Online Education Overview

Massive open online course or MOOC — is a type of online course aimed at large-scale participation and open access via the web. MOOCs are a recent development in the area of distance education, and a progression of the kind of open education ideals suggested by open educational

Up until recently, online courses were just poor imitations of traditional lectures captured on video camera. MOOCs emerged a few years ago with pioneers such as Coursera. They’ve become more and more popular as supplementary, continuing or even as a replacement for traditional education.

Online Education
Online Education

Free Online Courses

Here is a brief overview of free online courses:

  • Udacity: high quality free courses consisting of short videos with quizzes, homework, tests, engaging discussions among faculty and students, multiple levels of certification, job board featuring student profiles.
  • Coursera: same free high quality content as Udacity with broader selection of courses.
  • edX: similar concept as Coursera or Udacity; edX courses involve professors from MIT, Harvard and other top-tier universities.
  • Open Classroom: free online videos of Stanford University classes.
  • CodeAcademy: ability to learn JavaScript (other languages like Ruby on Rails are coming soon!) in your browser with automated tests.

Other Free Online Courses

These courses like Open Classroom are less comprehensive than MOOCs and usually lack discussion boards, tests and certification:

  • Academic Earth: free online classes and online learning tools from Ivy League universities, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, University of California at Berkeley and others.
  • Open.Michigan: hub for openly licensed educational content initiated by the University of Michigan.
  • webcast.berkeley: UC Berkeley’s central service for online video & audio for students and learners around the globe.
  • Open Yale Courses: free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University.
  • MIT OpenCourseWare: free publication of MIT course materials that reflect almost all the undergraduate and graduate subjects taught at MIT.

Paid Online Courses

These websites offer a wide variety of classes at relatively small cost:

  • Udemy: lots of discounts; courses on Lean Startup methodology.
  • Online Marketing Institute: all things related to online marketing; subscription-based.
  • Khan Academy: short videos primarily on high school subjects.
  • iTunes U: mostly videos and textbooks from top universities like Yale.
  • Lynda: paid business and software-oriented courses with homework, labs and tests.

Degree Programs and Education

For those who need a degree, the online education approach offers greater flexibility than a conventional one; various degrees can be earned part-time, at your own location and at a cheaper cost. Here are the most trusted (and in most cases accredited) options:

  • Kaplan University: more than 170 degrees and programs by an accredited institution.
  • DeVry University: online degree programs at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs level.
  • Strayer: both online (called iCampus) and on-campus options with the same content and accreditation.
  • University of Phoenix: 20 years of experience in online education with accreditation in degree programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels.


A screencast is a digital recording of computer screen output, also known as a video screen capture, often containing audio

Screencasts have become a very popular learning tool for programmers and IT professionals. Here are some top screencast websites for cutting-edge technologies such as Ruby on Rails, JavaScript and NodeJS:

Trends in Online Education

Here are some common hot trends which emerged in the past couple years in online education:

  • Reversed classroom concept (aka Flip teaching): instructors give the bulk of new materials as a homework for self-study and leave precious time with students for Q&A, tests, discussions.
  • Short videos: materials are easier to digest in short bursts, each usually followed by a quiz or summary.
  • Low-tech, conversational tutorial videos without the instructor as in Khan Academy video format.
  • Automation of tests: in-browser tests and even coding interpreters require less supervision from instructors.
  • Peers’ help on discussion forums: students help each other to clarify questions, give hints, find goofs and mistakes, and provide out-of-the-box answers to the problems; therefore, these discussions help to save faculty’s precious time.

Not always the old pro-verb “you’re getting what you pay for it” is right. In the past decade, the cost of conventional education has skyrocketed due to easily available student loans but efficiency stayed pretty much the same. The general trend is that education and online education especially is getting more efficient. MOOCs allow dozens of thousands of students to partake in a single course. Although, there are many regulated professions such as ones in medical or law fields where traditional degrees are a necessity, for the vast majority of IT jobs, portfolios and GitHub “resumes” have become more important than GPAs or names of prestigious colleges in the hiring process. It might be too early to say what impact these initiatives will have on hiring especially in big (conservative) corporations, but with high motivation and great materials most people can achieve amazing results in study without getting into debt.

In conclusion, my personal favorite MOOC website is Udacity. I even bought a T-shirt to support them. Would you pay thousands dollars for almost the same quality of materials? I wouldn’t but then I already have Master’s Degree from traditional university :-) So are MOOCs only for continued education? What do you think?