The Top 100 Free University Courses of the Year (Ranked by Popularity)

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An eternity ago in the year of 2012, a few Stanford professors decided to make their courses freely available online.

The media christened these courses “MOOCs” – Massive Open Online Courses. And they hailed 2012 as “Year of the MOOC.”

Well, 2012 aside, 2020 may well be the most consequential year for MOOCs. With the COVID-19 pandemic, interest in MOOCs has exploded. MOOC providers, in particular, have seen a significant traffic influx. (I’ve previously talked about my course ranking database over at Class Central.)

Looking at my vast dataset of free online courses, I can tell you that the pandemic has had a big impact on the subjects people are studying. Compared to my 100 most popular courses from last year, the number of health and medicine online courses has gone up dramatically.

In fact, 18 courses in the ranking are directly related to COVID. The top course, with over 1 million enrollments, is Johns Hopkins’ COVID-19 Contact Tracing. It is followed by Harvard’s Mechanical Ventilation for COVID-19, with 300,000 enrollments.

The courses at the bottom of the ranking hover around 15K enrollments. Combined, these 100 free online courses account for 6 million enrollments.

Coursera Course Certificates
A few certificates earned by Class Central’s study group

I am happy to see that the first course we took together as a study group over at Class Central – Macquarie’s Excel Fundamentals for Data Analysis – also made the ranking. I’ve documented our experience here.

My Course Ranking Methodology

First, I went through Class Central’s database and made a list of all the courses that were offered for the first time ever in 2020. This was around 2800 courses.

Then I wrote scrapers to collect enrollment numbers across four different providers: Coursera, edX, FutureLearn (a big European MOOC platform), and Swayam (a big Indian MOOC platform). They all show how many students are enrolled on their course pages.

Combined, these providers have garnered over 11 million enrollments for courses launched in 2020. The 100 most popular courses account for over half of these enrollments.

Without further ado, here are…

Below are the most popular free online courses launched in 2020 (sorted by popularity).

COVID-19 Contact Tracing
Johns Hopkins University via Coursera
The COVID-19 crisis has created an unprecedented need for contact tracing across the country, requiring thousands of people to learn key skills quickly.
★★★★★ (8 ratings)

Mechanical Ventilation for COVID-19
Harvard University via edX
This course will provide licensed medical professionals with an understanding of mechanical ventilation so they can support the critical care team caring for patients receiving mechanical ventilation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
★★★★★ (19 ratings)

Understanding IELTS: Writing
British Council via FutureLearn
Find out what you need to know about the IELTS Writing test and learn techniques and strategies to improve your test performance.
★★★★★ (437 ratings)

CS50’s Introduction to Artificial Intelligence with Python
Harvard University via edX
Learn to use machine learning in Python in this introductory course on artificial intelligence.
★★★★★ (1 rating)

Crash Course on Python
Google via Coursera
This course is designed to teach you the foundations in order to write simple programs in Python using the most common structures.

How to Learn Online
via edX
Learn essential strategies for successful online learning
★★★★★ (2 ratings)

Science Matters: Let’s Talk About COVID-19
Imperial College London via Coursera
Welcome to this Science Matters on the Novel Coronavirus (COVID19) – a free course to learn about the science underpinning the outbreak response.
★★★★★ (7 ratings)

Mind Control: Managing Your Mental Health During COVID-19
University of Toronto via Coursera
Never in the history of humanity have so many people been feeling intense anxiety related to COVID-19 and the world it will leave in its wake.
★★★★★ (6 ratings)

Fighting COVID-19 with Epidemiology: A Johns Hopkins Teach-Out
Johns Hopkins University via Coursera
This free Teach-Out is for anyone who has been curious about how we identify and measure outbreaks like the COVID-19 epidemic and wants to understand the epidemiology of these infections.
★★★★★ (4 ratings)

Inglés básico: conversacional y networking
Universidad Anáhuac via edX
Cumple tu meta de aprender inglés básico para utilizarlo de forma estratégica en los negocios e incrementar tu éxito profesional.
★★★★★ (42 ratings)

COVID-19: Psychological First Aid
Public Health England via FutureLearn
Get psychological first aid (PFA) training and help people with different needs to cope with the emotional impact of COVID-19.
★★★★★ (1 rating)

Excel/VBA for Creative Problem Solving, Part 1
University of Colorado Boulder via Coursera
“Excel/VBA for Creative Problem Solving, Part 1” is aimed at learners who are seeking to augment, expand, optimize, and increase the efficiency of their Excel spreadsheet skills by tapping into the powerful programming, automation, and customization capabilities available with Visual Basic for Applications (VBA).

Finding Purpose and Meaning In Life: Living for What Matters Most
University of Michigan via Coursera
Welcome to Finding Purpose and Meaning in Life: Living for What Matters Most!
★★★★★ (1 rating)

How To Teach Online: Providing Continuity for Students
via FutureLearn
Explore online teaching with this practical course for educators designed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
★★★★★ (12 ratings)

Introduction to Git and GitHub
Google via Coursera
In this course, you’ll learn how to keep track of the different versions of your code and configuration files using a popular version control system (VCS) called Git.

COVID-19: What You Need to Know (CME Eligible)
Osmosis University via Coursera
COVID-19 is a global pandemic that has already resulted in hundreds of thousands of infections and thousands of deaths, with many more anticipated.
★★★★★ (10 ratings)

Everyday Excel, Part 1
University of Colorado Boulder via Coursera
“Everyday Excel, Part 1” is aimed at learners who are seeking to learn Excel from the ground up.

Cloud Computing Basics (Cloud 101)
LearnQuest via Coursera
Welcome to Cloud Computing Basics (Cloud 101).
★★★☆☆ (10 ratings)

Inside IELTS: Preparing for the Test With the Experts
British Council via FutureLearn
Learn about the skills you need for IELTS Academic on this free course

Exercising Leadership: Foundational Principles
Harvard University via edX
Mobilize people to tackle tough problems and build the capacity to thrive through the dangers of change

Introduction to Business Management
King’s College London via FutureLearn
Discover how to manage people, money and information, and gain confidence and insight into your own management style.
★★★★☆ (2 ratings)

Improve your IELTS Speaking score
Macquarie University via FutureLearn
Prepare for your IELTS Speaking test and achieve your dream score

Computer Programming for Everyone
University of Leeds via FutureLearn
Discover the art of computer programming and learn what code can do with the Institute of Coding and the University of Leeds.
★★☆☆☆ (2 ratings)

Natural Language Processing with Classification and Vector Spaces
deeplearning.ai via Coursera
This is the Course 1 of the Natural Language Processing Specialization, offered by deeplearning.ai
★★★★★ (1 rating)

Data Analytics for Decision Making: An Introduction to Using Excel
Bond University via FutureLearn
It’s not enough to gather information; to stand out you must know how to use data to improve real-life decisions.
★★★★★ (1 rating)

AI for Everyone: Master the Basics
IBM via edX
Learn what Artificial Intelligence (AI) is by understanding its applications and key concepts including machine learning, deep learning and neural networks.

Primeros Auxilios Psicológicos (PAP). Edición especial COVID-19
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (Autonomous University of Barcelona) via Coursera
Bienvenidos a esta edición especial, simplificada, del curso sobre Primeros Auxilios Psicológicos, impartido en castellano por la Unidad de Crisis de la Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona (UAB) desde el año 2015.

Introduction to Social Media Marketing
Facebook via Coursera
This course lays the foundation of social media marketing.

Japanese for beginners 1
Saint Petersburg State University via Coursera
Japanese language has become extremely popular among learners in recent years, since it is the best way to explore one of the richest and most mysterious cultures of the modern East.

Introduction to Data Science
IBM via edX
Learn about the world of data science first-hand from real data scientists.
★☆☆☆☆ (1 rating)

Neurolinguistics
Saint Petersburg State University via Coursera
This course introduces the key principles and goals of modern neurolinguistics.

COVID-19 Critical Care: Understanding and Application
University of Edinburgh via FutureLearn
Learn the principles and practice of critical care to treat and care for critically ill patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
★★★★☆ (6 ratings)

Learn to Code for the Web
University of Leeds via FutureLearn
Ever wondered what’s behind your favourite websites and apps? Get to grips with the basics of coding in HTML, CSS and Java Script.
★★★★★ (3 ratings)

Understanding Medical Research: Your Facebook Friend is Wrong
Yale University via Coursera
How can you tell if the bold headlines seen on social media are truly touting the next big thing or if the article isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on?
★★★★★ (1 rating)

Measuring and Maximizing Impact of COVID-19 Contact Tracing
Johns Hopkins University via Coursera
This course aims to provide managers and developers of contact tracing programs guidance on the most important indicators of performance of a contact tracing program, and a tool that can be used to project the likely impact of improvements in specific indicators.
★★★☆☆ (2 ratings)

Safeguarding Adults: Level 3 Training
Health Education England via FutureLearn
Learn how to ensure the successful safeguarding of adults with this training course from Health Education England.

Introduction to Mechanical Engineering Design and Manufacturing with Fusion 360
Autodesk via Coursera
Design for manufacturing is the process of designing parts, components, or products with the understanding surrounding design requirements for a specific manufacturing method.

Basics of Computing and Programming
New York University (NYU) via edX
This is a self-paced course from NYU that provides an Introduction to Computing and Programming
★★★★☆ (2 ratings)

Write Your First Novel
Michigan State University via Coursera
Write your first novel.

COVID-19 Training for Healthcare Workers
Stanford University via Coursera
COVID-19 is rapidly spreading across the globe and all providers must be prepared to recognize, stabilize and treat patients with novel coronavirus infection.
★★★★★ (1 rating)

AI for Medical Diagnosis
deeplearning.ai via Coursera
AI is transforming the practice of medicine.
★★★★☆ (1 rating)

Project Management: Beyond the Basics
The Open University via FutureLearn
Build your existing project management knowledge and develop the skills to manage teams and deliver effective projects.

Web Application Technologies and Django
University of Michigan via Coursera
In this course, you’ll explore the basic structure of a web application, and how a web browser interacts with a web server.

Writing and Editing: Word Choice and Word Order
University of Michigan via Coursera
This course will teach you how to use your written words to become more persuasive.

EmSAT English Preparation – Level 1
United Arab Emirates University via edX
This Comprehension and Production course focuses on the pre-intermediate level and develops the learner’s reading, listening and study skills.
★★★★★ (1 rating)

Covid – 19: Ventilación mecánica para no intensivistas
The Pontificia Universidad Javeriana via edX
Aborda aspectos relacionados con las medidas de protección y bioseguridad, intubación orotraqueal, ventilación mecánica, Síndrome de Dificultad Aguda Respiratoria en el marco de la contingencia actual mundial por el coronavirus.

Creating a Great User Experience for Mobile Apps
University of Leeds via FutureLearn
Discover the essentials of user experience and design and bring your product to life by building your own mobile app.

Resilience Skills in a Time of Uncertainty
University of Pennsylvania via Coursera
We are all facing different and difficult challenges as we confront the COVID-19 pandemic.
★★★★★ (3 ratings)

Quantitative Methods for Biology
Harvard University via edX
Learn introductory programming and data analysis in MATLAB, with applications to biology and medicine.

The Path to Happiness: What Chinese Philosophy Teaches us about the Good Life
Harvard University via edX
Why should we care about Confucius? Explore ancient Chinese philosophy, ethics, and political theory to challenge your assumptions of what it means to be happy, live a meaningful life, and change the world.
★★★★☆ (1 rating)

Fundamentos de Ciberseguridad: un enfoque práctico
Inter-American Development Bank via edX
Aprende a pensar como un hacker, pero actúa como un experto en ciberseguridad.

Essential Epidemiologic Tools for Public Health Practice
Johns Hopkins University via Coursera
In order to make a difference in the health and well-being of a population, we must understand the burden of all problems and conditions that affect the population, as well as how well our efforts to mitigate these problems are actually working.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: Identify the Patterns Undermining Your Confidence
University of Southern Queensland via FutureLearn
Explore what Imposter Syndrome is, what causes it and strategies you can use to overcome it.

Foundations of Modern Finance I
Massachusetts Institute of Technology via edX
A mathematically rigorous framework to understand financial markets delivered with data-driven insights from MIT professors.

COVID-19: Helping Young People Manage Low Mood and Depression
University of Reading via FutureLearn
Explore practical ways to help young people manage their mood and maintain healthy habits during the coronavirus pandemic.
★★★★★ (1 rating)

Teaching Young Learners Online
British Council via FutureLearn
Work together to plan, create, and facilitate inclusive online learning that engages and inspires young people.
★★★★★ (257 ratings)

Revisão Sistemática e Meta-análise
Universidade Estadual de Campinas via Coursera
Este curso introduz um tipo de estudo conhecido por revisão sistemática.

Sustainable Building Design
Massachusetts Institute of Technology via edX
Learn and explore key scientific principles, technologies, and analysis techniques for designing comfortable indoor environments while reducing energy use and associated climate change effects.

Excel Fundamentals for Data Analysis
Macquarie University via Coursera
As data becomes the modern currency, so the ability to analyse the data quickly and accurately has become of paramount importance.
★★★★★ (4 ratings)

Managing COVID-19 in Primary Care
St. George’s University via FutureLearn
Get practical advice and support around how to respond to the Novel Coronavirus pandemic as a front-line healthcare professional.
★★★★★ (1 rating)

Python: Aprender a programar
Universitat Politècnica de València via edX
Aprende a programar con Python desde cero. Comienza conociendo variables, bucles y funciones y llega a manejar ficheros de texto.
★★★★☆ (61 ratings)

Natural Language Processing with Probabilistic Models
deeplearning.ai via Coursera
This is the Course 2 of the Natural Language Processing Specialization, offered by deeplearning.ai

Introduction to Python
Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology via Coursera
Python – простой, гибкий и невероятно популярный язык, который используется практически во всех областях современной разработки.

‘Talk to me’: Managing Study, Stress, and Mental Health at University
Curtin University via edX
Develop a clearer understanding of what mental health is, and learn how best to recognise and respond to mental health concerns, such as negative thoughts and behaviours, in yourself and others.

Databases: Relational Databases and SQL
Stanford University via edX
This course is one of five self-paced courses on the topic of Databases, originating as one of Stanford’s three inaugural massive open online courses released in the fall of 2011.
★★★★☆ (2 ratings)

El valor de la creatividad y la innovación: La Economía Naranja
Inter-American Development Bank via edX
El primer curso en abordar la importancia de la creatividad, la innovación y la cultura como herramientas fundamentales para impulsar el desarrollo económico en América Latina.

Entrepreneurship: From Business Idea to Action
King’s College London via FutureLearn
Improve your knowledge of entrepreneurship and discover how to plan, develop, nurture, and build a successful business.

English for Common Interactions in the Workplace: Basic Level
Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile via Coursera
In a professional environment, we’re often faced with the need to respond appropriately according to what the situation calls for, whether it be related to situations in daily life or the workplace.

COVID-19: Psychological Impact, Wellbeing and Mental Health
Maudsley Learning via FutureLearn
Explore the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on wellbeing and mental health at an individual, group and societal level.

Write A Feature Length Screenplay For Film Or Television
Michigan State University via Coursera
Write a Full Length Feature Film Script.

COVID – 19: Abordaje inicial del paciente con infección por Covid-19
The Pontificia Universidad Javeriana via edX
Este curso en línea busca hacer una introducción de los principales aspectos relacionados con el Coronavirus COVID-19.

Managing Mental Health and Stress
Coventry University via FutureLearn
Supporting you to thrive at home during the coronavirus outbreak.
★★★☆☆ (1 rating)

Airway Matters
University College London via FutureLearn
Explore key concepts underlying safe, multidisciplinary airway management.

Trading for Development in the Age of Global Value Chains – WDR 2020
Open Learning Campus – World Bank Group via edX
Global value chains (GVCs) now account for almost half of all international trade.

Introduction to Software Testing
University of Minnesota via Coursera
After completing this course, you will have an understanding of the fundamental principles and processes of software testing.
★★★★★ (1 rating)

General Academic English|生活英语进阶
Tsinghua University via edX
Do you want to join in academic communication on international conferences and read academic papers? Join us on a journey in academic English!

Anxiety in Children and Young People during COVID-19
University of East Anglia via FutureLearn
Learn about anxiety and discover helpful strategies to support young people struggling with anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gobierno Digital
Inter-American Development Bank via edX
Todo lo que quieres saber sobre gobierno digital – qué es, por qué es importante y cómo promoverlo.

Critical Thinking
AICTE via Swayam
Introduction to Logic.
★★★★★ (1 rating)

Financial Decision Making
University System of Maryland via edX
Learn how corporate leaders make effective decisions to maximize profitability and achieve strategic organizational goals.

Basic Spanish 3: Getting there
Universitat Politècnica de València via edX
Beginners course for learners of Spanish that focuses not only on language but also on cultural aspects, specifically designed for English speakers.
★★★★★ (75 ratings)

Digital Signal Processing 1: Basic Concepts and Algorithms
École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne via Coursera
Digital Signal Processing is the branch of engineering that, in the space of just a few decades, has enabled unprecedented levels of interpersonal communication and of on-demand entertainment.
★★★★★ (1 rating)

Japanese Books: From Manuscript to Print
Harvard University via edX
This course expands the definition of the “book” to include scrolls and albums, focusing on the reading experience of a variety of formats in Japan.
★★★★☆ (1 rating)

The Science and Business of Biotechnology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology via edX
Explore the latest scientific innovations in biotechnology, and novel business and financing models for commercializing them.

Vector Calculus for Engineers
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology via Coursera
This course is about vector calculus, and covers material that all engineers should know.
★★★★★ (107 ratings)

Introduction to Networking
New York University (NYU) via edX
This is a self-paced course from NYU that provides an Introduction to Networking
★★★★☆ (4 ratings)

Cómo Aprender Matemáticas – Para Estudiantes
Stanford University via edX
Cómo Aprender Matemáticas es una clase gratuita para estudiantes de todos los niveles de matemáticas.

Foundations of Mindfulness
Rice University via Coursera
This course provides a broad overview of the fundamental concepts, principles, and practices of mindfulness.

Introducción al Office 365
Universitat Politècnica de València via edX
Aprende el funcionamiento básico de los componentes principales de Office 365 y optimiza tu tiempo utilizando el más adecuado para tus necesidades en cada momento.
★★★★★ (39 ratings)

Introduction to Anatomy: Learning the Anatomical Alphabet
Charles Sturt University via FutureLearn
Start your journey into the health sciences by discovering the fundamentals of human anatomy.

Electrical, Optical & Magnetic Materials and Devices
Massachusetts Institute of Technology via edX
In 3.15x we will explore the electrical, optical, and magnetic properties of materials and learn how electronic devices are designed to exploit these properties.

Orientation to Educational Neuroscience
CQUniversity Australia via FutureLearn
Education is being enhanced and changed by evidence-based findings, find out how to capitalise on these new opportunities.

Social Media Management
Facebook via Coursera
This course equips you with critical content creation and management skills.

Gestión del estrés y Mindfulness
Universidad Anáhuac via edX
Toma el control de tus emociones y aprende a disfrutar tu trabajo con este curso en línea.

Introduction to Web Development
Raspberry Pi Foundation via FutureLearn
Discover web development and learn to build your own interactive websites using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Supported by Google.

Introduction to Web Accessibility
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) via edX
Get a strong foundation in digital accessibility to make your websites and apps work well for people with disabilities, meet international standards, and provide a better user experience for everyone.

Introduction to Content Design
Government Digital Service via FutureLearn
Discover the fundamentals of content design. Learn about user-centred content that’s easy for everyone to understand and access.

Bacterial Genomes: Antimicrobial Resistance in Bacterial Pathogens
Wellcome Genome Campus via FutureLearn
What’s antimicrobial resistance and how can we detect it? Explore the clinical relevance of AMR and the methods used to detect it.
★★★★☆ (3 ratings)

Consonants of American English Pronunciation
University of California, Irvine via Coursera
In this first course of The Pronunciation of American English specialization, you will learn and practice all of the consonant sounds of American English, including some pairs of consonants that are especially tricky.

Supporting and Engaging People with Autism
Swinburne University of Technology via FutureLearn
Solve practical issues in the lives of individuals who have autism.

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