These 3 free online UCT courses have been named as some of the best in the world

Class Central has released its annual list of the top 50 Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) around the world.

With over 10,000 MOOCs from over 800 universities worldwide, Class Central used thousands of written reviews by users to sort these courses by the Bayesian average of their ratings.

It then removed all the courses with less than 35 reviews (the low threshold helps smaller providers to compete on quality) and courses for which it had doubts whether they would be offered again.

The University of Cape Town is a standout on the list and is only other university alongside Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania to have three courses named in the Top 50 this year.

Top 50 

The three UCT courses included in the top 50 include the following:

What Is a Mind? – This free online course brings together learners and practitioners interested in how the mind works. It aims to build bridges between traditionally antagonistic approaches to understanding the mind. The course is presented by internationally-acclaimed neuropsychologist and psychoanalyst Professor Mark Holms, who heads UCT’s Department of Psychology.

Extinctions: Past and Present – This free online course explores how life on earth has been shaped by five mass extinction events in the distant past. At present, biodiversity is facing a crisis, with the prospect of a sixth extinction event today. It is presented by renowned palaeontologist Professor Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan (Department of Biological Sciences).

Understanding Clinical Research: Behind the Statistics – This course offers an easy entry into interpreting common statistical concepts without getting into nitty-gritty mathematical formulae. To be able to interpret and understand these concepts is the best way to start your journey into the world of clinical literature. The course is presented by Dr Juan Klopper (Acute Care Surgery).


UN recognition 

UCT had a further three MOOCs included in The Definitive List of Courses for Learning About the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

This list is compiled with input from the SDG Academy within the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).

The SDG Academy and Class Central identified more than 100 courses on sustainable development from global universities, including Harvard, Oxford, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

UCT’s MOOCs are tagged as offering insight into three separate Sustainable Development Goals – SDG 4: Quality Education; SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; and SDG 13: Climate Action.

They are:

  • Education for All: Disability, Diversity, and Inclusion, from the division of Disability Studies in the Faculty of Health Sciences.
  • Becoming a Changemaker: Introduction to Social Innovation, a collaboration between the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Graduate School of Business (GSB) and RLabs, a community-based social entrepreneurship organisation.
  • Climate Change Mitigation in Developing Countries, from the Energy Research Centre in the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment.

The university also recently launched two new MOOCs aligned with the SDGs, according to Janet Small, course development manager in the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT).

These include ʻLarge Marine Ecosystems: Assessment and Managementʼ, from the Marine Research Institute (aligned with SDG 14: Life Below Water), and the African Climate and Development Initiative’s ʻClimate Adaptation in Africaʼ (SDG 13: Climate Action).

She added that CILTʼs 2015 launch of the first two MOOCs, ʻMedicine and the Arts: Humanising Healthcareʼ and ʻWhat is a Mind?, which are now in their fourth year on FutureLearn, more than 220,000 people from across the world have signed up for UCTʼs open online courses.

Along with the 14 funded courses which are now complete, Small said new MOOCs were being developed with support from units and projects seeking “maximum exposure and wide public reach”.

“There are several exciting new courses in development, including a specialisation on fintech, a course on research for impact which is a collaboration between the African Climate & Development Institute (ACDI) and Oxfam, and four courses on disability inclusion for teacher education,” she said.

All these open enrolment courses offer flexibility and increased access to a huge range of interesting topics.

“We’re really proud that UCT is able to contribute to the global offerings,” Small added.


Read: New university course to focus on land transformation in South Africa

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These 3 free online UCT courses have been named as some of the best in the world