MOOCs? Which one fits your needs?

Since the beginning of the MOOC disruption phase back in 2012, many startups have emerged. The “big three” MOOCs Coursera, EDx & Udacity accounted for a total market share of 24 million students worldwide. Massive online open courses (MOOC) are threatening the educational industry since 2012. Coursera, the biggest fish in the MOOC industry revealed it hit 15 million student mark in August 2015. The same month EDx, a non-profit joint venture of the prestigious universities Harvard & MIT declared that they reached a total user base of 5 million students worldwide. Sebastian Thrun the CEO of Udacity stated that their platform reached a user base of 4 million active students.

Universities outside the US have adopted a reluctant stance on the adaptation of this new business model. However, universities across Europe may face fierce competition in the near future. As for example the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will start a pilot next academic year to determine if face-to-face contact can be delivered through their MOOC platform. The 10-month program will be split up in two parts. The first five months (also referred to as the “try before you buy period”) the students can complete their courses on the platform which decreases the cost of tuition dramatically.

Which MOOCs fits your needs?

MOOCs have become a leading resource for students interested in IT and computer science students across the globe. However, the real deal is which MOOC will land you a tech job?

For computer & information science specific courses Udacity will probably be your best bet.  The programs offered at Udacity are designed together with industry giants in the tech landscape as Google, AT&T, Facebook, Salesforce & Cloudera.  With topnotch educators as Sebastian Thrun (inventor autonomous car, project leader Google Glass & co-founder Udacity ),  Steve Blank (Father of the lean start-up methodology, author & entrepreneur) Udacity is unparalleled in the educational computer science industry.

The nanodegree program offered by Udacity has been seen as the main disruptive characteristics of MOOC and is even considered as the biggest treat for traditional education in the online educational landscape. The crux of this nanodegree can be found in the unbundling of traditional curricula into so called ‘’nanodegrees’’. The nanodegrees range from intro to programming to full stack developer certifications.

EDx offers a wider variety of courses when compared to Udacity which has a computer science centric focus. EDx is a better fit for students that are interested in a specific course rather than a specific field of knowledge. In short, EDx offers several categories of courses from outstanding universities as Harvard and MIT. Despite the offering of a wide variety of courses as mandarin for beginners and the introduction to deep science course, EDx loses points on the ability to increase the quality of the user environment.

Coursera succeeded to be a distinctive player in the field. It manages to combine the benefits of both worlds by offering a wide variety of course while maintaining quality.

In short, Udacity may the best solution for oriented students that want to dive deeper and become experts in a certain field. Coursera & EDx are good options if you are interested in a wider range of courses without a specific need to dive deeper in a certain field of knowledge.





5 responses to “MOOCs? Which one fits your needs?”

  1. 342890ls says :

    Answering the question you used to start this post, I’d say, it depends. One thing important to mention regarding the two main platforms you mentioned is their accessibility and target audience. I see the added value of Udacity and the fact that the partnerships it sustains makes the material reliable and credible. However, as a recurrent user of Coursera, I’d say that the most interesting aspect of it is that courses are freely available to users without incurring a fee. This means that I can try the course and see if it really fits my needs before I pay for a fee. Thus, this implies that the target audience is primarily different for the different platforms. Coursera users can be any kind of learner (I know a few corporate employees who use it to collect ideas for projects) who just want to learn something new for the sake of learning. Thus, I believe that whether you choose Udacity, Coursera, or any other MOOC, it highly depends on what exactly you are seeking to learn. While Udacity is targeted to the tech-niche, Coursera is going for the mass, providing different levels and kinds of learning material. Independent of the MOOC choice, I definitely believe that MOOCs are the future of education as it enables fitting the learning material to different learning styles leading to more effective and flexible learning.

  2. chloe chan says :

    Answering your question: Which MOOC fits your need. I am also a proponent for coursera. Coursera offers a very wide variety of courses, even for courses that i did not know they existed. It is a good way to trigger curiousity. Moreover, it is availiable for free, so students will try it out for sure. Regarding Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) starting a pilot next academic year, i appreciate the ‘try before you buy’ period. It is a good strategy to acttract online students to try it out.

    – 436735

  3. gustavswritesforinformationstrategyorsomething says :

    I overall find MOOCs development incredibly interesting. I curreently am now trying Coursera without the signature tracking. However, I believe that it could be quite a strong incentive to continue studying.

    Regarding the audience: the question exactly is of your goal. If you simply want to gain knowledge, then Coursera or EDx with top universities could be better.
    Regarding more practical capabilities Udacity or skillshare are interesting opportunities (however, courseras model system, where after 5 courses you get “full certificate” is interesting as well). Still, it seems that the more practical knowledge is much easier to “test in real life”, and that it is a way where online education is going:

    Overall, I’m incredibly interested to where will the MOOC’s go. Because it seems that initial hype of “disruptive education” is over, and people understand that it is much more about how MOOCs can complement to education:

  4. 361546cn says :

    As you stated, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are threatening the educational industry for the past few years. Universities across the world may face fierce competition of this new business model. Although I am aware of the effects of MOOCs, I believe that these online courses can be complement to the current offerings of universities. Since 2013, the Technical University in Delft (TUDelft) has introduced the MOOCs. The amount of subscriptions nowadays already exceeded 600,000. The first MOOC was Solar Energy that coped with 57,120 participants and eventually 2,910 graduates. In comparison, there are only 50 ‘on campus’-graduates for this course yearly. TUDelft believes that MOOCs will help to meet the increasing worldwide demand for higher education. Moreover, MOOCs can improve the education for ‘on campus’-students as well as recruit talents. University Leiden and the University of Amsterdam are other institutions in the Netherlands that also provide MOOCs and with the first one expected at the Erasmus University next year, we can conclude that MOOCs have influenced the business models of these universities.To answer your question, I believe that MOOCs truly add value to contemporary education. It will increase the reach of universities, making it more convenience to gather knowledge around the world. I would definitely take a MOOC in consideration, but I need to finish my masters program (and this course naturally) first. What about you? Would you be interested in applying for a MOOC? (2015, April 17). 400,000 deelnemers aan MOOCs van TU Delft. Accessed: October 18, 2015, from: (2015, September 15). Meer dan een half miljoen inschrijvingen voor gratis cursussen TU Delft. Accessed: October 18, 2015, from: (2015, Januari 13). Eerste Rotterdamse MOOC komt eraan. Accessed: October 18, 2015, from: (2015). MOOCs. Accessed: October 18, 2015, from:

  5. vadimgalaktionov says :

    Great post. I definitely agree that MOOCs are a great way to further your education on top of the degree you are currently pursuing.

    However, one point I do take issue with is MOOCs being a threat to traditional higher education in general. Having written my bachelor thesis on this topic, I have encountered many findings that point to the contrary. Let me outline the most important ones below:

    – MOOCs have a very low completion rate when compared to traditional university courses. In a statistical analysis of 39 courses, Jordan (2014) found that the median completion rate was 6.5%. This number went up to 9.8% when only considering students who actively engaged with the course materials. This puts the high student numbers reported by MOOC providers into context, and brings me to my next point.

    – The other common issue inherent in MOOCs is their suitability for certain students. In particular, a certain degree of autonomy is expected of students for successful participation in the course. A survey by Mackness et al. (2010) had 59% of students rating autonomy as important (9 or 10 on a 10-point scale). While a traditional university education requires some degree of autonomy as well, this seems exacerbated by the MOOC format.

    – As Yuan & Powell (2013) note, quality assurance is an issue for many MOOCs. For the individual learner, there is no way to ascertain the quality of an offered course, although institution reputation and alumni reviews may be of help. While the MOOC Quality Project has identified key quality areas for courses (Creelman et al., 2014), they are focused on European MOOCs and thus do not impact any of the big three providers (EdX, Udacity, Coursera).

    There are several other qualities of traditional courses that MOOCs lack as, like networking opportunities and teamwork experience gained. Finally, the numbers don’t lie: data from CS50x shows that most entrants have completed at least some amount of tertiary education, ranging from an associates degree (propedeuse) to a PhD. Therefore, at this point, it is more useful to think of MOOCs as an extension to, rather than a replacement for, traditional higher education.


    Creelman, A., Ehlers, U. D., & Ossiannilsson, E. S. (2014). Perspectives on MOOC quality-An account of the EFQUEL MOOC quality project. INNOQUAL- International Journal for Innovation and Quality in Learning, 2(3).

    Jordan, K. (2014). Initial trends in enrolment and completion of massive open online courses. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 15(1).

    Mackness, J., Mak, S. F. J., & Williams, R. (2010). The ideals and reality of participating in a MOOC. In L. Dirckinck-Holmfeld, V. Hodgson, C. Jones, M. F. de Laat, D. McConnell, & T. Ryberg. (Eds.), Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Networked Learning (pp. 266-274). Lancaster, UK: University of Lancaster. Retrieved from netlc/past/nlc2010/abstracts/PDFs/Mackness.pdf

    Malan, D. (2013). Data, data, data (from CS50x). Retrieved 18 October 2015, from

    Yuan, L., Powell, S., & CETIS, J. (2013). MOOCs and open education: Implications

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