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Class Central Ranks Top 100 MOOCs 'of All Time'

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The top five free online courses of all time follow no pattern whatsoever. One covers programming, two are about natural sciences and two others examine brain topics from very different perspectives, and they come from universities all over the world. But all five have one thing in common: They've been judged as the best-ranked by the people who have taken the classes and voted on them through Class Central, an online service that catalogs online courses, including massive open online courses.

In the top spot is an introduction to the Python programming language, available on Coursera from Rice University. The second, Mountains 101, from the University of Alberta, offers a "broad an integrated overview of the mountain world," including geological origins, biodiversity, water cycles and cultural significance. Number three, Learning How to Learn, produced by the University of California San Diego, and McMaster University, explores the mental tools that can help people "master tough subjects." In spot number four, "Understanding Dementia," is offered directly by the University of Tasmania. And in fifth place, "Extinctions: Past and Present" is available through FutureLearn by the University of Cape Town.

Each year Class Central offers a ranking of the top free courses, based on the reviews posted by their learners. The latest list relied on analysis of some 60,000 reviews. The ranking eliminated all course that had fewer than 30 reviews and those "unlikely to be offered again." Where courses had multiple parts (like that Python class), only the first part was included in the list.

The rest of the list includes classes on technology; lifestyle improvements; learning science; the humanities; government, business and the law; marketing; and theology.

The latest top-100 references three institutions that each have five courses in the ranking: MIT in the United States, the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom and the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Three other universities have four courses on the list: Stanford, the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania.

Dhawal Shah, founder of Class Central, noted that although western countries account for a large chunk of the courses, "the top 100 contains courses from 53 universities from 18 countries, with all continents represented."

Among course platforms, Coursera leads the way, followed by edX and FutureLearn.

"While many people have used MOOCs as a steppingstone to promotions or new careers, others take MOOCs for personal satisfaction," Shah pointed out. "Even those who did not finish high school or are retired from the paid workforce can enrich their lives with MOOCs. With an internet connection, MOOCs can be accessed all around the world."

The full list of the top 100 rankings is on the Class Central website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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