A MOOC is a massive open online course—a web-based, college-level class with unrestricted enrollment. A MOOC is usually free and taught by a college professor. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to create a MOOC. MOOCs can take a number of forms, formats and styles, the form of MOOC that is gaining the most popularity is equivalent to taking a university course without receiving university credit.

MOOCs can take a variety of formats, but the most popular are usually a combination of video, lecture notes, assignments and projects. MOOCs can include blog posts, tweets, papers, or other ways to gauge students’ performance. They are often self-paced, but with certain benchmarks that students must reach regularly. Assignments are often self-graded or peer-graded, due to the potentially high number of students enrolled in the courses.

MOOCs are published through a variety of for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Each publisher offers a variety of courses, and these courses are often presented differently.

Coursera

"We believe in connecting people to a great education so that anyone around the world can learn without limits."

Coursera partners with the largest number of top-tier colleges and universities around the world to offer free college-level courses taught by professors. Coursera courses engage students to learn in a virtual community with video lectures, support material and classroom forums where students may discuss the course and the exercises. There may be tens of thousands of students in a class, so direct contact with professors is kept to a minimum, but every effort is made to insure that questions are answeredand technical problems are solved. Students often answer each other’s questions and sometimes grade each other’s work. Most courses have specific start and end dates as well as assignment deadlines to follow.

edX

"edXwas created for students and institutions that seek to transform themselves through cutting-edge technologies, innovative pedagogy, and rigorous courses."

edX is a non-profit consortium originally founded by Harvard and M.I.T. According to edX President Anant Argawal, edX is a learning destination that "offers fun, hip courses from top universities for free." edX courses are taught by college professors from top-tier colleges and universities from around the world. edX engages students in virtual classrooms with video lectures, exercises, support material and student forums in much the same way as described above. Courses also have specific start and end dates as well as assignment deadlines to follow.

Kaplan Open Learning

"We are a different school of thought—one that puts education above tradition, with technology that works for you, not the other way around."

Kaplan Open Learning is the free online education arm of Kaplan University, a leading innovator in online education. Kaplan Open Learning courses are designed to be highly interactive and participatory, encouraging student-teacher interaction in online "hangouts" for instructor-led courses, and offering students self-paced courses as well.

Open Yale

"Open Yale Courses provides free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University."

Open Yale courses are recorded from the classroom lectures of Yale professors which may be watched online for free. The appropriate classroom support materials may also be made accessible. Students do not have to register for these courses, there is no formal virtual interaction, and no deadlines to follow.

Saylor

"The mission of the Saylor Foundation is to make education freely available to all."

Saylor builds free, self-paced online courses designed by credentialed professors who locate, vet and organize open educational resources into a structured format. Each Saylor course ends with a final exam, and students who receive a passing grade can download a certificate of completion.

Udacity

"We are reinventing education for the 21st century by bridging the gap between real-world skills, relevant education, and employment."

Udacity focuses on making high-quality classes engaging and accessible to students around the world. Udacity’s free college-level courses are taught by industry experts and passionate educators with interactive project-based exercises and bite-sized videos designed to make learning fun. Courses offer virtual “field trips” and students are encouraged to become active in community forums and meet-ups with their peers. Those who finish their courses will be offered certificates of completion.

Udemy

"Learn Real Skills from Real Experts."

Udemy offers instructors a platform for building online courses on topics of their choosing. Most Udemy classes are broken down into multi-part lessons which are self-paced. Although anyone can build a course on Udemy to share their expertise, Udemy also recruits leading experts from around the world to teach its classes. These experts include best-selling authors, CEOs, celebrities and Ivy League professors.  Some Udemy classes are free, while others charge a fee.