21 Free MOOCs for Writers

MOOCs—massive open online courses—are online courses convened by some of the world’s best and most innovative universities. While they are often driven as a publicity exercise for the institution, they offer enormous learning opportunities for the public. Including writers.

MOOCs come in all shapes and sizes, from two-week webinars with open/rolling ‘enrolment’, to one-off, 10-week courses with assignments, discussion boards for participants and tailored feedback. While you can always just watch a bunch of great writing videos on YouTube, MOOCs go a step further by integrating readings and assignments (though not always graded).

The online world is full of great courses you can take, for a fee. But one of the best things about MOOCs is they’re usually free. So, if you’re a writer curious about a certain form of poetry that you’ve never studied before, or want to brush up on your English grammar, there are a wide variety of suitable MOOCs.

Those listed here are free, although some charge a fee if you want to receive a certificate to prove you have participated in/completed the course, and some require payment to access all course materials.

  1. Write Professional Emails in English

Georgia Institute of Technology

Starts 3 April 2017 / 5 week course

Note that although it costs to take the exam/final project, you can audit this course for free.

  1. English for Media Literacy

University of Pennsylvania

Starts 3 April 2017 / 5 week course

Note that some costs are attached to this course, but you can audit the lectures and access some content for free.

  1. Grammar and Punctuation

University of California, Irvine

Starts 3 April 2017 / 4 week course

Note that some costs are attached to this course, but you can audit the lectures and access some content for free.

  1. Modern American Poetry

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Starts 10 April 2017 / 4 week course

Note that some costs are attached to this course, but you can audit the lectures and access some content for free.

  1. Writing for Young Readers: Opening the Treasure Chest  

Commonwealth Education Trust

Starts April 17 2017 / 5 week course

Note that to access the full course, you need to pay a fee. But you can audit the video lectures and have access to some course content for free.

  1. Classics of Chinese Humanities, Guided Readings

The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Starts 17 April 2017 / 5 week course

  1. Start Writing Fiction

The Open University

Starts 24 April and 2 October 2017 / 8 week course

  1. Power of the Pen: Identities and Social Issues in Fiction and Non-fiction

The University of Iowa

Starts May 15 2017/ 6 week course

  1. Data Tells a Story: Reading Data in the Social Sciences and Humanities

Loughborough University

Starts 15 May 2017/ 2 week course

  1. Japanese Culture through Rare Books

Keio University

Starts 22 May 2017/ 3 week course

  1. Sino-Japanese Interactions through Books

Keio University

Starts 19 June 2017/ 3 week course

  1. Power of the Pen: Identities and Social Issues in Poetry and Plays

The University of Iowa

Starts July 17 2017 / 6 week course

  1. How to Read a Novel

Edinburgh University

Starts 24 July 2017/ 4 week course

  1. Modern and Contemporary American Poetry (“ModPo”)

University of Pennsylvania

Starts 9 September 2017, as well as on demand/ 10 week course

  1. Approaching Plays

The Open University

Open enrolment/ 7 unit course

  1. Approaching Poetry

The Open University

Open enrolment/ 10-unit course

  1. Approaching Prose Fiction

The Open University

Open enrolment/ 3 unit course

  1. Looking at, Describing and Identifying Objects

The Open University

Open enrolment/ 7 unit course

  1. What is Poetry?

The Open University

Open enrolment/ 10 unit course

  1. Writing What You Know

The Open University

Open enrolment/ 4 unit course

  1. Discovering Science: Science Writing

University of Leeds

Starts once per month throughout 2017/ 2 week course

If you miss the deadlines for enrollment, don’t worry. Many MOOCs are available in archival form, or are repeated throughout the year.

There are also dozens of other MOOCs available to learn or brush up skills that would be useful to some, or all, writers: social media marketing, foreign language courses, small business management and all kinds of humanities and arts subjects.

Top image: Albert Mock

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