16 minute read  written by  . Published on August 27, 2017

We are back with an updated list of the best free online courses and MOOCs of all time. Class Central published the Top 50 MOOCs for the first time in July last year. Since then universities and MOOC providers have added a couple of thousand new courses and Class Central users have written thousands of new reviews.

Now there are over 8,000+ MOOCs from around 750 universities worldwide. This can be daunting to the millions of learners around the world who have never done an online course before.

That’s why we came up with a list of Top 50 MOOCs of All Time based on thousands of reviews written by Class Central users.

In providing a small but well-reviewed list of courses, our hope is that new learners will not be overwhelmed when entering the MOOC space. Reviews will help new learners figure out if a course is right for them, and whether they will have a great first experience.

So if you know someone who has never taken an online course, send them here. Share this page with your network on your favourite social media site to help your friends and contacts enrich their lives.

The Top 50 MOOCs will be updated regularly as new courses are added and we receive new reviews. Better yet, you can also Follow the Top 50 MOOCs on its special collection page (look for the “follow top 50” button just below the title). Followers will receive a notification whenever we update the Top 50 MOOCs list.


The Top 50 MOOCs collection page. Use the Follow button to be notified when the list gets updated.

Oh … and if you feel that a course you took deserved to be on this list but isn’t, please find the course on Class Central and write a review for the course.

Class Central’s Top 50 MOOCs of All Time

There are a lot of usual suspects in the Top 50. Think of courses like Learning How To Learn, Harvard’s CS50xModPo, and Class Central’s best online course of 2016 — Coding in your Classroom, Now! Courses from the founders/CEOs of edX, Coursera, and Udacity are also present.

Ajay Kapur, co-founder and CEO of arts education platform Kadenze, also has a course in the Top 50 now. His course, Introduction to Programming for Musicians and Digital Artists, was first launched on Coursera back in 2013. He soon realized that some of the things he wanted to do with arts education were not possible with Coursera, which led him to create Kadenze.

The Top 50 also contains courses from prominent personalities, like The Science of the Solar System by Mike Brown (AKA “Plutokiller”) and Functional Programming Principles in Scala by Martin Odersky (the creator of Scala).

Here is a quick summary of the Top 50 list:

  1. Coursera is the top provider with 28 courses in the Top 50, and edX is second with 9 courses;
  2. Stanford and MIT top the list with four courses each, and the University of Cape Town has three courses in the Top 50 — two on FutureLearn and one on Coursera;
  3. the list includes courses from 35 universities and one research institute (Santa Fe), of which 22 universities are in the US; and
  4. Barbara Oakley and Terry Sejnowski, the instructors of the most popular MOOC in the world, have two courses in the top 50. Their new course Mindshift joins Learning How To Learn in the top 50.

If you want to see all courses sorted by their ratings, visit the Top 50 collection page. Alternatively, we have organized the courses into four major categories below.

  1. Technology (19 courses)
  2. Sciences (15 courses)
  3. Business (6 courses)
  4. Humanities (8 courses)

Technology (19 courses)

An Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python (Part 1)
Rice University via Coursera
This course is designed to help students with very little or no computing background learn the basics of building simple interactive applications.
★★★★★ (2973 ratings)

Coding in your Classroom, Now!
University of Urbino via EMMA
Questo corso è ambizioso e semplicissimo. Ha l’obiettivo di aiutarti ad introdurre il pensiero computazionale in classe attraverso il coding, usando solo attività intuitive e divertenti da proporre direttamente agli alunni.
★★★★★ (36 ratings)

Introduction to Programming for Musicians and Digital Artists
California Institute of the Arts via Kadenze
The course, lecture, and examples build on each other to teach the fundamentals of programming in general (logic, loops, functions, objects, classes) and also deals with advanced topics including multi-threading, events and signals. Throughout the course, students create meaningful and rewarding expressive digital “instruments” that make sound and music in direct response to program logic.
★★★★★ (20 ratings)

Introduction to Programming with MATLAB
Vanderbilt University via Coursera
This course teaches computer programming to those with little to no previous experience. It uses the programming system and language called MATLAB to do so because it is easy to learn, versatile and very useful for engineers and other professionals.
★★★★★ (181 ratings)

Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python)
University of Michigan via Coursera
This course aims to teach everyone the basics of programming computers using Python. We cover the basics of how one constructs a program from a series of simple instructions in Python. The course has no pre-requisites and avoids all but the simplest mathematics.
★★★★★ (1648 ratings)

Intro video for Andrew Ng’s Machine Learning class

Machine Learning
Stanford University via Coursera
This course provides a broad introduction to machine learning, datamining, and statistical pattern recognition.
★★★★★ (313 ratings)

Learn to Program: The Fundamentals
University of Toronto via Coursera
Behind every mouse click and touch-screen tap, there is a computer program that makes things happen. This course introduces the fundamental building blocks of programming and teaches you how to write fun and useful programs using the Python language.
★★★★★ (96 ratings)

Creative Applications of Deep Learning with TensorFlow
via Kadenze
This course introduces you to deep learning: the state-of-the-art approach to building artificial intelligence algorithms. We cover the basic components of deep learning, what it means, how it works, and develop code necessary to build various algorithms such as deep convolutional networks, variational autoencoders, generative adversarial networks, and recurrent neural networks.
★★★★★ (30 ratings)

Build a Modern Computer from First Principles: From Nand to Tetris (Project-Centered Course)
Hebrew University of Jerusalem via Coursera
In this project-centered course* you will build a modern computer system, from the ground up. We’ll divide this fascinating journey into six hands-on projects that will take you from constructing elementary logic gates all the way through creating a fully functioning general purpose computer. In the process, you will learn – in the most direct and constructive way – how computers work, and how they are designed.
★★★★★ (20 ratings)

Programming Languages, Part A
University of Washington via Coursera
This course is an introduction to the basic concepts of programming languages, with a strong emphasis on functional programming. The course uses the languages ML, Racket, and Ruby as vehicles for teaching the concepts, but the real intent is to teach enough about how any language “fits together” to make you more effective programming in any language — and in learning new ones.
★★★★★ (21 ratings)

The Analytics Edge
Massachusetts Institute of Technology via edX
Through inspiring examples and stories, discover the power of data and use analytics to provide an edge to your career and your life.
★★★★★ (71 ratings)

Algorithms: Design and Analysis, Part 1
Stanford University via Coursera
Algorithms are the heart of computer science, and the subject has countless practical applications as well as intellectual depth. This course is an introduction to algorithms for learners with at least a little programming experience.
★★★★★ (64 ratings)

Artificial Intelligence
University of California, Berkeley via edX
The course will introduce the basic ideas and techniques underlying the design of intelligent computer systems.
★★★★★ (30 ratings)

Functional Programming Principles in Scala
École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne via Coursera
In this course you will discover the elements of the functional programming style and learn how to apply them usefully in your daily programming tasks.
★★★★★ (61 ratings)

CS50: Intro to Computer Science | HarvardX on edX | Course’s “About” Video

Introduction to Computer Science
Harvard University via edX
This is CS50x, Harvard University’s introduction to the intellectual enterprises of computer science and the art of programming for majors and non-majors alike, with or without prior programming experience.
★★★★★ (64 ratings)

Cryptography I
Stanford University via Coursera
In this course you will learn the inner workings of cryptographic systems and how to correctly use them in real-world applications.
★★★★★ (49 ratings)

Artificial Intelligence for Robotics
Stanford University via Udacity
Learn how to program all the major systems of a robotic car from the leader of Google and Stanford’s autonomous driving teams. This class will teach you basic methods in Artificial Intelligence, including: probabilistic inference, plannin
★★★★★ (20 ratings)

Algorithms, Part I
Princeton University via Coursera
This course covers the essential information that every serious programmer needs to know about algorithms and data structures, with emphasis on applications and scientific performance analysis of Java implementations.
★★★★★ (55 ratings)

Intro to Computer Science
University of Virginia via Udacity
In this introduction to computer programming course, you’ll learn and practice key computer science concepts by building your own versions of popular web applications.
★★★★☆ (65 ratings)

Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python
Massachusetts Institute of Technology via edX
A new and updated introduction to computer science as a tool to solve real-world analytical problems using Python 3.5.
★★★★★ (110 ratings)

Circuits and Electronics 1: Basic Circuit Analysis
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, via edX
Learn techniques that are foundational to the design of microchips used in smartphones, computers, and the Internet.
★★★★★ (13 ratings)

Sciences (15 courses)

Mountains 101
University of Alberta via Coursera
Mountains 101­­ is a broad and integrated overview of the mountain world. This 12-lesson course covers an interdisciplinary field of study focusing on the physical, biological, and human dimensions of mountain places in Alberta, Canada, and around the world.
★★★★★ (248 ratings)

What Is a Mind?
University of Cape Town via FutureLearn
This free online course will bring together learners and practitioners interested in how the mind works. It aims to build bridges between traditionally antagonistic approaches to understanding the mind.
★★★★★ (85 ratings)

Introduction to Dynamical Systems and Chaos
Santa Fe Institute via Complexity Explorer
In this course you’ll gain an introduction to the modern study of dynamical systems, the interdisciplinary field of applied mathematics that studies systems that change over time. Topics to be covered include: phase space, bifurcations, chaos, the butterfly effect, strange attractors, and pattern formation.
★★★★★ (53 ratings)

Introduction to Complexity
Santa Fe Institute via Complexity Explorer
Learn about the tools used by scientists to understand complex systems. The topics you’ll learn about include dynamics, chaos, fractals, information theory, self-organization, agent-based modeling, and networks.
★★★★★ (80 ratings)

Understanding Dementia MOOC

Understanding Dementia
University of Tasmania
This is a course about dementia looking at a broad range of topics including, basic brain anatomy, pathology, dementia research, risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis, medical management, living with dementia, progression and staging, palliation, behaviours and therapeutic approaches.
★★★★★ (26 ratings)

Medical Neuroscience
Duke University via Coursera
This online course is designed to include all of the core concepts in neurophysiology and clinical neuroanatomy that would be presented in most first-year neuroscience courses in schools of medicine.
★★★★★ (32 ratings)

Intro video to The Science of the Solar System

The Science of the Solar System
California Institute of Technology via Coursera
Learn about the science behind the current exploration of the solar system. Use principles from physics, chemistry, biology, and geology to understand the latest from Mars, comprehend the outer solar system, ponder planets outside our solar system, and search for habitability in our neighborhood and beyond.
★★★★★ (36 ratings)

Understanding Clinical Research: Behind the Statistics
University of Cape Town via Coursera
If you are simply interested in properly understanding the published literature or if you are embarking on conducting your own research, this course is your first step. It offers an easy entry into interpreting common statistical concepts without getting into nitty-gritty mathematical formulae. To be able to interpret and understand these concepts is the best way to start your journey into the world of clinical literature.
★★★★★ (82 ratings)

Extinctions: Past and Present
University of Cape Town via FutureLearn
This free online course explores how life on earth has been shaped by five mass extinction events in the distant past. At present, biodiversity is facing a crisis, with the prospect of a sixth extinction event today.
★★★★★ (32 ratings)

Model Thinking
University of Michigan via Coursera
We live in a complex world with diverse people, firms, and governments whose behaviors aggregate to produce novel, unexpected phenomena. We see political uprisings, market crashes, and a never ending array of social trends. How do we make sense of it? Models.

★★★★★ (63 ratings)

Introduction to Engineering Mechanics
Georgia Institute of Technology via Coursera
This course is an introduction to learning and applying the principles required to solve engineering mechanics problems. Concepts will be applied in this course from previous courses you have taken in basic math and physics. The course addresses the modeling and analysis of static equilibrium problems with an emphasis on real world engineering applications and problem solving.
★★★★★ (98 ratings)

The Science of Everyday Thinking | UQx on edX | Course’s “About” Video

The Science of Everyday Thinking
University of Queensland via edX
Learn how to think better, argue better, and choose better.
★★★★★ (36 ratings)

Dino 101: Dinosaur Paleobiology
University of Alberta via Coursera
Dino 101: Dinosaur Paleobiology is a 12-lesson course teaching a comprehensive overview of non-avian dinosaurs. Topics covered: anatomy, eating, locomotion, growth, environmental and behavioral adaptations, origins and extinction. Lessons are delivered from museums, fossil-preparation labs and dig sites.
★★★★★ (22 ratings)

Introduction to Biology – The Secret of Life
Massachusetts Institute of Technology via edX
Explore the secret of life through the basics of biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, recombinant DNA, genomics and rational medicine. Certify through the MITx 7.00x Competency Exam. Open for self-paced learning.
★★★★★ (25 ratings)

Calculus One
Ohio State University via Coursera
This course is a first and friendly introduction to calculus, suitable for someone who has never seen the subject before, or for someone who has seen some calculus but wants to review the concepts and practice applying those concepts to solve problems.
★★★★★ (45 ratings)

Business (6 courses)

Video from Learning How to Learn

Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects
University of California, San Diego via Coursera
This course gives you easy access to the invaluable learning techniques used by experts in art, music, literature, math, science, sports, and many other disciplines. We’ll learn about the how the brain uses two very different learning modes and how it encapsulates (“chunks”) information.
★★★★★ (1679 ratings)

Aprender
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México via Coursera
¿Quieres conocer tus recursos y niveles de desempeño relacionadas con tu proceso de aprender? ¿Te interesa desarrollar habilidades para aprender más y mejor?
★★★★★ (105 ratings)

Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential
McMaster University via Coursera
Mindshift is designed to help boost your career and life in today’s fast-paced learning environment. Whatever your age or stage, Mindshift teaches you essentials such as how to get the most out of online learning and MOOCs, how to seek out and work with mentors, the secrets to avoiding career ruts (and catastrophes) and general ruts in life, and insights such as the value of selective ignorance over general competence.
★★★★★ (760 ratings)

Decision Making in a Complex and Uncertain World
University of Groningen via FutureLearn
This course will teach you the first principles of complexity, uncertainty and how to make decisions in a complex world.
★★★★★ (27 ratings)

Marketing in a Digital World
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign via Coursera
This course examines how digital tools, such as the Internet, smartphones, and 3D printing, are revolutionizing the world of marketing by shifting the balance of power from firms to consumers.
★★★★★ (161 ratings)

Preparing to Manage Human Resources
University of Minnesota via Coursera
This course provides a foundation for developing your own approach to skillfully managing employees by illustrating alternative human resource management (HRM) strategies, introducing the importance of the legal context, and thinking about what motivates employees.
★★★★★ (26 ratings)

Humanities (8 courses)

Modern & Contemporary American Poetry (“ModPo”)
University of Pennsylvania via Coursera
ModPo is a fast-paced introduction to modern and contemporary U.S. poetry, with an emphasis on experimental verse, from Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman to the present. Participants (who need no prior experience with poetry) will learn how to read poems that are supposedly “difficult.”
★★★★★ (130 ratings)

Video from A Life Of Happiness and Fulfillment

A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment
Indian School of Business via Coursera
This course, based on the award-winning class offered both at the Indian School of Business and at the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin, developed by Prof. Raj Raghunathan (aka “Dr. Happy-smarts”) draws content from a variety of fields, including psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral decision theory to offer a tested and practical recipe for leading a life of happiness and fulfillment.
★★★★★ (403 ratings)

Justice
Harvard University via edX
Justice, one of the most famous courses taught at Harvard College, is an introduction to moral and political philosophy, offering an opportunity to discuss contemporary dilemmas and controversies.
★★★★★ (30 ratings)

The Bible’s Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future
Emory University via Coursera
Working through colorful biblical and ancient Near Eastern texts, and drawing on an array of comparative examples, the course illustrates the thoroughgoing manner with which biblical authors responded to defeat by advancing a demotic agenda that places the community at the center.
★★★★★ (32 ratings)

Introduction to Dutch
University of Groningen via FutureLearn
Are you planning to visit, or work or study in the Netherlands soon? This free online course is perfect if you have little or no prior knowledge of Dutch, but would like to master the fundamentals in order to survive life in the Low Countries.
★★★★★ (59 ratings)

Tsinghua Chinese: Start Talking with 1.3 Billion People
Tsinghua University via edX
This introductory Chinese language course will emphasize basic language skills for everyday life in Mandarin speaking countries.
★★★★★ (38 ratings)

Moralities of Everyday Life
Yale University via Coursera
How can we explain kindness and cruelty? Where does our sense of right and wrong come from? Why do people so often disagree about moral issues? This course explores the psychological foundations of our moral lives.
★★★★★ (34 ratings)

Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance
Monash University via FutureLearn
Learn mindfulness techniques to reduce stress and improve your wellbeing and work/study performance.
★★★★★ (38 ratings)

Methodology

The methodology we used for this list is simple. Using thousands of reviews written by our users, Class Central was able to sort these courses by the Bayesian average of their ratings. Then we removed all the courses with less than twenty reviews (the low threshold helps smaller providers to compete on quality) and courses for which we had doubts whether they would be offered again. If a course has multiple parts, we only included the first part in the Top 50.

Note: A few of the Coursera courses in the list have a paywall for graded assignments. You can read more about it here.

P.S. If you want to see how Class Central looked in November 2011, you can see it here on the Internet Archive

Dhawal Shah is the founder and CEO of Class Central. class-central.com/@dhawal. You can reach him at dhawal@class-central.com