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Coronavirus 06 May 2020

MOOCs provide at-home education during lockdown

Many people are taking advantage of their time in quarantine to brush up on their knowledge, and massive online open courses (MOOCs) provide a good alternative. In this article, we describe the major platforms for online education and what they have on offer, both for professional development as well as purely for the fun of learning.

During these days when we are obliged to stay at home, many people are dedicating their time to online training. Technology has made it possible to access content — coursework — from some of the most prestigious universities and educational centers in the world. One way of accessing this content is through massive online open courses (MOOCs).

Among their advantages: MOOCs are flexible and allow students to adapt the course to their own pace of learning and availability. There are also a wide range of courses with varying degrees of difficulty. They represent suitable alternatives for brushing up on specific areas of expertise as well as for acquiring new knowledge. There are four platforms that represent the lion's share of what’s presently on offer, and each boasts a reputation of prestige in the field of education.


Created in 2011 by two Stanford University scholars, Coursera is the MOOC platform with the greatest volume and variety of online education. Its training proposition includes more than 4,100 classes in more than 430 areas of specialization, costing as little as $39 (including a course certificate). Courses have different durations, starting at four weeks. They also offer four-year and master degrees starting at a cost of $2,000 and have a dedicated offering for businesses, which includes collaboration from companies like Axa, Procter and Gamble, and L’Oreal.

Many of the courses can be taken at no cost (without receiving the course certificate). Some of Coursera’s core technical courses are AI for Everyone o AWS Fundamentals: Going Cloud-Native. They also offer courses aimed at developing the skills required for corporate roles: , for example; while other subjects address more specialized training topics like the specialization in Architecting with Google Compute Engine. Still others, like Fundamentals of Immunology, tackle the burning issue of the day: the pandemic. Examples of the degrees offered by the platform include a Bachelor's of Science in Computer Science and a Master of Business Administration.


This initiative was also conceived at Stanford University by two professors who decided to offer their Introduction to Artificial Intelligence online and free of charge. More than 160,000 students from 190 different countries enrolled. With this initial success, the professors decided to embark on a project that would bring education to everyone interested in improving their skills. The idea, which took shape in 2013, is now called Udacity and it is one of the world’s leading MOOC platforms. Its courses are designed specifically for students looking to acquire technological and digital skills. Examples of the topics covered include data analysis, la programming, web design, virtual reality and robotics.


This is the only non-profit platform of those discussed. EdX collaborates with top tier universities and educational centers worldwide. The initiative was founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University. Participating organizations include Microsoft and the university, Universidad Carlos III in Madrid. Its course catalog offers more than 2,800 classes in fields such as the humanities, mathematics, and information technology. Most can be accessed free of charge. A certificate that verifies the content of the course and the skills acquired can be received after paying a corresponding fee, which varies depending on each course. The cost of the certificate contributes to the ongoing maintenance of the platform.

Among its most popular courses are: Harvard's CS50's Introduction to Computer Science, MIT's Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python, MIcrosoft's Analyzing and Visualizing Data with Excel, and the University of Queensland’s English Grammar and Style. Most of the content on offer is technical in nature and in English, although several courses are offered in Spanish or with subtitles.


For those Spanish or Portuguese speakers who are uncomfortable learning new subjects in English or English speakers who want to improve their Spanish, MiradaX provides an alternative. This is the first Iberian-Latin American MOOC platform with content for Spanish and Portuguese speakers. More than four million students have already chosen this platform to further their education, taking advantage of courses offered by more than 100 collaborating institutions including the Complutense University of Madrid, the Open University of Catalonia, and the University of Salamanca.