What is a MOOC?

What is a MOOC?

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are free courses specifically designed to be studied online by cohort of worldwide learners. It is an affordable and flexible way to learn new skills, advance your career and deliver quality educational experiences at scale. Certificates of completion are available on request for a fee.

MOOCs are offered on a variety of platforms by world-class universities and institutions. The University of Tokyo creates MOOCs on the two frontrunners among online course providers, Coursera and edX. MOOCs can be considered one of the Open Educational Resources (OERs), as courses that were previously open only to UTokyo students are now available to people all over the world .

Many people are confused between MOOC and OCW (OpenCourseWare). OCW was started in 2001 by MIT as an open digital publication of high quality college and university‐level educational materials. Contrary to MOOCs, OCWs offer only materials but not an entire course. OCWs are under Creative Commons licenses, which allows the use, reuse and distribution of materials, whereas MOOCs are under copyright licences. OCW is fully free and provide no certificate upon completion. On other hand; MOOCs are also free to audit but cost for verified certificates and/or credits*.

MOOCs consist of the following elements: lecture videos, lecture materials, quizzes, peer reviews, discussion forums and a final exam. An overview of each element is given below.

*Credit transfer is inapplicable to The University of Tokyo.

Lecture Video

MOOCs are made up of modules (one module per week), with 90 to 100 minutes long video included in each module. To effectively engage learners, the 90 to 100 minutes long video is cut into a couple of 10-minute videos. Quizzes are usually embedded in videos to check learners' understanding.

Conversely, OCW videos are unedited and the video length is no different from regular classes held in classroom (i.e. 90-110 minutes long). In most cases, they are split-screen videos which feature the PowerPoint presentation as well as the instructor explaining the slides. UTokyo OCW allows interactive transcript that you can select any line to go to that point in the video.


Quiz is one of the key elements of assessment in MOOC to evaluate the learners' knowledge and provide feedback. In most courses, you may find also a final examination. A passing grade on all required assignments is indispensable to get a course certificate. As the passing requirements vary by courses, be sure to check out the course syllabus.

〈Peer Review〉 
MOOCs bring together learners from all over the world. When you submit a peer-reviewed assignment, other learners in the course will review your work and submit feedback. You will also need to give feedback to other learners to receive your grade. For some courses, completing peer-reviewed assignments is compulsory to obtain a certificate..

Discussion Forum

Discussion forum allows learners to freely discuss the course content with each other. Instructors or course assistants might respond to questions posted in the discussion forum.

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