Price: Free to audit, certification starts at $49 per course, certain specializations range from $200 – $600+ (Check current courses and prices here)
Summary: this platform is a great way to enhance your education for free or relatively low cost compared to traditional college, but still isn’t a completely equivalent alternative. Check out my list of other recommended online course providers here
A brief introduction to Coursera and MOOCs
Coursera is currently the internet’s largest provider of MOOCs, offering close to 2,000 courses. If you’re not familiar with these MOOCs (short for massive open online courses), they’re basically online college courses that are open to the public.
Enrolling is done on a course by course basis, and there’s no application process. Anybody can join and take any class that interests them. Let’s disect this platform further to do a basic Coursera review and see if it could potentially be a viable alternative to college for certain people.
The best part? These classes are open to ANYBODY!
The thing that makes these programs stand out, however, is the ability for anybody to enroll in
a college course and advance their learning, no matter their location, education level or economic situation. In fact, many of the courses are entirely free to audit – you can sit through the lectures and study the course materials for your own benfit even though you won’t recieve a formal certificate of completion.
These are classes taught by professors from all over the world at a range of universities. In fact, currently Coursera has 128 partner universities in 38 different countries. These aren’t just your typical community colleges either – the list include major schools such as Princeton, Yale, Duke, University of Michigan, Brown, and many more.
What’s the difference between Coursera and an online University?
Online Universities (such as Full Sail University or University of Phoenix) are actual colleges – you apply, pay tuition and earn a degree. The degrees you earn from universities are known to employers and they know what value it holds.
On the other hand, with Coursera you don’t earn a typical degree. What you can do is earn certification from taking a class, or a further specialization by taking a series of classes and completing a capstone project. What exactly they’re worth, however, is largely variable and depends on the type of job you seek and/or what exactly you plan to do with it.
A really awesome part of the Coursera platform is that you can audit many of the offered courses entirely free. While you won’t recieve any official certificate that says you completed the course in this case, it still can be beneficial to go through the courses for free if you don’t need to prove anything but simply want to further your knowledge and skills. This could be a major benefit to those who struggle financially but still are interested in pursuing some type of advanced education.
There’s even financial aid offered to those who can’t afford the certificates but would like to get them.
What kind of classes are offered?
Courses offered by Coursera are all over the board. There’s specalizations ranging from robotics to starting up a business, as well as tons in between.
Here are some current course offerings:
- Finding Hidden Messages in DNA
- Dog Emotion and Cognition
- Intro to Project Management Principles and Practices
- Leading People and Teams
- Conflict Management
- Java Programming: An Introduction to Software
- Game Design and Development
There are literally hundreds (almost 2,000), and the scope is vast. While each class will vary depending on the instructor, the value of most of the classes is incredible and comparable to any regular university course.
How do the classes work? What’s the structure like?
Typical classes are 4-7 weeks, but some are shorter and some longer. There’s also many classes that are entirely self-paced. You can find the course syllabus and information outlined before you even enroll, and often times there’s even reviews of the class from previous students.
Many classes have specific dates you have to take the class, just like a normal college course – but others are always open. The website is relatively straightforward and it’s easy to find all the needed information before you enroll.
You’ll be asked before you take the class whether you just want to audit or actually earn the certificate. If the latter, you’ll need to go through a verification process to ensure you are the one actually taking the course.
Keep in mind since these classes are taught by professors from institutions all over the world, there’s no specific format each and every class will follow. They will all be different depending on the professor, so you’ll just have to pay attention to the specific rules for each course you take.
How much will it cost?
Many classes are completely free if you don’t need or want the certification. The typical cost for most certificates is $49 per class. If you get into an advanced specialization, which involves multiple classes and completing a project, then the price will range from around $200 – $600+, depending on the course.
While it’s much less than a traditional college education, keep in mind it doesn’t hold the same value (at least in terms of hirability). Although, considering how expensive college is these days and how hard it is to find a job even if you do have a college degree, I wouldn’t entirely rule it out as an option.
So what’s the point, really? Is the certification actually worth anything?
The big question right now is obviously what the heck a “certification” from Coursera actually means, or even if it’s worth anything in the job market. Unfotunately, the answer isn’t exactly straightforward. While it isn’t equivalent to an actual degree by any means, research suggests it does help many in some way towards career advancement, or at the very least enhancing confidence (which can go a long way towards getting a promotion).
Excerpt from Fortune.com:
“Coursera, along with the University of Pennsylvania and University of Washington, surveyed 52,000 people who completed its courses. Of those who responded, 72% took online courses to advance their careers. And 87% of that group reported that they experienced some kind of career benefit from taking those courses, including feeling better equipped for a current job or improved candidacy for a new job; 33% reported tangible career benefits, including a pay raise, promotion, a new job, or starting a new business.”*
The reporting also found the tangible benefits (getting a new job, raise or promotion) were an even greater benefit to people who struggled economically or had less education. In fact, 42% of those surveyed without a bachelor degree and 32% from low income brackets reported some tangible benefit from completing courses from Coursera. (35% from richer, educated groups reported tangible benefits).
All that being said, there’s no official stance on such certifications from MOOCs so it remains up to the hiring manager as to whether or not they find it credible. Many might not be aware of what Coursera (and other MOOC platforms) even are, and will choose not to give a certification any value. Still though, there are others out there who may see it as holding incredible value.
The positives of gaining confidence, knowledge and new skills for your own benefit
While hiring managers may not find direct value in a Coursera certificate, it’s absolutely beneficial on so many other levels. Committing to learning new skills and subjects can go a long way in increasing confidence, and that can absolutely lead you to a promotion, raise or even a new job entirely. I’ve learned along the way is the ability to demonstrate your skills and perform with confidence in a job is so much more valuable than any formal education, and many employers really do realize that.
The entreprenuers of the world may also find incredible value to these types of courses. After all, most of the time there’s no one to “prove” anything to but yourself, thus any discussion of what value a certificate holds is irrelevant. The more time you spend learning new topics and skills to grow professionally, the more success and growth you’ll experience.
This system is also very valuable to those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who may not have the opportunity to attend college for financial or personal reasons, but have the motivation to learn
Ultimately who will benefit the most from Coursera?
- Entrepreneurs (If you’re interested in starting a business online, check my #1 recommended training platform here)
- Those seeking career advancement or benefits
- People who come from a lower socioeconomic status
- Lifetime learners
Conclusion – Is Coursera worth it?
According to the Coursera survey, 87% of people that took classes to advance their careers recieved some type of benefit, even if it was just boosting confidence or feeling better about their work. Furthermore, some even experienced raises, promotions or were able to land an entirely new job. It is quite apparent this type of education is helpful to many, even if it isn’t equivelent to a college degree.
Despite the controversy over the legitimacy of Coursera’s certifications in the job market, it still remains an amazing platform to take college level courses. While you’re not going to become a doctor or lawyer from this platform, it still has its benefits within many career fields and extends to help many business owners, lifelong learners, as well as those that may have limited access to quality education.