Class Central's MOOC Report

By The Numbers: MOOCS in 2016

This article is just one in our 2016 MOOC Roundup Series. Find the whole series of articles here, and discover everything MOOCs in 2016 — from the most popular classes, to overviews on developments in MOOC platforms, to looking at the MOOC-future.

The “modern” MOOC movement (which started in late 2011—when the first Stanford MOOCs took off) is now a half a decade old.

In it’s fifth year, 23 million people worldwide registered for a MOOC for the first time ever, according to data collected by Class Central. This makes the total number of students who signed up for at least one MOOC estimated to be 58 million.

As MOOC providers become increasingly focused on monetization, the growth rate in terms of users has slowed down. A quarter of the new users added in 2016 have come from regional MOOC providers such as  XuetangX (China) and Miríada X (Latin America).

Here is a list of top five MOOC providers by registered users:

  1. Coursera – 23 million
  2. edX – 10 million
  3. XuetangX – 6 million
  4. FutureLearn – 5.3 million
  5. Udacity – 4 million

XuetangX burst onto this list making it the only non-english MOOC platform in top five.

In 2016, 2,600+ new courses (vs. 1800 last year) were announced, taking the total number of courses to 6,850 from over 700 universities.

Note that the total of number of courses represents all the courses that have launched, and many of them are no longer available.


The number of MOOC-based credentials–sequences of MOOCs that result in a certification in a specific topic area, grew by 150% to over 250 this year. The aim of these credentials is to signify a level of competence for high-demand skills.

For MOOC providers that have started down the path of offering credentials, the majority of their new courses have are attached to credentials.


Consistent with last year, courses in Business and Technology (Computer Science, Data Science, Programming) form a big chunk of the courses that have been announced so far. The business category grew by 3% this year.

This makes sense as the most common way for MOOC providers monetize via certificates is to tackle applied skills in the fields of business and technology.


With 1700+ active courses, Coursera is still the largest MOOC provider even after discontinuing hundreds of courses.

EdX is not far behind with 1300 courses, followed by FutureLearn with 480 courses. \

After this there is Latin American MOOC provider Miríada X with 350 courses in Spanish followed by XuetangX with 300+ courses in Chinese.


As we see with these numbers, MOOCs are still growing at rapid pace. The largest providers are moving towards credentials, which provides both monetization and, hopefully, valuable recognition for learners efforts. The focus on creating these credentials explains why the fastest growth in number of courses comes from the smaller and regional providers. It may be that we will see more types of MOOCs and models to fit the needs of learners and providers around the world.