Skip to main content

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a MOOC?

A MOOC is a massive open online course designed to reach a broad audience around the world. MOOCs typically enroll thousands of students, though not all complete the course. MOOCs do not count for Northwestern credit (but credit may be granted by other institutions for NU MOOCs). Anyone with an internet connection can take a MOOC, generally for free. Northwestern faculty can offer a MOOC through Northwestern’s partnership with Coursera.

What is Coursera?

Coursera is one of the leading providers of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). It was founded in April 2012 by Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, two Stanford University computer science professors. Coursera offers classes developed by faculty from leading private and public universities to anyone around the world who has internet access. Students who complete courses do not receive Northwestern credit.

Online courses have been available for some time, how is a MOOC different?

MOOCs are open learning resources that can be taken for free by anyone in the world. Typically MOOCs do not provide instructor feedback to individual students. Online courses tend to be smaller in scale, provide direct instructor engagement, are integral to the curriculum, provide credit, and have a required fee.

What is the structure of MOOCs?

MOOCs are traditionally taught over anywhere from six to 12 weeks, allowing for variation based on each MOOC’s content and design. Each week, MOOCs are comprised of a lesson with a single topic or themed topics with specified learning outcomes. Learning assets are available at all times so that students across the world can participate fully, no matter the time zone or personal schedule. Each MOOC is designed according to a rigorous instructional design process and course functionality subjected to a quality assurance process.

How do students communicate with MOOC instructors?

Communication with students is clear and consistent, with expectations explicitly communicated to all parties. Course technology enables students to easily message and interact with their instructors, guest speakers, peers, etc. As a result, learning communities emerge allowing students to connect with each other and with course materials.

What are the demographics of students taking the Coursera MOOCs?

They are globally distributed, across age ranges, ethnicities and professions. There appears to be four main groups of learners: 1) learners focused on improving technical skills, 2) learners focused on improving business skills, 3) young learners preparing to apply to college, and 4) lifelong learners.

Will Northwestern students get university academic credit for taking the Coursera MOOCs?

Currently, Northwestern students will not receive credit at Northwestern for MOOCs.

How do I sign up for a Coursera MOOC?

If you would like to participate in a Coursera MOOC, click on the links above or register on the Coursera site, https://www.coursera.org/northwestern. They do not require you to submit an applications admission for Medill, as they are free resources and do not count for academic credit.

Are the Northwestern MOOCs free?

Yes, all Northwestern MOOCs are free when taken individually. Users can participate in a full MOOC course load without payment. If a user would like to receive a certificate of completion for their chosen MOOC area, they may pay to take the full MOOC “Specialization,” which includes the individual classes plus an additional capstone project. This certificate is also referred to on Coursera’s site as a “verified statement of accomplishment.”