An Introduction to Coursera
Coursera is one of the largest and most popular online-course providers. It was established by Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, two professors at Stanford University. The platform aims to provide universal access to world-class education. Many of the courses are partnered with major universities and companies, and they’re led by experts. Unlike other online learning platforms, such as edX, Coursera is a for-profit organisation.
As well as providing courses for individuals, the platform also facilitates companies and organisations, who can enroll their workforce in development and training programs through Coursera for Business.
Coursera for Campus offers courses for students and staff at higher education institutions. There are courses on the platform focusing on job skills currently in demand in emerging sectors – particularly helpful for soon-to-be graduates.
What does Coursera offer?
By signing up to ongoing subscription plans, you can gain access to the majority of the platform’s courses with the opportunity to be certified at the end of each course you complete. You can also audit courses for free, giving you access to a portion of a course’s resources, such as homework exercises, video lectures and forum discussions.
Coursera classifies its offering as:
- Over 7,000 paid and free courses for learning new information and skills.
- Specialist courses for mastering particular skills. You can choose a course associated with a specific aspect of your job or take a group of courses to cover a range of skills.
- Professional certificates to equip people applying for a new role or to help you develop in your existing career.
- Guided projects are also provided to help develop work-related skills in less than 2 hours.
- MasterTrack™ certificates are achieved through the completion of a series of single units, consisting of portions of top master’s degree programs from top universities.
- Online Degrees, partnering with top ranked universities like Princeton. These provide learners with an accredited learning opportunity that’s more affordable and accessible than traditional degree courses.
Coursera is best known for courses on data science, languages, health, social sciences, and information technology. They also offer other subjects, including physical sciences, engineering, math, and logic.
Coursera for Business
Coursera offers an Enterprise Plan for large companies (for 100 users or more) and a Team Plan for smaller organisations or teams (for 5-99 users). This provides employees with access to guided projects, quizzes, assessments and verified certificates. The Team Plan costs $399/year per user with a 14-day refund guarantee. Both plans aim to integrate learning into employees’ workflow, allowing them to set personal deadlines. Certificates are also awarded for the completion of each course.
Coursera for University Students
Coursera for Campus offers full-time and part-time learning for college and university students, helping them develop skills for free. Users can access Guided Projects, assessments and quizzes, and achieve certifications.
Coursera provides a wide range of course types, so its prices are also varied. A single payment for an individual course can range between $30 and $90, while full online degrees are $15,000+. A Coursera Plus subscription can be paid for monthly ($59/month) or annually ($399/year).
Most Coursera courses have the option to audit them for free, allowing limited access to the learning materials. However particular elements, such graded certificates and assignments, are usually paid features.
A Coursera Plus subscription comes with a free trial (7 days for monthly subscriptions and 14 days for annual subscriptions).
Coursera Plus grants access to the majority of Coursera’s 7,000+ courses, hands-on projects, and job-ready certificate programs. This plan does not include MasterTrack courses or degree certificates. Coursera Plus is great if you’re planning to enroll in multiple courses.
If an individual requires some financial assistance, Coursera does offer scholarships and grants. There are different types, including aid based on academic achievement, demographic background, and financial need.
The Most Popular Coursera Courses
The most popular courses on the platform include:
Machine Learning Specialization: A course that introduces the science that gets computers to act without programming. 4.8 million learners have signed up and it has a 4.9 out of 5 feedback rating. Coursera founder, Andrew Ng, is the instructor. This is a great course if you’re thinking about becoming a Data Scientist.
Learning How to Learn: This course teaches strong mental tools for mastering hard subjects. It introduces learning techniques for disciplines like math, arts, sports and music. It has over 3.3 learners enrolled with a 4.8 out of 5 feedback rating. The course director has won multiple awards.
The Science of Well-being: A course developed to enhance happiness and establish more productive habits. Over 4 millions learners have enrolled and it has a 4.9 out of 5 feedback rating. A Yale University psychology professor is the course instructor. Professor Laurie Santos addresses misconceptions, demonstrates ways to modify your habits, and covers thinking patterns to enhance personal happiness. She lectures in a conversational manner and the video tutorials are filmed with a small number of Yale university students in attendance.
Programming for Everybody: a course focused on the basics of computer programming using Python. Over 2.6 million learners have enrolled and it has a 4.8 out of 5 feedback rating.
Model Thinking: Offered by the University of Michigan, this course introduces models as a helpful tool for organizing and interpreting data. Models can be used to predict phenomena like social change, market crashes, and business decisions. This course has been developed to suit the diversity of learners it attracts. Each theory is introduced with a basic tutorial followed by more complex lectures about suitable procedures and real-world applications. Depending on your knowledge level and interests, you can choose to just learn the basic concepts or delve deeper into the complexity of models’ practical applications.
AI for Everyone: Another popular course by Coursera founder Andrew Ng, this course covers AI terminology, data science and machine learning. It has over 800,000 enrollments and a 4.8 out of 5 feedback rating.
How the Coursera Learning Platform Works
When you sign up to Coursera, you can choose between a range of subscription or access options. In order to access a free trial, you will need to add valid payment details and sign up for a subscription plan. Alternatively, you can have limited access to courses for free by auditing them. You can also sign up with Coursera for Business or Coursera for Campus if you have access through your institution.
Once you’ve started a course, you’ll need to manage your own time. Missing the deadlines suggested by the course doesn’t usually affect your grade, so you can work at your own pace. Unless you’re auditing a course, you’re usually awarded a certificate once you’ve completed it.
You can read the reviews left by anyone who’s enrolled on a course. Learners leave a star rating out of five and a comment, and the total number of learners who’ve enrolled is also displayed. You can filter reviews to just those from course ‘completers’ and filter them by star rating.
Assessing an Instructor
The feedback rating for instructors is displayed in their course description along with their prior experience. Their social media handles and websites are usually included, along with the other courses they teach.
Try Coursera for Free
Coursera offers 7-day or 14-day free trials for different types of subscription. Coursera Plus can be accessed through a monthly subscription with a 7-day free trial ($59/month) or an annual subscription with a 14-day free trial ($399/year). Free trials are a good way to test out whether a course is right for you.
You can also audit courses on Coursera for free. This limits your access to course materials and means you don’t get a certificate for completing the course, but it gives you a good idea of whether you want to commit to signing up to a subscription or not.
Coursera pros and cons
- Coursera is a large online platform with over 7000 courses.
- Coursera offers high-quality courses from instructors who are top experts in their fields, often working at world-class companies and universities.
- Alongside shorter courses, the platform provides accredited degrees, partnering with internationally recognized universities like Stanford and Imperial College London. Coursera charges significantly lower tuition fees in comparison to those of conventional in-person degree courses.
- If you don’t require a completion certificate, you can audit courses for free and still access a lot of a course’s materials.
- The platform allows offline learning as course material is downloadable.
- There are numerous advantages to studying online rather than in person, including the flexibility to study at times which suit you and wherever you want. It makes it easier to study alongside other personal and work commitments.
- Learners can work at their own pace, without being penalized. If you’re extremely motivated, you may even complete courses a lot quicker than you would in a more structured learning environment.
- Unlike traditional degree courses, which take months to be admitted to, you can begin a Coursera course immediately by signing up and paying the fee.
- Coursera does offer some scholarships and grants for those who are unable to afford its courses.
- Traditional learning institutions do have their merits. It’s hard to beat the networking and socializing opportunities of an in-person course and the sense of accountability that comes with working directly with your instructors and peers.
- The Coursera discussion forums are hit and miss, particularly on bigger courses that can be conducted at any time.
- There are also minimal opportunities for in-depth feedback on your work.
- Additionally, the Coursera platform is not comprehensive, with some subjects and industry sectors having significantly fewer courses than others.
- Sometimes the pricing can be confusing due to the range of subscription and purchase options.
- Some more advanced courses require prior knowledge, so not all of the platform’s courses are accessible to everyone.