You are here

Trends and Success in MOOCs




Class Central has established a list of the most popular MOOCs starting in January 2015, based on how many Class Central users have added this particular course to MOOC Tracker. Here are the results:


1  Introduction to Linux

| Linux Foundation via edX


2 A beginners’ guide to writing in English for university study

| University of Reading via FutureLearn


3 Entrepreneurship 101: Who is your customer?

| MIT via edX


4 StatLearning: Statistical Learning

| Stanford OpenEdx


5 Managing People: Engaging your Workforce

| University of Reading via FutureLearn


6 Managing my money

| The Open University via FutureLearn


7 Introduction to Nutrition – Food for Health

| Wageningen University via edX


8 Embedded Systems – Shape The World

| The University of Texas at Austin via edX


9 Linear Algebra – Foundations to Frontiers

| The University of Texas at Austin via edX


10 Introduction to Cyber Security

| The Open University via FutureLearn


Using the same method, Class Central also compiled a list of the 10 most anticipated MOOCs for 2015 and, more interestingly, a list of the 10 most successful MOOCs of 2014. Here are the names of the MOOCs:


Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies: The First Step in Entrepreneurship (via University of Maryland, College Park | Coursera); Introduction to Statistics (via Stanford University | Udacity); Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects (via University of California, San Diego | Coursera); Introduction to Computer Science (via University of Virginia | Udacity); Principles of Project Management (via Polytechnic West | Open2Study); Introduction to Computer Science (via Harvard University | edX); Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence (via Case Western Reserve University | Coursera); Introduction to Finance (via University of Michigan | Coursera): Strategic Management (Open2Study), R Programming (via Johns Hopkins University | Coursera).


A few tendencies can be inferred from these lists. STEM courses have historically been very popular, ever since the first platforms originated from MIT and Stanford. The large majority of courses in these two lists are linked to management skills or to technology; two separate courses titled “Introduction to Computer Science” are in the top of the 2014 list! The most popular MOOCs are more likely to be linked with such fields; for example, Sebastian Thrun’s Artificial Intelligence and MITx's 6.002x (Circuits and Electronics) attracted more than 150,000 students.

On the other hand, the two previously cited Class Central lists do not include any humanities courses, as might be expected when one considers the general trend. However, the lack of popularity of such courses needs to be understood in context as these lists apply to Class Central users, who belong to a specific market, often employees looking to improve their managerial or technological skills.


Indeed, MOOCs are still mainly used by learners with previous degrees (75% of people in its system already have a bachelor’s degree) and thus are more viewed as a mechanism for professional development than a real alternative to higher education. The personal development courses followed by Class Central users (money, food health…) reflect the narrow range of use of MOOCs today. Despite the big numbers (MOOCs are massively used and platforms grow very quickly), MOOCs still have to be promoted to meet the needs of other groups of learners  if we want to fully capitalise on their potential within the realm of higher education.