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MOOC Around the World – Our Global List of Distance Education Resources, Part 1

Massive Open Online Courses are the hot topic in distance education, not only because the 2013 Horizon Report named MOOCs as one of the emerging technologies to have an effect on higher education, but also because many institutions offer them now.

However, when most people hear about MOOCs, they think of the “big three” providers — Coursera, Udacity and edX (Havardx and MITx), all of them American platforms. Most people are not aware that the first MOOCs were developed by Canadian teachers, George Siemens and Stephen Downes. Nor do most people know that many more MOOCs are available from around the world.

MOOC Around the World - Global List of Distance Education, Part 1

by Eric Fischer via Flickr

Well, let me be your guide as we take a grand tour to discover the many MOOC options beyond the best-known platforms in the U.S. It’s going to be a long journey, taking at least three posts. By the end of it, we’ll have put the “distance” in distance education. Don’t forget to bring your phrase books along — or make sure Google Translate is active on your browser — because, while most are in English, many of them will be in the local language.

I should mention that a few of the MOOCs we’re looking at are already concluded. However, many of those may run again in the future, and, unlike on platforms you may be more familiar with, the materials often are left online in the spirit of open education.

Before we get started, some readers may need one quick lesson on the two major types, xMOOCs and cMOOCs. If those terms are new to you, take a look first at Debbie Morrison’s ultimate guide to those concepts.

But hurry back, because our luggage is stowed, and our passports are in order. Let’s start the tour.

We begin in Germany, my home country

Germany can look back on quite an impressive MOOC history, and the future looks bright. The #OPCO11 (Open Course 2011) was one of the first cMOOCs in Germany, followed by #OPCO12, both discussing learning trends and both based on the annual Horizon Report. The #MMC13 (MOOC Maker Course) was aimed at people interested in developing and implementing their own MOOC.

Those projects were in German, as are #COER13 (Course about Open Educational Resources) and #ichkurs (German for “self-course”), the two latest MOOCs currently running. #COER13 addresses issues surrounding Open Educational Resources (OER), such as how teachers can find and use them. #ichkurs  teaches personal leadership development and communication.

OpenHPI, the Hasso-Plattner-Institution (HPI), has offered free MOOCs since September 2012, some in English and some in German. The number of courses is currently limited, but they are quite sophisticated with their focus on information technology. Data Management With SQL is currently running with 6,090 participants. Web Technologies will start in the summer. The duration of the courses is about six weeks.

OpenCourseWorld is a platform from Information Multimedia Communication working with several German universities. So far it looks like they are still in the development phase, offering just three courses in German ranging from Business Process Management to Windows 8 App Development.

Leuphana is a public university in northern Germany that has ventured into global online learning with the launch of the Leuphana Digital School. The first and only course at the moment, in English, is ThinkTank – Ideal City of the 21st Century, led by distinguished scholars and experts, including Daniel Libeskind. Participants from all over the world formed teams to plan and designed their ideal city. For successful completion, six group assignments were required. A certificate of completion requires a €20 fee.

Iversity aims to become Europe’s leading provider of MOOCs. Iversity was founded in 2011 by Jonas Liepmann and Hannes Klöpper to develop a cross-university platform for distance education and to foster communication in teaching and research. By October 2013 the reorganized Berlin-based platform will offer free academic online courses from German and international teachers. The core elements of their open courses are videos, feedback and peer-to-peer learning.

Nothing is known so far about the class topics at Iversity, but this is the organization behind the MOOC Production Fellowship where  250 proposed courses are being put to a public vote to see which teachers get a €250,000 award to develop their course. Iversity plans to charge money for final exams and certificates.MOOCs for travel

Across the North Sea to the United Kingdom

Open University is building a British platform to compete with U.S. MOOC providers that will launch “later this year.” The new platform, called Futurelearn, will operate as an independent company yet will have courses from state and public universities. Futurelearn is working in partnership with the British Council, the British Library, the British Museum and more than 20 U.K. universities to create a joint offering available to students across the world free of charge. There is currently no specific information on the courses Futurelearn will be providing, but you can subscribe to a mailing-list or follow them on Twitter @futurelearn to receive more information.

Open University (OU), launched in 1969 is a pioneer of online and distance education for students not only in the U.K. but around the world. In fact, your tour guide studied six years with the OU and achieved B.A. and Master’s degrees in Online and Distance Education, and I can highly recommend this university.

OU not only collaborates with Futurelearn, but also offers next to their traditional commercial courses its Open Learn program of MOOCs and Internet-based courses to students from anywhere around the world. For example, the OT12 MOOC on Open Translation tools and practices has students exploring open translation by undertaking hands-on translating projects.

Open University’s Institute of Educational Technology also led the first Open Learning Design Studio MOOC, which focused on the theme of curriculum design with OERs, in the first quarter of 2013. This cMOOC was open for anyone seeking to develop their professional skills and experience in curriculum design, learning design and the use of OERs in education. I myself enrolled in the #OldsMOOC but unfortunately, as I wrote in Don’t be a MOOC Dropout, I didn’t complete it because I made the mistake by taking two MOOCs at once.

The Emerald Isle is calling

Alison has been Ireland’s biggest free distance education provider for basic and essential workplace skills since 2007. Alison stands for Advance Learning Interactive Systems Online and is a UNESCO award-winning platform focusing on workplace readiness topics like management, accounting, customer service, human resources, health studies and basic business skills. According to their slogan, they offer “a new world of free certified learning” with 500 courses published. They believe all certifiable or standards-based learning for every subject can be made available for free online.

To allow students to take the courses free of charge, Alison utilizes mainly a mix of advertising and sponsored programs from partners and publishers. They have two million registered learners spread across countries worldwide and have graduated over 50,000 people in certificate and diploma courses in 2011.

Those interested in exploring Irish Identity, might be interested in the free MOOC developed by Hibernia College. It starts May 27 and, according to the course description, will present a broad overview of how history, geography and culture have interacted to create divergent, and sometimes contradictory, ideas of what it means to be Irish. Registration is now open.

Port of call

MOOC cruise

Well, we’re already discovering a big wide MOOC world out there beyond the major American providers. Europe is definitely contesting American MOOC platforms. From the perspective of a student, it’s great to be able to shop around and choose free distance education resources covering all kinds of topics from a variety of MOOC providers.

Our MOOC around the world journey has only just started, but now is a good time to rest. Take a couple days to see the sights and re-supply your provisions. We’re going to shove off again in a few days for part 2 of our journey. We’ll be making a quick stop in Belgium to learn about MobiMOOC from Ignatia de Waard, author of MOOC YourSelf – Set up your own MOOC for Business, Non-Profits, and Informal Communities, before dashing through the rest of Europe and then heading Down Under. After that, the itinerary calls for visits to South America and Asia.

And after that . . . who knows? We may never stop discovering new MOOCs to visit.

Sylvia Moessinger (8 Posts)

I am a vocational teacher for healthcare with a great interest in Education 2.0, i.e. innovative and pedagogically sound application from Web 2.0 technology in teaching and learning. I achieved my Bachelor's in Health (Hons) 2009 and Master's in Online and Distance Education (MAODE) 2011 at the Open University. With my additional studying I wanted to improve my professional knowledge, adjust to the ongoing developments in technology-enhanced learning. After my study I started a part-time job as research assistant at the VCRP to apply my knowledge and learn more about the pedagocial and technical aspects of elearning. I am also a great fan of cMOOCs and particpated in the #OPCO12, MobiMOOC and the #COER13.


  1. Just to let you know that there are 2 more in Ireland. One from Dublin Institute of Technology which started last week and one from us in Institute of Technology Sligo, starting in September. Because they did not turn up in your list I did a Google search on “MOOC Ireland” and got the following:

    MOOC Exploring Irish Identity Hibernia College‎
    Hibernia College, in association with The Gathering, is taking this online by launching the first Irish massive open online course (MOOC) on the theme of Irish …

    Introduction to Lean Sigma Quality(Free MOOC) – Open & Distance … › will launch this September and will take the form of a free, six-week online course in Lean Sigma Quality.

    Feb 14, 2013 – Applications now open for Ireland’s first MOOC. Just as the online revolution is dramatically changing the music industry – as most recently …
    So, you want to work in the pharmaceutical industry? › News & Events › Archive 2013‎
    25 April 2013: DIT, in association with DPS Education and Training Ltd, is going live with the first Irish Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). This three-week …

    My colleague, Gavin Clinch, will be representing Ireland at the European MOOC Summit in Lausanne, Switzerland on June 6th. Perhaps he may be able to post some updates on this.

  2. Hallo Brian,

    thanks for the update which is much appreciated as I/we plan to constantly update the MOOCs list to provide a resource that is as possible complete. There is also a Slide Share presentation in preparation where I will include all new information about MOOC platforms and online courses received. It would be also great if your colleague Gavin would be able to post some updates.

  3. Hi Sylvia!

    Congrats on the post, it’s very helpful. Brazil has experienced with a cMOOC in the end of last year, have a look here

    Hope this is helpful.


    • Thanks Andreia. Take a look at parts 2 and 3 of the series. 🙂 Sorry, this didn’t link clearly to it before, but that’s fixed now.

    • Andreia, every comment and reference to a platform is helpful. As Robert McGuire suggested you might have seen that we did mention MOOC EaD. Please feel free to keep us updated on any new developments.

  4. Dear Sylvia,

    iversity has chosen the winners of the MOOC Production Fellowship in June. Now there is a list of 19 MOOCs available for students and other interested people to enroll. Please kindly regard:


    • Dear Martin,

      with great interest I follow iversity and I already signed in a while ago for Design 101, one of the winners of the MOOC Production Fellowship. A great idea to allow people to vote for online courses they would like to take on your platform. I am looking forward for the start and thanks for sharing the information with us. I am sure our readers will appreciate your information.