When you scour the thousands of Coursera courses reviews online, you might wonder whether this platform is everything it’s cracked up to be. After all, it’s only one learning platform among the many dozens of learning options out there. How do you know which one is right for you?
In this Coursera review, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about how to pursue your professional goals and passions by enrolling in certificate programs with Coursera.
Related reading: edX vs Coursera – The In-Depth Comparison
What is Coursera?
Coursera is an online course platform that offers thousands of courses to help you explore your interests and expand your career opportunities.
Founded in 2012 by Stanford University computer science professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, Coursera is one of dozens of different platforms that offer massive open online courses (MOOC) along with degrees, professional courses, Coursera specializations, and MasterTrack courses.
If this Coursera course review sounds familiar, that’s because it’s far from being the only provider of MOOCs out there. Do a quick search, and you’ll find that there are other options to choose from, including Udemy, FutureLearn, and more.
However, what truly sets Coursera apart from the competition is the sheer vastness of its offerings. Princeton University, Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Michigan – some of the best and most prestigious schools in the country – were the first to offer content on the platform, allowing users to gain access to Ivy League-quality education without ever having to leave home or be accepted to these competitive institutions.
Since launching with these first partnering institutions, Coursera has grown to include specializations, which are unique collections of courses that build skills in certain subjects.
The platform also offers degrees and a complete workforce development product that can be used by government and business organizations.
Today, Coursera has partnered with more than 200 universities and institutions across 29 countries. In addition to universities like the University of London, Yonsei University in Korea, Yale University, the University of Illinois, and other highly ranked schools, the platform also works with many different corporations.
How Does Coursera Work?
Each Coursera course lasts roughly four to twelve weeks, with each containing an hour or two of video lectures each week.
Like any other course you might take, you’ll find that Coursera courses vary a bit between options – some include quizzes, per-graded assignments, and weekly exercises, while others might include final exams or final projects – or even honors assignments!
Many courses are also provided on demand. This means you can take as much time as you’d like to complete the class without having to worry about getting it done.
There are more than 100 different on-demand courses in Coursera in addition to guided projects. Guided projects are short two- to three-hour projects that can be done at your own pace.
You can even choose to pursue a full master’s degree with Coursera. The school first started with a Master’s in Innovation and Entrepreneurship and a Master’s of Accounting (the latter of which was offered by the University of Illinois) but since then has progressed to offer an MBA and a Master of Computer Science in Data Science.
Features and Functionality
With Coursera, you’ll have access to college-level instruction from professors at accredited institutions. Unlike other course platforms, in which classes are taught by instructors with no specific credentials or background in what they are teaching, with Coursera, you’ll be getting access to real classes, most of which have been taught at brick-and-mortar universities.
You’ll be able to take classes from universities such as the University of Michigan, Rice University, Johns Hopkins University, Yale University, Princeton University, and more.
There are more than 4100 courses available. You can learn something new, gain additional skills, or hone your skills in critical thinking and analysis.
Using Coursera is extremely user friendly. When you first click on a course that interests you, you’ll be able to view information about the course, such as the syllabus and an introduction to the instructor.
You can get an idea of which topics are going to be covered in the course as well as the expected timeline.
After you enroll, you’ll be brought to the course homepage, where you can see a week-by week overview of the class. As a learner, this is extremely helpful. You’ll get an idea of what to expand every week and figure out how much time you should expect to commit to the class before you even enroll.
What Type of Courses are Offered on Coursera?
There are essentially five different course options when it comes to learning on Coursera.
You can take individual courses, pursue a specialization, embark on a professional certificate or MasterTrack certificate, or earn a full degree. Of course, each one will vary in terms of its length, cost, and difficulty.
You can take a course that will train you in the latest skills you need for success in your career, like business analytics, Python, or graphic design. Alternatively, you can take longer, more intensive courses that will prepare you for a career in in-demand fields like IT, cloud engineering, or AI. Coursera also provides on-demand training and development programs that can be utilized by large organizations.
Coursera also has hundreds of different specializations you can choose from. Specializations serve as a step up from individual courses. Instead of just taking one course, a specialization allows you to take a series of courses that are focused on the same topic. These specializations are great for people who have specific goals they’d like to pursue in a particular skill set.
Some popular specializations you can pursue include:
- Digital Marketing
- Healthcare IT Support
- Communication Skills for Engineers
- Data Science Fundamentals
- AI for Medicine
- Organizational Change and Culture for Adopting Google Cloud
You can also sign up to pursue a professional certificate. Professional certificates are more career-oriented and in-depth than specializations.
They generally take longer (a few months, in most cases) to complete. These certificates are issued by the institution that offered the course and include hands-on projects that will help you build your portfolio. You’ll have access to industry-recognized certification and career support resources as you work.
The final option is the MasterTrack Certificate. This certificate will allow you to work through online learning modules so you can progress toward a Master’s degree by taking classes that will give you credit later on.
You’ll be able to take courses from experts and work on real-world projects. For example, Rutgers offers a MasterTrack certificate in Supply Chain Excellence while the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers one in Instructional Design.
These programs are more intensive, meaning they are more expensive and also require more time (around four to eight months, in most cases) to complete.
The final option you can pursue on Coursera is an online degree. Earning an online degree through Coursera will be much like earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree on campus, with fully legitimate credentials and credits that can be transferred elsewhere if you so choose. These degrees are granted by accredited partnering institutions, like Macquarie University and Arizona State University.
Although you’ll pay much more for these classes, you’ll still be paying a fraction of the cost of what you might pay on campus.
Coursera offers classes in several key areas, including computer science, business, data science, and public health. These aren’t the only options, though. You can earn your MBA online or pursue courses that will help you advance in a healthcare-related field. The opportunities are endless!
How to Choose Courses?
With more than 4,000 different course offerings available on Coursera, it might be hard for you to decide which ones to take. These are offered by companies and universities all over the world and consist of reading material, video lectures, assignments, and discussion forums.
You should first decide whether you want to take a free course or you’d like to pay for a membership to get access to additional features, like grade assignments, certificates, and more content (like extra video lectures, bonus materials, and other resources).
Most people choose to upgrade to the paid membership in order to get access to the certificate. The certificate can be added to your LinkedIn Profile or resume to show that you put the work in to gain new skills.
If you decide to take a free class, all you have to do is make an account, enroll, and then begin the course. Some may start immediately, allowing you to work at your own pace, while others have set log in times – make sure you pay attention to the requirements when you sign up.
If you’re going to spring for the paid membership, you’ll need to register before you enroll in the course and provide credit card information.
How Does Coursera Pricing Work?
There are thousands of free courses you can take on Coursera – no credit card required. You’ll have access to an astonishing amount of material that you can work through at your own pace without having to pay anything at all.
However, if you want a qualification at the end, you will need to pay a fee. The pricing structure is a bit confusing, but there are several options you can choose from as you’re considering the best path for you.
If you only want to take one course, the most affordable and logical option will be for you to pay for an individual course certificate. These cost anywhere between $49 and $99 and require just a single one-time payment.
You can also pay for a specialization certificate or a professional certificate. These normally are offered on a subscription basis, usually running between $39 and $79 per month.
Another option is a MasterTrack certificate. This is where you’ll really see the costs start to climb. A MasterTrack certificate normally costs around $2000, while a full degree can cost $15,000 or more.
While that latter cost seems steep, remember that to pursue a degree in the traditional fashion you’re going to be paying that (easily!) at least once per term.
If you know that you want to take multiple classes on Coursera but you don’t think a certificate or degree is right for you, you may want to enroll in a Coursera Plus membership. This membership is a good option if you want to be able to broaden your horizons and take courses in a large variety of fields.
You can earn certifications by taking courses from all kinds of universities, companies, and firms. Coursera Plus is new for 2020 and will allow you to access more than 3000 courses for the price of an annual subscription fee – this fee is normally right around $399.
The Advantages (Pros) of Coursera
One of the biggest advantages of taking a class on Coursera is that it won’t take you long to do so.
Although the student experience isn’t quite the same as it would be if you were taking classes on campus, you can move much more quickly and graduate with a full degree faster than if you were to take classes in a traditional fashion (and it’s much cheaper to boot, too!).
That said, you can also take longer to complete your degree if that’s what works best for you and your schedule, too. Plus, you won’t have to leave your hometown or quit your job in order to earn a degree or complete a single course. The flexibility of Coursera really can’t be overlooked.
Large Course Selection
There are thousands of courses you can choose from on Coursera. You will find classes in just about every area of interest, although there are naturally some niches that dominate the platform (like business and technology). You can enroll in or audit some courses for free, too.
My personal favorite feature of Coursera – and one that I’ve cited several times in this Coursera review – is that you will be learning from instructors who really know their stuff. This is not true with all MOOCs. In fact, many include classes that are taught by true novices or people who don’t necessarily have a background in the subject they are teaching.
As a result, you might not learn the material as well as you’d like. That’s not the case with Coursera. Coursera features courses that are taught by professionals so you don’t have to worry about a cut-rate education.
Short But Sweet Assignments and Lectures
Another fantastic feature of Coursera has to do with how the video assignments and lectures are structured. For the most part, courses are well organized and engaging.
The instructors have tons of knowledge in their respective areas and science video lectures are short (most are less than half an hour in length), you’ll be able to cruise through the lecture to get your central points – and then get on with your busy day.
I’ve taken classes on other course platforms before, and something that I’m not crazy about is the fact that many platforms are passive.
You take a class on your own time, on your own terms, and while that’s great for scheduling purposes, it makes it all too easy for you to go into auto-pilot while you’re taking the class.
That’s not the case with Coursera. You’ll be able to move through course material quickly and easily, but you’ll be able to interact more with the material and with fellow learners and instructors. While the discussion boards on Coursera leave something to be desired – I’ll get to this later – there are lots of opportunities to work with peers on assignments, complete quizzes, and talk to your teachers about the material.
Coursera is one of the few online course platforms that will allow you to earn certificates that can actually do something for your career. Although many platforms have the certificate feature, most of the time, these certificates don’t actually mean anything and won’t lead to any kind of advancement in the field.
A Coursera certificate, though, can help open up new doors. It may transfer into a college for credit, particularly if you are taking a MasterTrack or degree course. The recognition of these classes continues to grow as more universities are added to the platform, too.
The Disadvantages (Cons) of Coursera
One of the more frustrating features of Coursera, for many students, is the fact that you can’t choose a course, pay the money, and enroll immediately. You will need to apply and then be admitted to the specific program.
There is a bit of a waiting game involved. Although it’s still a fraction of the time it would take for you to apply to and then be admitted to a typical university, it’s still a disadvantage for many students to consider.
Not the Best Discussion Boards
Many MOOCs offer discussion boards so that learners can interact with each other and instructors about the course and related topics. While most Coursera courses offer this feature, the vast majority of Coursera course reviews claim that they really miss the mark. This is especially true in larger classes that can be taken at any time.
A sad reality of taking a class on Coursera – as with many other online courses and platforms – is that you will have limited interaction with your instructors. While you may have better luck with this if you’re taking a longer course on Coursera that requires you to log in at set times, most of the time, your interactions with your teachers will be only occasional at best.
You also won’t always get feedback. While you can upgrade and pay for graded assignment features, that’s not always something you’ll be able to get (at least not in-depth). It’s not a fully comprehensive system, and you won’t necessarily receive the input you crave about your assignments.
Larger Variety of Course Options Only in Certain Niches
As with most MOOCs, it seems like certain niches dominate Coursera. Technology, business, and personal development seem to reign supreme, while you won’t find many options in the humanities (like language learning).
Limited Assessment Opportunities
If you’re expecting to complete an assignment and receive pages upon pages of feedback from your instructor, think again. This won’t happen with Coursera. You will often write papers and get feedback, but you won’t get the intensive amount of feedback you’ll get on a regular course. Sometimes assignments are even self-graded.
Steep Coursera Plus Membership Fee
Coursera Plus is with it if you want to pursue multiple specializations in different areas. However, many people consider the price to be quite steep. While the high subscription rate of $399 per year is a deterrent for many people, the plus side is that it might encourage you to take more classes so you can get your money’s worth out of the program!
The Learner’s Perspective
Classes are generally broken down into weeks, but the nice thing about the breakdown is that this usually just a suggestion and not set in stone. You have the ultimate discretion as to how quickly you move through the course.
You could complete a five-week course in five weeks, five days, or seven weeks depending on your needs and schedule!
As a learner, you’ll have access to all other kinds of resources, too, including messages, resources, discussion forums, a note-taking app, and more. You can take notes as you watch video lectures and even view video lectures with closed captioning to make it easier for you to understand.
The Instructor’s Perspective
If you’re going to teach a class on Coursera, you will need to be employed at a partner institution. This is unlike other MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) platforms in which you can teach, upload, and facilitate your own class without any kind of credentials.
This is because Coursera sets the bar extremely high when it comes to the quality of its courses. You must be a top teacher and have many years of experience in itching and attending seminars.
There you have it! Everything you need to know about this unique learning platform – and we hope our review of Coursera and everything it has to offer has been helpful.
With more than 50 million students worldwide, you don’t have to take our word for it, either – let the numbers speak for themselves.
Coursera is a valid MOOC option that can help you make quick work of pursuing your ambitions. Consider taking a class with this unique platform today. You won’t regret it!
Is Coursera Worth it?
If you want to be able to take multiple classes to help you meet your career or personal goals, you should consider taking classes on Coursera. Investing in a Plus Membership is worth it if you are passionate about learning a variety of topics on your own schedule.
Is Coursera Legit?
As one of the most prestigious and widespread online educational platforms out there, Coursera is definitely legit.
With more than 5,300 courses for you to choose from along with multiple specializations and full-length degrees, it’s a legit option for people who want to learn about new things.
Is Coursera Free?
Coursera courses are free to audit, meaning you can take classes here or there and not have to pay for them.
However, if you want to be able to access graded assignments or earn any kind of course certificate, you do need to pay. There are also some courses on Coursera that can be accessed via paid membership only.
How to Get Free Certificates from Coursera?
In most cases, you will need to pay in order to earn a certificate from taking a Coursera course.
When you take a free class, or “audit” it, you won’t be able to access all of the Coursera features. However, Coursera does occasionally offer promotional deals that will allow you to receive free certificates for various courses.
Are Coursera Courses Good?
Are Coursera courses good? Naturally, that’s a matter of opinion. However, most reviewers claim that they have been satisfied by the quality of offerings on this platform.
With courses that are offered by some of the best colleges and universities in the world – and taught by instructors who are leaders in their field – you won’t find cut-rate instruction here.
Are Coursera Courses Recognized & Accredited?
Most Coursera courses are recognized and accredited by leading global institutes. There are all kinds of classes on here that are offered in partnership with some of the world’s top universities, and since you can often get a certificate of completion, they are recognized by most employers, too.
If you’re interested in earning credentials that can be transferred to other universities, you should consider pursuing a degree or MasterClass on Coursera.
These are more expensive – some can cost several thousand dollars – but when you finish, you will have credentials that you can use at other institutions.
Can You Put a Coursera Certificate on Your Resume?
There is nothing stopping you from listing a Coursera course on your resume. You will likely want to list it as a MOOC course and use it as an example of continued professional development in your area of interest. It will ultimately strengthen your resume and show potential employers that you care about your field.