MOOCs vs. traditional instruction


MOOCs are available online and can be accessed from anywhere in the world. This means that anyone with an internet connection can take a MOOC, regardless of their location or physical accessibility. For example, a student living in a remote area may not have access to a traditional university nearby, but can still take MOOCs from a top university like Harvard from the comfort of their own home.

MOOCs are either self-paced or instructor-paced. Pacing refers to how course teams run the course, and whether you need to complete course materials on a set schedule. While content from instructor-paced courses may be published periodically, most MOOCs are self-paced and can be taken at any time. This allows students to fit learning into their busy schedules and to learn at a pace that works best for them. Many instructor-paced courses remain available as archived courses after the course ends. In an archived course you can view most of the course materials, such as lectures and readings, but you cannot complete assignments for a grade or upgrade to earn a certificate.

MOOCs are not fixed into traditional term and semester models that they can start any time and can be of any length. MOOCs are mostly between four and six weeks long. You may refer to individual course about page for details.

Some MOOCs offer transferable college credit1, provided that you add the Verified Certificate option and meet passing requirements. You may also take a MOOC on your own, visit an AP, CLEP, or DSST test center and pass an exam on a topic to earn the credit. Note that you must apply and be admitted into an educational institution to receive the credit.


MOOCs are mostly composed of lecture videos, graded/ungraded assignments, final exam, peer review and discussion forums. Unlike traditional instruction, MOOCs consist of multiple 10-minute videos and graded/ungraded assignments that measure your understanding of video content. You can opt to pay to earn a certificate, provided that you pass all required assessments in the course, or meet the course passing threshold for a cumulative graded course2.

For courses with written assignments such as reports, there is a peer review system in which learners evaluate each other's work. Discussion form gathers learners from all around the world, and from a wide variety of different backgrounds, religions, and cultural norms to exchange opinions. To ensure that the platforms remain a welcoming, friendly and supportive place for all members, please read carefully the guidelines.

1Not applicable to The University of Tokyo.
2Values of MOOC-based alternative credential are in course of discussion.

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