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.
Ready to start advancing your education? Check out Coursera here
Great article on the benefits of Coursera. For myself, I have always been one for taking certified and uncertified courses. I just like to learn stuff as knowledge is one of the biggest parts to making things happen.
I agree with your entire article and know from personal experience that having degrees are great but are not the end all be all for landing jobs.
I will need to check out this excellent opportunity you have brought to my attention.
Free college sounds awesome. It’s true that most job markets nowadays look for people with some kind of degree from specific colleges, but don’t forget that the original intentions of college in the first place is train people with specialized knowledge.
CourseA sounds like it is worth a try considering you can do it for free. Making it free also means that you can get a “taste” of what the courses are like before committing yourself to actually getting a certificate. The other benefit is obviously lowering the costs of obtaining structured and reliable source of knowledge.
I will tell my friends about it and see what their opinions are.
Very nice website, it may help a lot of students or other people interested on learning which they interested on specific courses. Nowadays, a lot of students find it difficult to apply for courses which they like, but now they can start this from coursera. It could be trending and future advantage. As I can see this program is trending now.
Hello Wendyjane, It’s really great to know about Coursera. It’s new to me but i’m really impressed that the courses offered are free. Not everyone needs a certificate for completion of a course. Though Coursera does not help in finding a job with the certificates offered,I believe Coursera is an awesome source for learning for people with knowledge hungry minds.
Great site, enjoyed reading your content, I have never heard about Coursera and MOOCs before so I enjoyed learning about it.
Love the fact that some of the courses are free for anyone who wants to learn, this can be beneficial to anyone struggling for money and it’s great that they can get financial aid as well
The available courses sound brilliant! Wish my son was older, he is only 9 but he is a gamer and I have always said to him you should go into game development when you are older, so hope this is around in 10 years time. I will be enrolling him in it
Yeah for sure, who knows… in 10 years maybe this type of learning will become more accepted and the “norm”.
I had coursera bookmarked several years ago, i didnt know anything about it, only that it is a cool website with a lot of different courses. Thanks for the valuable review now i have better understanding of the site and I might probably use it to find courses related to power electronics since this is my main occupation at the moment. Very informative post and well written, good job.
Yeah, I had a similar story with Coursera.. I remember someone shared a link of Facebook quite a few years ago, I thought it was awesome, bookmarked it… then never actually looked into it seriously until much later down the line. I haven’t taken a ton of classes with them but what I have has been great. 🙂
When I first thought of doing online marketing courses, my research brought me to Coursera. They had some free courses back then so I jumped in just to check out the environment.
Very professional and formal lay out – a bit boring for my liking, since I’ve graduated from college for years now. I didn’t want to just listen to lectures or complete assignments; I wanted to dive into the online business world and start making money OR at least earn real-life experience.
Coursera didn’t quite fit the picture, but the training at Wealthy Affiliate did so this is a better learning platform for me.
Thank you for sharing your experience Cathy! I do know what you mean about it being a bit boring… the structure isn’t for everyone. I agree about Wealthy Affiliate… if you are someone that is intersted in learning online business at all it is an awesome educational environment for that. I love the whole learning by doing approach… it is so much more effective for most people.
A good idea of a site to bring those who are interesting in learning and the information you have provide will help them decided. I like how you also tell them the price of the certification. Other sites really don’t have the price and people wonder what it is till they ask and then changes of mind. As a reader I like how you bring the information to us.
I didn’t know the existence of this online open learning centre. Thanks for sharing the information.
I just have a question, if they offer so many courses to public for free, how they can afford to hire professionals from the universities to give the lectures? I doubt most of them will provide their service for free. What is their business model to earn profit?
Well, not all their classes are free, and even the ones that are usually have a paid option as well. If you do it for free, you are simply auditing and you don’t get a certificate of completion. Apparently a lot of people opt to take their paid courses.
Hi Wendy, thank you for introducing this legit online course, I have never heard of Coursera before but I think the idea is so good. It is open to anybody, though it cannot compare with the value of degree earned in the real universities, this still helps one to get certification for the course they are interested in. It will help the person to gain confidence and get promotion like you said.I will check out the courses in Coursera, yay!
Thank you Wendy
I enjoyed your article very much, you sound very positive with this college alternative, it does sound to be very beneficial and very worth the time and the money. I have taken online courses over the years, mainly for my own personal satisfaction to learn more about something I am interested in.
I think its cool people actually have got employment through taking these courses, I always wondered how much a diploma really made when applying for a position if you have enough experience or a certificate.
It should be what you know, not where you went to college or got your education, I would think if financial aid is available then this must be seen as a positive education opportunity worth considering.
Thank you! Yeah I just think it’s awesome they have college courses available online like this, there are plenty of people interested in learning and it allows for a much easier access to advanced education. I was super excited when I found out about it!
You’re right it should be about what you know and your unique skills and abilities, but unfortunately a lot of employers need you to prove on a piece of paper from an expensive school that you are knowledgable on a particular topic.
Great review! I love coursera and have used it myself for a while now. I am an open education advocate and believe that the courses I have taken so far have improved my job developement.
I know it is unclear whether or not it stacks up against a college degree, but as a virtual assistant, I have benefited a lot!
Glad to discover a fellow Coursera user! I agree it is excellent for people like us – virtual assistants, business owners, entrepreneurs 🙂
I read with quite interest on this topic of massive open online courses. I have never heard of this but I can definitely see the need and the benefits that people can use to improve their lives and their work ethics.
This is something that can be done on someone”s own time frame I think employers want to see definite learning abilities, and taking on challenges.
I can see how it build confidence, work ethics, and expanding the thinking process.
I will definitely check this out and come back and visit again.
Wow, this is really cool!
I’ve never heard of this before, and I really wish I’d discovered it before now! This is honestly something I’d be so interested in. I have literally no money for school lol and my family will never qualify for help/funding so I really need something like this.
I don’t mind not getting any real certification, the fact that you can take the class for free at all is awesome!
Thanks so much for sharing this!
No problem, I know I was super excited when I first heard about it as well! 🙂