Coursera Review (2020): Is Coursera Worth It? My Verdict

Posted 18 Feb 2020, by

Victoria Hughes

April 2020 update: I’m at home now because of the lockdown and I need to keep myself busy. Forget Netflix: I think online education is the perfect hobby to have during this time. In this Coursera review, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about this extremely popular online learning platform.

Coursera Review Snapshot

What is it: Coursera is the world’s leading online learning platform. With teachers from elite universities, it gives everyone access to a quality education without the expense of a traditional college or university.

Coursera price: Most of the courses on Coursera are free to audit. If you want a qualification at the end, you will need to pay. Single courses start at $49.

Who’s it for: Anyone who wants to further their education. Paid courses are perfect for those trying to gain marketable skills or professional qualifications. 

The best part: The teachers are passionate about what they do, there is an emphasis on practical skills, and the academic atmosphere really motivated me to learn.

What you need to know: Even if you’re just learning for fun, it’s an inspirational environment. Coursera has managed to persuade some of the best colleges and universities in the world to put their courses online.

Verdict: I genuinely enjoyed taking 5 courses in full as part of my Coursera review. Even though I’m not interested in getting any more academic qualifications, I gained a huge amount from the experience. Read on to learn all you need to know about Coursera.

Online courses can leave some people a bit skeptical – but what if your certificate was issued by Stanford or Yale?

It’s now a genuine option to study online for a qualification from one of the top colleges in the US – and those around the world.

I’m always keen to develop my professional skills, and as a freelance writer and editor for Global English Editing, it’s also really important to me to keep up with the latest developments in my field. Coursera’s emphasis on practical skills and their international outlook really appealed to me, and I wanted to learn more.

In my epic Coursera review, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the popular online learning platform.

You’ll get an insight into the skills and qualifications you can gain from Coursera, my experience of taking 5 totally different courses, the things I liked best about learning with Coursera, and what didn’t work so well.

While I absolutely love trying something new, I don’t like to waste my time on courses that aren’t going to improve my skills or expand my knowledge, and I wouldn’t recommend a course unless it was actually useful.

So, did Coursera deliver on its promises?

Read my full Coursera review to find out.

Note: My review contains affiliate links which means we make a commission if you end up signing up to Coursera. However, it certainly didn’t stop me from sharing the good and the bad about the platform.

What is Coursera?

Coursera was founded in 2012 by two Stanford computer science professors, Andrew Ng, Daphne Koller, who put their courses online for anyone to take. They ended up reaching more people in a few months than they had in an entire lifetime of teaching.

Ng and Koller wanted to create an online education platform that would:

  • Help people to master specific career skills
  • Allow anyone access to the world’s best education from anywhere in the world
  • Transform people’s lives through education.

Coursera offer degrees from some of the top-ranked universities in the world like Yale, Imperial College London and the University of Geneva. Their professional qualifications are provided by the likes of Google, Amazon Web Services, Intel and The Linux Foundation.

Coursera has transformed the online education space with highbrow partnerships with these leading institutions. I decided to see what all the fuss is about, and share what I learned for any readers who want to give it a try.

What is unique about Coursera?

All the courses on Coursera are provided by colleges, universities and other academic institutions, so you can be confident in their rigorous academic qualifications.

It’s possible to do a complete Bachelors or Masters degree and get accredited for it just as you would at a normal university. There are also professional certificates, provided by places like IBM and Google, that aren’t available anywhere else.

At the other end of the scale, their MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, allow you to learn almost anything, from the history of art to programming in Python, all completely free.

Coursera are now the world’s biggest provider of MOOCs, with more than 40 million registered users.

How Coursera works

 

Coursera review website

Coursera is a totally comprehensive platform for adult further education.

It offers everything from music, art and philosophy to computer security, software development, cloud computing, mechanical engineering and astronomy. There are also dozens of foreign languages.

You have 5 learning options with Coursera:

  • Individual courses (which you can take for free)
  • Specializations
  • Professional certificates
  • MasterTrack certificates
  • Degrees.

These learning options can get a bit confusing, especially as they seem to overlap at times. Let’s break these options down so you know which one is right for you.

Individual courses

Individual courses are a single course that you can take. Coursera offers thousands of different courses on a huge variety of topics.

The best thing about taking an individual course on Coursera is that hundreds of them are free.

However, you can also choose to pay for your course, which offers several advantages. These include additional quizzes, projects and most importantly, a certificate upon completion.

A Course Certificate is an official credential that confirms that you successfully completed that course.

Pro tip: The courses can sometimes be hard to find. Different institutions use different tag systems and the search function is hit-or-miss. For instance, Coursera offers an Intermediate French Course, but there’s no French filter to use when searching the languages.

Your best bet is to browse the subject area until you find what you want. You can explore the catalog of courses here.

Specializations

Courses can be grouped into a Specialization, which is a micro credential offered by Coursera.

Essentially, Specializations are a step up from taking a single course. You complete a series of related courses designed to help you master a specific topic. If you choose to take a Specialization, you will often tackle more hands-on assessments within each course and even complete a Capstone project at the end.

Specializations are great for those with specific career goals. You earn a Specialization Certificate and can share it with your professional network and potential employers.

The length of Specializations can vary. Some include as few as three courses and can be completed in a few months. Longer Specializations can include up to ten courses and take a year to complete.

At the moment there are lots of different Specializations available for programming, business, and data management, but only a few for things like healthcare or languages.

You can browse the most popular Specializations here.

Professional Certificates

A Professional Certificate is where you earn a certificate from the institution that developed the course on Coursera. So, the certificate is issued by the institution itself rather than Coursera.

The benefit of this is that the certificate may be recognized by another organization or school and may count toward accreditation.

In contrast, a regular course certificate is issued by Coursera and does not provide professional or academic credits.

Learn more about Professional Certificates on Coursera here.

MasterTrack Certificates

MasterTrack Certificates are more advanced than regular courses or Specializations on Coursera.

They are special semester-length courses that are only available as a unit. Unlike Specializations or Professional Certificates, you can’t take individual courses as part of a MasterTrack.

Basically, MasterTracks are separate portions of Master’s degree programs split up into modules. This means that if you decide to undertake a full Master’s degree in the future then your MasterTrack coursework can be applied as credits towards this degree.

A MasterTrack Certificate through Coursera will typically take between 4–8 months to finish.

Online degrees

The final option you have with Coursera is to enroll in an online Bachelor’s or Master’s degree.

These degrees are equivalent to what you would receive from a regular university or college.

The difference is what you pay. Coursera online degrees are significantly cheaper. While you don’t get the normal college experience, you do get the flexibility to study exclusively online and around your own busy schedule.

Most of the online degrees offered by Coursera at the moment revolve around Business, Computer Science and Data Science. There are also several Public Health degrees on offer.

I would expect that a greater variety of online degrees will be offered in the future.

Check Out The Catalog

Coursera is always adding new courses. Check out the updated catalog of courses here.

(This opens in a new tab so you can keep reading this review)

How much does Coursera cost?

Free courses

Most of the actual content on Coursera is free. (Although some courses are behind a paywall – more on that below.) Choose the option to ‘audit’ the course and you’ll see all the material but won’t have to pay anything.

In fact, the 5 courses I undertook for my Coursera review were all free.

However, the free courses always have certain features that you will have to pay for if you want to access them. These include:

  • Submit assignments for feedback
  • Get mentorship
  • Some courses have extra videos and reading lists for paid members
  • Be awarded a certificate.

Basically, if you’re learning out of curiosity, you can enroll in most courses on Coursera for free. If you want a proper qualification (a certificate), you have to pay.

Note that a limited number of courses are not available for free. These are mostly longer professional courses and degree programs.

Paid Courses

Coursera has 4 different payment options:

Is Coursera Plus worth it?

Coursera have introduced a new feature in 2020 called Coursera Plus. This gives you unlimited access to 3000+ courses, Specializations, and Professional Certificates for $499 per year.

You can consider this as an “All Access Pass” to Coursera although, not surprisingly, it excludes the MasterTracks and online degrees.

There are also some providers whose courses aren’t part of the Coursera Plus offering, like IBM, National Geographic and Stanford. Check the complete list here.

If you want to take multiple courses because you have career goals that require you to learn across several subject areas, or you’re just passionate about learning for personal development, then Coursera Plus will definitely be worth it.

However, If you want to just take a single course on a subject you’re interested in, Coursera Plus won’t be for you.

Check out Coursera Plus here.

Is Coursera good value for money?

I don’t like how complicated the pricing model is, but the one thing Coursera does offer is ridiculously good value for money.

For example, look at the MBA offered by the University of Illinois. It costs $21,384 for a course that takes 24-36 months. If you do a full-time MBA in person on the University of Illinois campus, it costs at least $58,692.

You’d be nuts to pay that when you can get the same qualification cheaper through Coursera.

The Arizona State University TESOL is a Professional Certificate on Coursera that allows you to become a teacher in dozens of countries across the world. It includes more than 200 hours of tuition and exercises, and if you spend 10 hours per week on it then you can complete it in just 5 months, at a subscription cost of $245 in total.

Compare this to TEFL providers like ITTT, whose 250-hour course is double the price at $499, or Tefl.org, who charge a whopping $509 for a much shorter course.

And where would you rather say you studied – with an unknown online company or with the University of Arizona?

Coursera review: Most popular courses in 2020

These are the most popular Coursera courses in 2020, based on student enrollments:

How a course looks inside

This is what you see after you’ve signed up for a class on Coursera and started taking a few lessons:

coursera review overview of course

Each unit on a course consists of between 30 minutes and several hours of video, plus quizzes to check your understanding, peer-graded essays and discussion prompts for the forum, as well as further reading material and links to other tools around the web that you can try out.

There are different assignments at the end of each module depending on the course, but most were varied and interesting.

I enjoyed the gratitude journaling I did on the Science of Well-Being course, the assignment to put together a set of images on MOMA’s Modern Art course, and the essay I wrote for the Astronomy course about whether aliens built the pyramids. (Spoiler: they didn’t.)

There are lots of features that have a traditional academic feel:

  • A transcript of each lecture
  • A note-taking app where you can save quotes and other notes
  • A weekly schedule divided into units
  • An option to set weekly goals and study times.

The weekly goals you choose can be linked to your Google Calendar so you can fit your study times around the rest of your schedule. Coursera will email you if you fall behind or miss a weekly deadline.

Some classes start at any time and are self-paced, so you can go faster or slower if you want to. There are others that have specific submission dates and a more rigid schedule. If you’re paying for a qualification then you’ll need to submit your work on time so it can be graded.

The whole experience is as close to being in college as you can get online.

If you like the structure and routine of academic courses and would like the same kind of structure for your online learning then you’ll find Coursera helpful.

If you prefer to play around and go at your own pace then it might get a bit frustrating.

Coursera review: What I liked most about it

When you’re working and studying at the same time, it can feel like you’re doing an impossible juggling act.

Coursera is a great solution when traditional academia won’t work for you. You don’t need to live near campus or commute every day. You can try out short courses before committing to a qualification.

Most of the lectures and reading lists are pretty short. It makes it really easy to fit studying into a busy schedule.

After taking 5 courses for my Coursera review, I was deeply impressed by the quality of the education on offer. Coursera has managed to persuade some of the best colleges and universities in the world to put their courses online. Not only that, they have instructors who are world leaders in their fields.

There’s a real effort being made here to bring the full campus experience to everyone, and make education more accessible. Coursera hosts live Q&A sessions with many of its lecturers on YouTube. I never thought I’d get a chance to ask questions directly to the experts like that, and it’s available to free and paid subscribers alike.

It was pretty awesome.

I remember from my college days that meeting people and making contacts was just as important as what you learned. It would be impossible to replicate that experience online. But Coursera have done their best with industry-sponsored courses and partnerships.

Some industry partners even offer perks and rewards to “learners who submit outstanding projects”.

Even if you’re just learning for fun, it’s a really inspirational environment to study in. Tracking your progress and studying on a schedule means you see huge improvements straight away.

Basically, if you can’t go back to college right now, Coursera is the next best thing.

Coursera review: What I liked least about it

Although I enjoyed my experience with the platform, this wouldn’t be an honest Coursera review if I didn’t mention its cons.

As I mentioned above, the pricing structure can get a bit confusing.

Some courses are only partly free. I got through the first two modules of the Wine Tasting course before it prompted me to pay to unlock the rest. I don’t mind paying but it’s frustratingly hard to find out if a course is free or not before you sign up.

Some subjects only have beginner-level courses, and some only have more advanced courses. I wanted to learn French but the only course available was the wrong level for me.

This isn’t too much of a problem if you want to study Computer Science, Data Science, Math or Engineering. The courses and specializations for those topics are really extensive and cover nearly everything you could possibly need.

The arts and language sections are much smaller, and the different courses don’t join together as seamlessly. That won’t be a worry for anyone doing one long qualification, like an MA.

I didn’t like the fact that some courses had a specific schedule. If you want your peer-graded assignments to be checked, you have to submit by the deadline so there are still other students around to grade you.

What I like most about online learning is being able to go at my own pace, and being forced to follow a timetable didn’t work for me.

That’s a matter of personal preference, though. I’m sure for some people the schedule will actually be a pro.

My review of 5 Coursera courses

I initially was going to take one course and then write up this Coursera review. But what the hey? I love learning new things and the more I explored the platform the more interesting courses I found.

Here is my experience taking 5 totally different Coursera courses.

The Science of Wellbeing

Most of us don’t actually know what makes us happy. That’s the astonishing conclusion of this course from Yale, which covers the surprising secrets to emotional well-being that psychologists have discovered over the past couple of decades.

Yale’s famous ‘happiness class’ became the most popular course in the college’s 300-year history when more than a quarter of undergraduates enrolled in 2018. It had such a huge positive impact on levels of depression and anxiety in students that Yale decided to make an extended version of the course free online through Coursera.

The Science of Well-Being is taught by Laurie Santos, professor of psychology at Yale and Director of Yale’s Comparative Cognition Lab, as well as the host of popular weekly podcast The Happiness Lab.

In 2013, Time magazine named her a ‘leading campus celebrity’ for her course on sex, evolution and human behavior.

I was really excited to take the course that had a quarter of students at Yale raving about it.

Some of the highlights of the course included:

  • Your circumstances don’t make that much difference. Santos shares a fascinating statistic in her second lecture – only 10% of your happiness depends on circumstance. That means things like where you live and how much money you make don’t affect your happiness that much. 50% of your happiness is determined by your genes, but the other 40% is all about your thoughts and attitude. That means it’s completely within your control.
  • Wealth is a matter of time, not money. Money can make you happier up to a point, but the more you earn, the less difference it makes. “Emotional wellbeing” starts to plateau at about $75,000 per year. On the other hand, working fewer hours and having enough time to relax and pursue hobbies has a radical effect on stress levels. People who value time over money are much, much happier.
  • The one easy way to boost your mood, health and productivity is to sleep. Getting enough sleep increases your cognitive performance, decreases your risk of heart disease and diabetes, and makes you happier. It’s easy and totally free. I tracked my sleep schedule using the app and found that just keeping tabs on my sleep was enough to make me take bed time more seriously.
  • Talking to other people isn’t as hard as it seems. Social connection is one of the most important things in our lives, so why is it so scary? Santos interviews Nicholas Epley about his research into socializing and finds that although most of us predict we’ll hate making conversation with strangers, when we force ourselves to do it we actually feel happier and more confident. It just needs one person to put down their phone and take the first step.

The course comes with a bunch of ‘rewirement activities’ like meditation, sleep, exercise, and gratitude journaling.

I really liked having practical exercises to do as well as learning the theory. I also really liked how easy it was to track everything I was doing. As Santos says, the best way to turn something into a long-term habit is to measure it.

I already do a lot of the stuff on this course, so I was a bit skeptical that it would have anything new to teach me. But even after the first week I could see a noticeable improvement in my mood. As I’ve practiced the activities every week I’ve felt calmer and my concentration has been better.

I’m definitely going to be keeping it up in the future.

Defense Against the Digital Dark Arts by Google

We all know we should pay more attention to our digital security, but for lots of us this slips down the to-do list until we forget about it. When I spotted this course I decided it was a great opportunity to learn more about how to keep myself safe online.

Google takes online security very seriously. It uses one of the world’s most advanced security infrastructures to protect its services, and is constantly working to raise industry standards.

Defense Against the Digital Dark Arts is hosted by Gian Spicuzza, the program manager for Android Security. He manages the cybersecurity features for each Android release across billions of devices.

If you’ve ever used Android on your phone or tablet then you have Gian to thank for keeping you safe.

The course is aimed at IT professionals but everything is simple and clear enough that you don’t need any tech knowledge to follow along.

Some of the valuable stuff I’ll take away from this course:

  • The Love Bug isn’t as cute as it sounds. This was a virus spread via email that infected more than 10 million computers in 2000 and caused billions of dollars worth of damage. Gian talks about how unexpectedly dangerous email attachments can be, and why you should never open one you don’t recognize.
  • Disable anything you don’t use. Gian discusses how every extra app or service is a potential point of attack, so make it harder for an attacker to reach you by restricting the number of ways they can get in. This applies to networks too – you can instantly make your network safer just by limiting access for services you don’t need.
  • Cryptography isn’t just for spies. Encryption is one of the foundations of online security and getting it right is vital. Gian covers all the ways data can be encrypted to make it harder to access, the pros and cons of symmetric and asymmetric encryption, and how to choose the best cryptographic method for your data.
  • Good habits are more important than any amount of tech. You can have the best system in the world and if you use your birthday as your password then you’re still at risk. Good security is about people. That means properly assessing risk and developing better security habits.

I expected to be bored by some of the more technical stuff but the explanations were all really clear and interesting, with helpful visuals. There are lots of actionable tips that you can use immediately to make your devices and data a little bit safer.

Some topics were more relevant to the workplace than my personal security, but all of it was still useful.

I feel like to really absorb everything I learned I need to go back and watch the videos again, but that’s not a bad thing. The course packs a lot of information into six weeks.

Astronomy: Exploring Time and Space

The University of Arizona offers one of the top astronomy programs in the world, as well as being home to a leading astronomical research center. U of A’s Steward Observatory has built instruments for three different space telescopes and is part of several major international projects.

I’ve always been interested in space and I thought it would be fun to get a better understanding of the science behind the headlines. I’d also just like to know more about what I’m seeing when I look up at the sky at night.

Astronomy: Exploring Time and Space is run by Professor Chris Impey, an astronomer who has been a pioneer in teaching science to non-science majors as well as the author of several popular science books. Chris brings a real enthusiasm for astronomy to his lectures and he was great at explaining things in a way that made me feel smart.

I liked him a lot.

My favorite things on Chris’s course:

  • People have been mapping the stars for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians described Ursa Major in their records more than 4000 years ago. Early cultures used the stars to navigate on expeditions, to judge planting seasons, and as the basis of countless myths and legends.
  • The Hubble Space Telescope has to wear glasses. When Hubble was launched in 1990, the first images that came back were blurry. NASA had to send up a team to add corrective optics to the telescope. Professor Impey discusses the importance of reliable equipment and thorough testing before launch. NASA skipped the final testing stage of Hubble, which would have cost $30 million, and instead cost themselves closer to $500 million fixing the problem.
  • The biggest mystery in the universe is the search for dark matter. We know dark matter exists because of its mass and interaction with electromagnetic radiation, but we still have no clue what it is. But now there’s some exciting research coming out of the Large Hadron Collider looking at new ‘supersymmetric particles’ which have the right properties to be dark matter.
  • The future of Mars exploration is the search for life. The physical issues of long-distance space travel mean we’re still a long way from putting a man on Mars. Future research will focus on bringing back rock samples, and continuing to search for evidence of water sources and ancient microbes. Finding life on another planet, even something so simple, has the potential to change everything we think we know about our solar system.

The course brings you up to date on all the latest scientific developments in a way even a novice like me can understand.

All the lectures were completely awe-inspiring. I feel like I understand more about our place in the universe, and it’s going to make stargazing a lot more interesting.

Transmedia Storytelling: Narrative worlds, emerging technologies, and global audiences

Okay, Transmedia Storytelling was more my wheelhouse. As a writer, I’m fascinated by how words work and I’m always looking for ways to make my writing stronger.

The course pulls expertise from a ton of different disciplines to create something totally fresh and original.

Film and television, journalism, social media, advertising and political activism are all combined to try to answer some really big questions – what does it mean to create a story? How do you use a narrative to engage your audience?

The lecturers come from all over the world and include producers, screenwriters, public speakers, game designers, journalists and marketing professionals. It’s an impressive line-up and I was really interested to hear some of their insights.

What I learned from Transmedia Storytelling:

  • How to focus your idea in a strong central narrative. The course delves into where seed ideas come from and how to develop them, how constraints can actually fire your imagination, and how to make structures work for you without falling into cliches.
  • The importance of interactive experiences. If you want your audience to engage with your work instead of just passively consuming it, you have to create a meaningful experience for them. Tom Ellard explains how to see things through the eyes of your audience and judge what’s important to them, and the way that different mediums guide your story in different directions.
  • How narratives and audiences are changing fast. Social media has opened up some incredible possibilities for interactive storytelling. Stuart Samuels explains how user-generated content has broken down the barriers between content creators and the audience, how fans have more control over content than ever before, and what his predictions are for the future of interactive narrative.
  • Not everything has to be high tech. As a bit of a technophobe, I really appreciated Henry Jenkins’ lecture on transmedia strategies that don’t use tons of technology, and why even cave paintings can be considered a form of transmedia.

This was the only course I took on Coursera that had multiple different lecturers. I really liked getting the chance to see lots of different perspectives on the topics.

The activities for this course were some of the most interesting writing exercises I’ve ever done. Trying to write a story in six words was a tough challenge, but it really helped me focus on what I was trying to say.

Mandarin Chinese for Beginners

If you’re going to learn a foreign language, why not choose one that allows you to communicate with more than 1.6 billion people?

I love to travel and I’ve spent a fair bit of time in East Asia, so I know that the best way to find an authentic travel experience is to speak the language. Even knowing a few basics is enough to get away from the tourist trail and explore for yourself.

Shanghai Jiao Tong University is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in China. Its School of Foreign Languages is well known for its diverse range of language courses.

Who better to get me started in Mandarin?

What I learned from Mandarin For Chinese Beginners:

  • The importance of food to Chinese culture. Chinese food is divided into eight regional cuisines, and there’s a fierce rivalry between the different areas. The modules on food teach you all about the different dishes and make it easy to order in a restaurant or go shopping.
  • How to make phone calls in Chinese. Making phone calls can be a bit intimidating even in your native language, but the course covers everything you need to feel confident, like telephone etiquette, how to arrange a meeting and typical words and phrases you’ll hear.
  • How to book a flight, buy a train ticket or direct a taxi. There’s enough about planes, trains and automobiles here that you’ll be able to navigate around the country easily and never worry about being stuck in a strange city.
  • The unique phonetics of Mandarin. The course takes a deep dive into the sounds that are tough for an English speaker. It teaches stuff like the subtle difference between the ‘sh’ and ‘x’ sounds and how to get your tones right every time. If you want to nail your pronunciation and sound like a native speaker then this is the stuff you need to know.

I liked that the lessons were really practical and focused on helping you get around in China. There are lots of neat cultural tips like the difference between different regional foods, why in China you should arrive at parties on time, and when it’s okay to try and bargain down the price – and when it’s not.

I have to say that they’re not the most interesting language lessons I’ve ever had.

There are so many amazing language-learning apps like Duolingo out there, plus free language videos on YouTube, fun language-learning podcasts and easy access to real materials in Chinese. The course feels really old-fashioned and academic in comparison.

It’s fine if you just want to learn a few basics, but there are definitely better courses out there.

Coursera Alternatives

Coursera review alternatives

Is Coursera the only option out there? Absolutely not.

With the increasing popularity of online learning, there are now hundreds of different sites to choose from. No matter what topic you can imagine, there will be a course for it somewhere.

Three of the most popular websites that are similar to Coursera are Masterclass, Udemy, and CreativeLive.

So how does the experience compare?

Alternative 1: Masterclass

Masterclass has classes from some of the most revered experts in the world — people like Christina Aguilera, Neil Gaiman and Steve Martin.

The incredibly high standards of expertise are similar to Coursera, but the focus is completely different. Masterclass is all about inspiring you with new ideas and helping you use your personal experiences in your work. It feels like an intimate chat with a friend.

Coursera has a much more academic feel. It focuses on marketable skills and solid qualifications. It’s probably a lot more useful if you’re looking to advance your career, but it’s not quite as fun.

Coursera has the advantage that lots of its courses are free, and the paid options are cheaper than masterclass. But Masterclass is much more slick and organized, with simple payment options and Playlists that are much easier to follow than Coursera’s Specializations.

And unfortunately Coursera doesn’t have the stunning production values that make Masterclass really stand out.

You can read more about MasterClass in my comprehensive review.

Alternative 2: Udemy

Courses on Udemy are created by users. Anyone can sign up and start teaching pretty much immediately. They have an almost never-ending range of courses — even more than Coursera.

As a result, the quality of the courses is pretty unreliable. In fact, there have been quite a few complaints about their academic standards. In my opinion, it’s only worth using if you can be sure that your course instructor knows what they’re talking about. Check out specific reviews before purchasing a course.

This is a complete contrast to Coursera. Their main selling point is their academic rigour and high educational standards.

The qualifications you get from Coursera are also proper professional qualifications from academic institutions. They’re a lot more impressive than anything Udemy can award you with.

If you’re serious about studying then Coursera is clearly a better choice.

Alternative 3: CreativeLive

CreativeLive focuses almost exclusively on creative subjects like fashion, photography, cake decorating and graphic design.

If your interests are in this area then you’ll probably find CreativeLive has more options in terms of courses and specializations. And just like with Coursera, people have used it to polish their skills and work towards a promotion or a career change.

But their qualifications aren’t as solid as Coursera’s. That’s why CreativeLive is better suited to the creative industries, where your portfolio is more important than a certificate.

If you want a degree, masters or professional qualification, you’ll find Coursera a lot more useful.

You’ll also find Coursera more useful for Economics, Law, Healthcare, Data Science, and pretty much anything that isn’t an ‘art’ subject.

CreativeLive didn’t really work for me because so many of the courses were really niche. I’m not interested in learning to make wedding cakes or design logos. Coursera’s art and photography classes have a broader focus and are better suited to my casual interest.

FAQs about Coursera

What is the cost of Coursera?

If you’re just learning for fun, most courses are free. If you want a certificate, short courses are between $39 and $89 per month. At the other end of the scale, degree courses start at around $10,000.

Is Coursera free?

Most courses are free. Choose the option to 'audit' the course and you'll see all the material but won't have to pay anything. However, if you want a certificate at the end for professional reasons, you’ll have to pay a small fee.

Is Coursera worth the money?

That depends on what you’re looking for! But if you want to get a solid professional qualification and the chance to hear lectures from leading experts in their field, it’s absolutely worth it.

Is Coursera trustworthy?

Yes. Coursera is the largest and most respected Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) provider. They feature courses from leading universities and institutions around the world. Coursera is not going to swindle you.

Is Coursera accredited?

Coursera courses are not accredited in the same way as a typical college or university. However, unlike many online education providers, they do offer verified certificates and real degrees that can benefit your career.

How do I get my certificate?

You need to verify your name first – the process is pretty quick and straightforward. Click your username in the top right-hand corner, go to Setting, and hit 'Verify My Name'. If you’re doing a Degree, MasterTrack, or Professional Certificate course then Coursera will contact you to verify your identity via government-issued ID. For all other courses, there’s no need to verify. Simply fill in the name you want on your certificate and you're done.

Can I download the courses so I can study offline?

Yes. All the videos, transcripts and supplemental reading material are easy to download onto your computer. The only thing you can’t download is the the online quizzes.

How do the peer-reviewed assignments work?

You get randomly assigned a classmate’s work to grade, while someone else grades yours. You can grade multiple assignments and get feedback from multiple classmates on your work, if you want. If you want to be graded by an academic then you have to pay for the course.

My Coursera review verdict: Is it worth it?

 

Coursera review verdict

After taking 5 courses in full, is Coursera is worth it?

I think Coursera is an incredible asset if you’re looking for a way to make quantifiable progress with your studies or get a reliable qualification at the end of it.

In my opinion, it’s worth signing up for Coursera’s paid features if you:

  • Are trying to gain marketable skills or professional qualifications
  • Want to attend college but can’t be physically present
  • Are interested in CompSci, Math or Business Studies.

Coursera might not be worth it if you:

  • Don’t care about schedules and want to learn at your own pace
  • Are more interested in ideas and creativity than concrete skills
  • Want to learn a language – you’re better off with a more specialized choice.

In spite of my criticisms, I genuinely enjoyed my experience with Coursera and ultimately writing this Coursera review. The teachers are all enthusiastic and passionate about what they do, and the academic atmosphere really motivated me to learn.

Even though I’m not interested in getting any more qualifications, I think I’ll definitely be signing up for more of their courses. There’s still a great photography course I want to try, and some intriguing personal development courses.

And if I ever decide I want to do a professional certificate, Coursera is the first place I’ll look.

Koller and Ng had a vision of a world where top quality education was open to everyone. They’ve taken a huge step towards achieving that and I think they should be very proud of everything they’ve accomplished.

Check Out The Catalog

Coursera is always adding new courses. Check out the updated catalog of courses here.

(This opens in a new tab so you can keep reading this review)

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