn Academy: A non-profit organization that caters not only to adult education, but to elementary and high school students. Khan Academy provides an excellent collection of courses for any educational level, allowing students to work from ground zero to the level they want to achieve. Geared more towards higher university preparatory goals and enhancing remedial skills, and may not be what working professionals are looking for. However, if you want to improve your standardize test scores, place higher in an entrance exam, or bone up on your math skills, Kahn just may be the solution.

MOOC Aggregators

8. Open Culture: Founded in 2006, Open Culture links online learners for free to over 950 courses, 700 films, over 1000 audio and ebooks, verified certificate courses, and 200 learning resources for kids making Open Culture one of the top aggregators for online learning platforms around. Most courses are provided in video format through iTunes, although some are available to watch through YouTube and Real Player. However, it must be said, their website is lacking in finesse and user-friendliness. Be prepared to do a lot of scrolling.

9. Open Education Consortium: Combining over 100 higher educational institutions and partners to bring virtual learners a great selection online courses. Open Education Consortium is an open courseware platform, allowing for their courses to be adapted and remixed. In addition to open course content, this learning platform also offers links to open text books in a variety of subjects. However, the user interface could be improved. I found myself getting a bit bogged down by all the clickable lists.

So there’s my short list of MOOCs. Online learning can take a bit of an adjustment for some, but it is such a great resource for working professional, single parents, returning students, and people who just wish to learn something new, that the pros outweigh the cons. I will be trying a writing class from FutureLearn later this month on character development. Being that I earned my masters degree completely online, I have very high standards for e-learning. Fingers crossed they live up to my expectations. I hope you found this list helpful, and maybe even feel inspired to give online learning a go.


Gibney, Elizabeth (2013). FutureLearn plans to stand out from Mooc crowd. Times Higher Education. Retrieved on October 6, 2014 from http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/futurelearn-plans-to-stand-out-from-mooc-crowd/2007482.article

photo credit: Ѕolo via photopin cc

Originally published on Dueling Librarians Oct 20, 2014

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