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Class Central’s Top 50 MOOCs of All Time (2018 edition)

Written by Dhawal Shah
16 minute read
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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 of 2016 and refreshed it again last year. Between each iteration of this list, universities and MOOC providers have added a couple thousand new courses and Class Central users have written just as many new reviews.

Now there are over 10,000+ MOOCs from over 800 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.

If you know someone who has never taken an online course, send them here. Share this page with your network on your favorite 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.

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 35 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.

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!  as well as Class Central’s best online course of 2017, Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential. 

Some of the new courses that were added to the 2018 edition include,

  1. Georgetown’s Quantum Mechanics for Everyone on edX;
  2. The Musculoskeletal System: The Science of Staying Active into Old Age from Newcastle University, The University of Sheffield, and University of Liverpool on FutureLearn;
  3. Preventing Dementia from University of Tasmania with almost 900 reviews can be considered a sequel to another Top 50 course Understanding Dementia; and
  4. Cartography, from ESRI;
  5. Presentation skills: Designing Presentation Slides from Tomsk State University on Coursera. This is the first Russian university to make into Class Central’s Top 50.

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 10 courses;
  2. Stanford, Penn, and University of Cape Town each have three courses in the Top 50.
  3. The list includes courses from 37 universities, a research institute (Santa Fe) and one company (ESRI), of which 16 universities (down from 22 last year) are in the US
  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, you can browse the courses below.

Technology (17 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.
★★★★★ (3078 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.
★★★★★ (3760 ratings)

Machine Learning
Stanford University via Coursera
This course provides a broad introduction to machine learning, datamining, and statistical pattern recognition.
★★★★★ (335 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.
★★★★★ (192 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.
★★★★☆ (118 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.
★★★★★ (102 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.
★★★★★ (77 ratings)

CS50’s 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.
★★★★★ (71 ratings)

Machine Learning for Musicians and Artists
Goldsmiths, University of London via Kadenze
In this course, students will learn fundamental machine learning techniques that can be used to make sense of human gesture, musical audio, and other real-time data. The focus will be on learning about algorithms, software tools, and best practices that can be immediately employed in creating new real-time systems in the arts.
★★★★★ (66 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.
★★★★★ (64 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)

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.
★★★★★ (58 ratings)

Gamification
University of Pennsylvania via Coursera
This course will teach you the mechanisms of gamification, why it has such tremendous potential, and how to use it effectively.
★★★★★ (55 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)

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.
★★★★★ (43 ratings)

Python for Data Science
University of California, San Diego via edX
Learn to use powerful, open-source, Python tools, including Pandas, Git and Matplotlib, to manipulate, analyze, and visualize complex datasets.
★★★★☆ (41 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)

Humanities (7)

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.
★★★★★ (425 ratings)

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.”
★★★★★ (180 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.
★★★★★ (72 ratings)

Basic Spanish 2: One Step Further
Universitat Politècnica de València via edX
The course, which is designed for English speakers, offers a variety of exercises after going through the stages of content presentation, comprehension and production.
★★★★★ (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.
★★★★★ (53 ratings)

Shakespeare Matters
University of Adelaide via edX
In this introductory course, you will learn how Shakespeare uses emotion in his plays, how his characters experience and manipulate emotions, and how the emotional resonance of the plays makes them powerfully relevant to the modern world.
★★★★★ (48 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.
★★★★★ (37 ratings)

Sciences (14 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.
★★★★★ (293 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.
★★★★★ (125 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.
★★★★★ (119 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.
★★★★★ (84 ratings)

Introduction to Complexity
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.
★★★★★ (88 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.
★★★★★ (73 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)

Quantum Mechanics for Everyone
Georgetown University via edX
Quantum Mechanics for Everyone is a four-week long MOOC that teaches the basic ideas of quantum mechanics with a method that requires no complicated math beyond taking square roots (and you can use a calculator for that). Q
★★★★★ (54 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.
★★★★★ (47 ratings)

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

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.
★★★★★ (39 ratings)

Cartography
Esri
Once, only cartographers made maps. Today anyone can. Still, cartographers can teach people to make better maps, just as chefs can show people how to cook better meals. With coaching from experienced cartographers and practical, hands-on exercises using ArcGIS Pro, you’ll become a smarter mapmaker, ready to go beyond the defaults and make better maps.
★★★★★ (38 ratings)

EU policy and implementation: making Europe work! 
Leiden University via Coursera
In this course, we learn how EU policy is made, and how policy is transferred to member states and implemented by various authorities, including regional and local governments.
★★★★★ (36 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.
★★★★★ (35 ratings)

Business (6 courses)

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.
★★★★★ (4968 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.
★★★★★ (1737 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.
★★★★★ (163 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?
★★★★★ (106 ratings)

Maintaining a Mindful Life
Monash University via FutureLearn
Interest in mindfulness has grown enormously over the last few years. It’s no surprise: mindfulness techniques can improve your communication skills, relationships and emotional health. But not everyone knows how to apply mindfulness in daily life.
★★★★★ (82 ratings)

Presentation skills: Designing Presentation Slides
Tomsk State University via Coursera
The goal of this course is to change that by equipping learners with a set of tools to create simple, clear and aesthetic slides which improve the presentation of the speaker. The course covers universal design principles, templates, colors, typefaces, slides’ typography, use of photos and pictograms, composition rules and ways to create clear and meaningful charts and diagrams.
★★★★★ (42 ratings)

Health & Medicine (6 courses)

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.
★★★★★ (1419 ratings)

Preventing Dementia
University of Tasmania
With the ageing of the world’s population, dementia is looming as the public health issue of the 21st Century. Is it possible to modify your risk of dementia? A substantial proportion of risk is associated with advanced ageing as well as genetic risk factors, but the latest research has indicated there are modifiable risk factors which may decrease your susceptibility to dementia. The Preventing Dementia MOOC investigates the best available evidence about dementia prevention, drawing on a range of global experts.
★★★★★ (894 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.
★★★★★ (183 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.
★★★★★ (63 ratings)

The Musculoskeletal System: The Science of Staying Active into Old Age
Newcastle University, University of Liverpool, and University of Sheffield via FutureLearn
This course is designed for patients, carers and people who lead active lives and would appreciate knowing how their lifestyle is likely to affect their long-term health. It may also inspire you to study or research musculoskeletal ageing. No previous biological experience is needed.
★★★★★ (55 ratings)

Vital Signs: Understanding What the Body Is Telling Us
University of Pennsylvania via Coursera
The vital signs – heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, respiration rate, and pain – communicate important information about the physiological status of the human body. In this six-part course we explore the anatomy and physiology underlying the vital signs so that you will develop a systematic, integrated understanding of how the body functions.
★★★★★ (40 ratings)