Coursera Review: Is Coursera Legit or Scam?

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  • Post published:February 16, 2024
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Coursera is one of the world’s leading online learning platforms, offering over 4,000 courses from top universities and organizations worldwide. With over 92 million registered learners, Coursera has become a go-to destination for anyone looking to gain new skills and advance their careers.

But is Coursera.com truly worth your time and money? In this comprehensive Coursera review, we’ll examine the key features of the platform, pros and cons, course quality, pricing, and more to help you determine if Coursera is a worthwhile investment for your learning goals.

Overview of Coursera

Coursera was founded in 2012 by Stanford University professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng with the mission of providing universal access to world-class education. The platform partners with over 200 leading universities and companies to offer courses across a broad range of topics including technology, business, humanities, and more.

Some key facts about Coursera:

  • 4,000+ courses – Coursera offers over 4,000 online courses in topics like data science, programming, business, and many more. New courses are added regularly.
  • 200+ university partners – Coursera partners with top universities like Yale, University of Michigan, Stanford, and others to produce online courses.
  • 1,400+ courses offering credentials – Many Coursera courses provide you the option to earn a credential like a certificate or microcredential upon completion.
  • 92 million+ learners – Coursera has a global community of over 92 million registered learners across 190+ countries.
  • Job matching services – Coursera offers job search assistance through Coursera for Jobs to help learners connect with top employers.
  • 7 languages supported – Coursera supports courses taught in English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Arabic, Russian and Portuguese.
  • Mobile app available – Learners can download the Coursera app on iOS or Android to take courses on the go.

How Coursera Works

Coursera offers a mix of free and paid online courses. Anyone can sign up on Coursera for free and enroll in free courses. Paid courses provide additional benefits like grading, certificates of completion, and shareable course certificates.

Here’s an overview of how Coursera works:

Enrolling in Courses

  • Browse courses – You can browse Coursera’s full course catalog by category, topic, skills you want to gain, and other filters.
  • Free courses – A majority of Coursera courses can be audited for free. You get access to all course video lectures and some assessments.
  • Paid courses – Paid Coursera courses give you access to graded assignments, quizzes, projects, and certificates of completion. Prices typically range from $29-$99 for individual courses.
  • Specializations – Specializations are a series of courses focused on mastering a skill. You pay a single fee for the entire specialization (typically $39-$79 per month).
  • Professional certificates – Coursera offers Professional Certificates developed with industry partners like Google and IBM. These certificates take 3-9 months to complete and cost around $300-$800 total.

Learning on Coursera

Coursera courses use a combination of lessons, assignments, quizzes, peer-graded assessments, and projects to teach course material.

  • Video lectures – Pre-recorded video lessons make up the bulk of course content. Optional readings are also provided.
  • Weekly assignments – Each week has graded or ungraded assignments to practice your skills and test your understanding.
  • Peer-graded assessments – Many courses include peer-reviewed projects or writing assignments graded by fellow learners.
  • Online discussion forums – You can discuss course topics and ask questions on course discussion forums.
  • Instructor interaction – Depending on the course, you may be able to interact with instructors and teaching assistants via the discussion forums.
  • Earning a certificate – If you complete all assignments and earn a passing grade, you receive a shareable Course Certificate to showcase your completion. You can also pay a fee to earn a Specialization Certificate.
  • Access deadlines – For paid courses, you typically get 180 days of full access to all course materials from your enrollment date.
  • Mobile learning – Coursera’s mobile app lets you download course videos and materials to keep learning on the go.

Pros of Using Coursera

What are the biggest benefits of using Coursera? Here are some of the top advantages of the platform:

High-Quality Courses from Top Universities

The main appeal of Coursera is that you can take courses developed by instructors from some of the world’s top universities like Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Imperial College London, and more. Courses are based on the same rigorous curriculums taught on-campus at these universities. This gives you access to quality education no matter where you live.

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Coursera also partners with top companies to offer specialized training. For example, Google offers an IT Automation with Python Professional Certificate to build job-ready skills. You get training designed by industry experts.

Flexible and Self-Paced Learning

Coursera offers a flexible way to learn new skills online on your own schedule. You can set your own pace to complete assignments, working around your other commitments. Video lectures and course materials are available 24/7 so you can learn whenever it’s most convenient.

This flexibility makes Coursera a great fit if you need to balance learning with your job, family life, or other responsibilities. You can incrementally make progress week by week.

Affordable Pricing

Considering Coursera offers university-level courses, its pricing is very reasonable. Individual courses typically cost between $29-$99 for full access. Specializations cost $39-$79 per month.

Compared to the cost of university tuition or in-person bootcamps, Coursera offers an affordable way to pursue professional development and new skills for career advancement. The free courses also make it easy to sample a course before paying.

Gain In-Demand Skills

Coursera focuses on offering courses in high-demand skills like programming, data science, digital marketing, business, and more. These skills are valued by employers and can give your resume a boost.

Even if you’re not looking for a new job, learning in-demand hard skills can expand your career opportunities down the road. The wide range of courses allows you to build both technical and soft skills.

Earn Professional Certificates

Many Coursera courses offer you the option to earn a certificate or Specialization certificate by completing assessments and projects.

Coursera’s Professional Certificates take this further by teaching the specific skills needed for a career. For example, the Google UX Design or Facebook Social Media Marketing Professional Certificate from Meta. These industry-recognized certificates stand out on a resume.

Earning certificates gives you tangible proof of your new skills to show employers. They demonstrate your commitment to professional development.

Supportive Online Community

With over 92 million learners, Coursera has built a large global community of students supporting each other. The discussion forums create built-in study groups where you can connect with fellow learners taking the same course.

You can join study groups, share helpful resources, have discussions about course topics, and give or receive peer support during assignments. The community aspect makes learning feel less isolated.

Cons of Using Coursera

While Coursera has many benefits, there are also some downsides to consider:

Mixed Quality for Free Courses

The quality of Coursera’s free courses can be hit or miss. Since anyone can enroll in a free course, some have issues like outdated materials, inactive discussion forums, or lack of instructor presence. Paid courses are generally higher quality and better maintained.

For free courses, you have to rely more on fellow students and discussion forums for support. Quality varies widely between different courses.

Less Instructor Interaction

Compared to a traditional classroom, you’ll have much less direct interaction with course instructors on Coursera, especially for free courses. Communication is primarily through discussion boards and pre-recorded videos.

Some courses may have teaching assistants or hold occasional Q&A sessions. But you won’t get consistent 1-on-1 instructor access like an in-person education. You have to be comfortable learning independently.

Peer Review Inconsistencies

Coursera uses peer reviews for grading some written assignments and projects. While this allows assignments to be graded at scale, it can lead to uneven or inconsistent grading when done by other students.

Some peer reviewers provide overly critical or careless reviews. The lack of instructor oversight means grading luck varies widely depending on who reviews your work.

No Admissions Standards

Since Coursera is open to any learner, there are no admissions standards or prerequisites. Some advanced courses may assume a certain baseline of existing knowledge.

When anyone can sign up for a course, you get a wide variety in skill levels among your classmates. This can create inconsistencies in the overall learning experience.

Specializations Lack Flexibility

If you enroll in a Specialization certificate program, you usually need to complete the full sequence of courses on a set schedule. You can’t swap out courses or skip ones covering topics you already know.

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Specializations require a bigger time commitment to complete. You lose the flexibility to just take single courses that interest you.

Coursera Course Quality

One concern with any online learning platform is whether the courses truly deliver a high-quality learning experience. Here’s an overview of what to expect with the course quality on Coursera:

Video Production Quality

  • Coursera videos are professionally produced, typically with the instructor presenting slides. Video and audio production standards are high quality overall.
  • Interactive elements like code demonstrations, diagrams, or animations are often incorporated to engage learners.
  • Some videos may just reuse recordings of classroom lectures. Production value varies by course.

Course Materials

  • Reading materials include textbooks, research papers, online articles, lecture notes, and PowerPoint slides. Materials are downloadable for offline access.
  • Supplementary resources like exercise files, sample datasets, online tools or relevant GitHub repos are provided in some technical courses.
  • Materials are self-contained and don’t rely on buying any external textbooks or resources (unless noted).

Instructor Quality

  • For courses taught by university professors, instructors are typically leaders in their field from top institutions.
  • Industry experts, field researchers, and accomplished professionals also serve as high-quality instructors for specialized topic areas.
  • Some courses just reuse existing faculty lectures with minimal instructor interaction in the course.
  • Teaching assistants monitor the discussion forums for some (but not all) courses to answer student questions.

Assessments and Feedback

  • Courses include regular auto-graded quizzes and hands-on programming assignments to assess learning.
  • For peer-reviewed assignments, quality of feedback depends heavily on the individual reviewers you’re matched with.
  • For Specializations and Professional Certificates, capstone projects are manually reviewed and graded by the Coursera grading team.

Overall, Coursera offers rigorous courses designed to teach skills effectively online. But course quality depends heavily on the specific instructor and university delivering the content. Top tier university courses tend to be a cut above courses from less recognizable institutions.

Coursera Pricing: Free vs. Paid Courses

Coursera offers over 3,100 free online courses that you can audit without paying. Paid Coursera courses unlock additional features like graded assignments, projects, and shareable Course Certificates.

Here’s an overview of Coursera’s pricing model and what’s included:

Free Courses

  • Take courses for free without paying. Only need to complete a Coursera account registration.
  • Get access to course lecture videos, readings, and ungraded self-assessments.
  • Can participate in discussion forums and peer-graded assignments (if available).
  • No graded assignments, projects, instructor feedback, or Course Certificates.

-Audit history and progress are tracked in your Coursera account dashboard.

  • Some courses limit free access to 1-2 sample lessons.

Paid Coursera Courses

  • Give you full graded assessments and feedback on assignments, quizzes, and projects.
  • Cost between $29 to $99 for individual courses.
  • Take 180 days to complete. Can reset deadlines for a fee.
  • Earn a shareable Course Certificate with your grade upon passing.
  • Get access to supplemental course resources, readings, and materials.
  • Support Coursera’s operating costs and compensate instructors.

Coursera Specializations

  • Specializations are a series of courses in a skill area. Earn a Specialization Certificate.
  • Pay a monthly subscription fee during your enrollment – typically $39-$79/month.
  • Complete in 4-6 months. 60 day money back guarantee.
  • Can pause between courses – your subscription auto-renews when ready.
  • Cost depends on number of courses in the Specialization -discipline as Well as partnership with university or industry partner.

Coursera Professional Certificates

  • Non-degree credentials developed with industry partners like Google, IBM, Meta.
  • Designed to teach job-ready skills. Often involve capstone projects.
  • Take 3-9 months to complete. Capstone reviews take 1-2 weeks.
  • Pay one upfront fee for full access, typically $300-$800.
  • May qualify for university credit recommendations from ACE.

While paid courses cost money, they come with valuable benefits that make the investment worthwhile for committed learners. The free courses let you test drive Coursera with minimal risk.

How Long Do Coursera Courses Take?

Coursera courses are completely self-paced, so how long they take depends on your available time commitment and learning speed. Most learners complete courses in 4-8 weeks. Here are general estimates:

  • Single courses – With 5-6 hours per week, you can finish in 4-8 weeks. At 2-3 hours per week, courses take 8-12 weeks.
  • Specializations – Specializations suggest 10-15 hours per week. At that pace you can complete in 4-6 months.
  • Professional Certificate – Professional Certificates require 15-20 hours per week over 3-9 months. Capstones add 1-2 weeks.
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Keep in mind that Coursera gives you 6-12 months of access so you don’t have to rush. You also get some flexibility to take breaks between sessions if needed.

For reference, here are the instructor time estimates for some example Coursera courses:

  • Machine Learning – 8 weeks at 4-6 hours per week
  • Financial Markets – 6 weeks at 3-4 hours per week
  • Python for Everybody Specialization – 4 months at 5 hours per week
  • Google UX Design Professional Certificate – 6 months at 10 hours per week

The key is creating a manageable learning schedule that works for you. Don’t overload yourself and get burnt out. Slow and steady learning progression is usually best for retention.

Coursera on Mobile: iOS & Android Apps

Coursera offers mobile apps for iOS and Android so you can take courses on your smartphone or tablet on the go. Here are the key features offered:

Download Videos for Offline Viewing

  • Download course videos to watch without an internet connection. Helpful for learning during commutes or when traveling.

Take Assessments and View Grades

  • Complete quizzes, submit assignments, check due dates, and view your grades directly in the mobile apps.

Get Push Notification Reminders

  • Opt in to receive push notifications that remind you about upcoming due dates, new materials, and other course updates. Helpful for staying on track.

Read Course Materials

  • Access all prerequisite readings, course slides, lecture notes, and other materials directly in the app. Materials can be downloaded for offline access.

Participate in Discussion Forums

  • Read and participate in course discussion forums. Engage in conversations with instructors and classmates right from your phone.

View Course Certificates

  • Access certificates you’ve earned for completed courses. Certificates can be shared directly or saved locally on your device.

Sync Progress Across Devices

  • Your learning progress synchronizes across the Coursera website and mobile apps. Switch between desktop and mobile seamlessly.

For busy learners, the Coursera app makes it convenient to fit learning into small pockets of time during the day. The ability to download course materials for offline use is especially valuable for learning on the go.

How Does Coursera’s Job Assistance Work?

In addition to courses, Coursera provides job search assistance to help students connect with top employers looking for the skills they teach. Here’s an overview of their job matching services:

Coursera for Jobs

Coursera matches learners with entry-level jobs, apprenticeships, and internships from hundreds of company partners. You create a learner career profile that Coursera matches with job opportunities related to your skills, experience, and preferences.

Coursera Project Network

The Project Network lets you build work experience by completing short-term paid projects from companies at a fixed price. Projects help create portfolio samples to demonstrate skills.

Profile Badges

You can display badges with specific skills and certifications you’ve earned right on your public learner profile. This allows recruiters searching the Coursera talent database to see your credentials.

Recruiter Partnerships

Leading employers like Google, IBM, and Facebook partner with Coursera to source candidates from their Skills Benchmark assessments and Professional Certificate programs.

Conclusion

Coursera organizes local career networking events and hackathons with company partners to facilitate face-to-face connections between students and recruiters.

While Coursera can help open doors, it mainly provides exposure and networking opportunities rather than guaranteed job placement. You still need to demonstrate the required skills in interviews. But Coursera gives you valuable visibility with their employer partners.

EdX is Coursera’s top competitor, also offering online courses from leading universities

 

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