If Udemy is the everyman’s Lifelong Learning Centre of online course providers, then Coursera is the hoity-toity higher education ivory tower. With an esteemed pedigree – founded by Stanford University professors Andy Ng and Daphne Koller – and a raft of courses taught by college-level professors at accredited institutions, it has an air of legitimacy to it that other providers may lack. But while it has plenty of expertise, how does this learning platform compare to the competition?
- Free Courses
One of the nice things about Coursera is the fact that you don’t have to pay a penny to enroll on to many of their courses. Paying for a course entitles you to extra content and assignments and a certificate of completion for you to pop on to your Linkedin profile, but of you’ve got the urge to learn solely for the fun of it with real college-level professors you can do so for nothing.
If you want to really deep-dive into a topic, Coursera offers a number of ‘Specialisation‘ courses. These are bundles of related courses covering a single subject (e.g Python, Academic Writing), with a single certificate offered for completion. Specialisations are a great option for those seeking professional training in an unfamiliar field.
- Professional Certificates
Professional Certificates are – as the name suggests – specialisation courses aimed at developing real job skills, often curated by the companies themselves. Some of these companies include Google, IBM and Arizona State University, and cover topics such as cybersecurity, customer engagement or TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language).
- Online Degrees
For those who really want to throw themselves into online learning, Coursera offers a number of fully-accredited college degree programmes. These degree programmes cost just a fraction of what a brick-and-mortar university degree would cost, and can be completed at your own pace. While it may lack the heft of completing a proper university course in the eyes of some employers, getting certified is always going to be looked more favourably than not.
Plans and Pricing
As stated above, it’s free to enroll on many of Coursera’s courses. However, if you’d like certification and coursework, expect to pay the following:
- Individual Courses: $29 – $99
- Specialisations: $39 – $79 (per month)
- Degrees: $15,000 – $25,000 (over 1 – 3 years)
Each course comes with a two-week guarantee, which you can redeem as long as you haven’t received certification yet.
If you’re an avid learner, it may be worth signing up for Coursera’s subscription model, Coursera Plus. For $399 a year, you get the following:
- Access to over 3000 courses across a wide range of disciplines.
- Guided Projects, Specialisations and Professional Certificates.
- 14 Day Money Back Guarantee
- Unlimited Certificates
Coursera for Teams
For businesses, there’s Coursera for Teams, a subscription model that provides the following for $400 per user per year:
- Access for between 5 to 125 learners.
- Over 3800 courses in over 100 subject disciplines.
- Over 400 Specialisations.
- 14 Day Money Back Guarantee
- Administrator Tools
- User Management and Messaging Systems
High Standard of Courses
Unlike Udemy’s hit-and-miss courses, the standard of Coursera’s classes is generally very high. The courses are taught by top instructors from renowned companies and institutions including Google, John Hopkins and Dukes, and plenty of effort has been put into providing a college-level experience for a fraction of the price.
While perhaps not quite as expansive as the likes of Udemy, Coursera still offers plenty of courses across a wide selection of disciplines. These include over 130 classes in the Humanities, over 100 in IT and Design and over 50 in Software Engineering. Many of these courses are also offered in multiple languages including English, Chinese and Spanish.
Yes, It’s Free
It’s worth reiterating – Coursera’s courses cost absolutely nada. You can choose to ‘audit’ a course (watch the lectures, complete the self-assessments and so on) by merely signing up with your name and email. This is a great option for those more keen to expand their knowledge than gain certification.
Not Really a Substitute for the Real College Experience
While Coursera might advertise itself as providing the college experience through your computer screen, in reality it’s still a little lacking. Obviously it can’t replicate the social aspects of moving away to college. But there are other issues, too, such as the ease of the quizzes (often only a handful of questions you can retake until you pass).
Payment Options Can Be A Little Confusing
One recurring complaint you’ll hear about Coursera is that of hidden fees or charges. Some of the angrier reviews have even accused the company of fraud or deception. With a huge user-base and a strong pedigree, that’s unlikely to be the case. However, Coursera’s confusing pricing structure – with optional payments, subscriptions and so on all jumbled into one – could very easily lead to some paying for things they didn’t necessarily want.
With its roots in academia and consistent adherence to quality, the vast majority of Coursera’s courses are almost certainly worth your time – and the option to take them for free just sweetens the deal. However, some of the services may be a little overpriced compared to the value of the qualification you receive.