What is a MOOC?

A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is a type of online learning experience aimed at large-scale participation and open access via the web. MOOCs are a development in the area of distance education and build on earlier ideas of open education. MOOCs allow people from all over the world to go on the Internet and watch educational videos, participate in discussion forums, read text and articles, and often, take quizzes, or complete educational activities. Anyone can participate in a MOOC no matter where they are located, as long as they have a wireless connection.

Think of MOOCs as being like a big, online museum. People can go in and find out about the subjects that interest them by looking at a number of “artifacts.” Sometimes visitors will go through the whole museum and some people come just to see one room, or even one statue on display. Similarly, in a MOOC, people go online to learn more about the topics they need to know more about, or that interest them—the videos, discussion forums and learning activities within a MOOC are a little bit like the artifacts in a museum. 

Download our “What is a MOOC?” fact sheet.

Are your MOOCs still open to the public? 

As of April 21, 2016, our MOOCs from 2015 are closed and are no longer available to the public.

Are MOOCs free?

UW-Madison MOOCs are offered free of charge and anyone can sign up.

Why does the university offer MOOCs for free to the general public?

For more than 100 years, UW-Madison has been committed to something called the Wisconsin Idea– the concept that the university should improve people’s lives beyond the classroom and should provide needed services to families, businesses and communities across Wisconsin.

Many UW-Madison faculty members and instructional academic staff already provide public presentations and share their expertise in a variety of public seminars, lectures or programs. MOOCs are just one extension of this practice and use technology to reach new learning audiences.

Can I get credit for MOOCs?                                                  

UW-Madison MOOCs are not available for any form of college credit.

Why do people take MOOCs?

People have many motivations for enrolling in and taking MOOCs. People have taken UW-Madison MOOCs for their own educational interest—to learn from the instructor, help them with their studies, or to learn how other experts teach a subject. Some people are simply curious about MOOCs and interested in connecting with other participants online. Some participants want to know about career possibilities in a given area, or are interested in professional development to help them in their current job.

Who teaches UW-Madison MOOCs?

UW-Madison faculty members teach MOOCs. In certain cases faculty and instructional academic staff members teach MOOCs together. UW-Madison teaching assistants are typically also employed to assist faculty with the development and delivery of their courses.

What is a successful MOOC?

UW-Madison defines a successful MOOC as one that offers relevant information to participants, helps them to make a new connection, or meets the participant’s own needs. A MOOC is successful if it makes a UW learning experience available to anyone who wants to learn.