Coursera as a platform has been growing exponentially. Over the past two years, the number of registered learners on Coursera has more than doubled, and it s now the learning platform of choice for more than 90 million students. It’s also the online education platform of choice for large corporations such as Adobe and MasterCard for workforce training. At first glance, Coursera seems like the perfect platform for learning any topic online. To see whether that’s still really the case in 2023, I will have a deeper look into the platform in this review of Coursera, taking into account recent changes to the platform and pricing.
Table of Contents
What is Coursera?
Coursera is one of the world’s leading online education websites. Partnering with some of the leading universities around the world, Coursera provides massive open online courses (MOOCs), professional certificates, micro-credential programs, and online degrees. It was one of the first companies in the MOOC industry to achieve so-called “unicorn” status with its more than $1 billion valuation. It’s been designed specifically for students who want to reap the benefits of studying online, without sacrificing university-level quality. In this Coursera review, you will find out why exactly that is.
To give you a quick overview of the platform, here are some recent key numbers about Coursera’s offerings:
- 113+ million registered learners
- 10,300+ online courses and projects
- 790+ Specializations
- 100+ Professional Certificate programs
- 30 MasterTrack micro-credential programs
- 6 online Bachelor’s degrees
- 32 online Master’s degrees
- 46 online University Certificates
- 2,900+ enterprise customers, including Adobe and the Abu Dhabi School of Government
In the course of this review of Coursera, you will learn what these various learning programs mean and whether they are a good fit for you. However, before that, let’s have a quick look at the history of Coursera and how it became such a giant in the e-learning industry.
History of Coursera
Coursera was founded in 2012 by two computer science professors from Stanford University – Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller. However, Andrew Ng started playing around with online learning software much earlier than that. In 2008, he developed the Stanford Engineering Everywhere (SEE) program, which delivered three Stanford courses on machine learning, databases, and AI to online students for free. Each of these three online courses gathered signups of 100,000 students or more, as detailed by Andrew himself. Seeing such demand for online classes sparked Andrew’s enthusiasm even more, and before long, he started actively developing Coursera together with co-founder Daphne Koller.
Going back in time to 2012, take a look at this interview with Daphne Koller, co-creator of Coursera. When she gave this talk, Coursera only had 43 online courses available. In the ten years since that number has grown more than a hundred-fold to over 6,000 courses (and another 4000+ shorter projects).
Andrew and Daphne saw so much potential in this type of e-learning that they put their careers as professors at Stanford on hold and started focusing solely on the MOOC site. Looking back on it, they made the right choice, as only seven years later, the company they created is already valued at over $1 billion.
The two ex-CEOs of Coursera, Andrew and Daphne, are no longer actively managing the company. They are, however, still highly active in entrepreneurship. In 2018, Daphne Koller founded Insitro, an innovative company that intertwines drug discovery and machine learning. Around the same time, Andrew revealed the “AI Fund” that would invest hundreds of millions of dollars in artificial intelligence projects.
Coursera is still a relatively new company, and I am interested to see what the future will look like.
How much does Coursera cost?
Coursera’s cost depends on the type of online class.
- Individual Coursera courses cost $29 to $99. In most cases, they can be audited for free.
- Coursera’s specialization programs are based on monthly payments of $39 to $89.
- The Coursera MasterTrack certificate programs cost beginning from $2,000, with some costing up to $5,000.
- Most online Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees cost between $10,000 to $50,000. A few cost less, an MBA for $6,000 and a Bachelor’s in Computer Science for $4,000-6,000, both offered by leading universities in India.
Coursera Plus is Coursera’s yearly subscription service through which learners can access all 10,000+ Coursera courses, projects, and specializations, as well as many of the professional certificates, with unlimited access. At $59/month or $399 annually, the plan offers excellent value for student such who take online courses frequently.
Is Coursera worth It?
Yes, Coursera is legit and worth the cost for anyone who wants to pursue online learning with leading academic institutions. Coursera is one of the most cost-effective MOOC sites currently out there. Thousands of university-backed online courses make it highly appealing for MOOCs, and the new subscription-based Coursera Plus offers excellent value for frequent online students.
How does Coursera make money?
Coursera’s yearly revenue is estimated to be around $500 million in 2022, most of which comes from paid online courses, Specializations, MasterTracks, online degrees, and enterprise clients. The global corporate e-learning market size is growing astonishingly quickly, and it’s also becoming an increasingly large portion of Coursera’s revenue.
Coursera's online courses
Now, it’s time to review Coursera’s most important feature – Coursera’s online course catalog. As of the latest update of this Coursera review, more than 6,000 online courses are available on the platform, with new ones added constantly. On top of that, there are also over 4,000 short standalone projects of various kinds.
Coursera’s courses are delivered in partnership with leading universities or with leading industry actors, such as Google and Nvidia. This is a significant benefit of Coursera compared to other platforms such as Udemy. Online courses on Udemy don’t always have university support and tend to be developed by an independent instructor. There are certainly some fantastic courses on these kinds of platforms as well. However, there’s no getting around the fact that they also have a lot of low-quality cash-grab courses created by instructors who are not actual experts.
With Coursera, you at least know that any course you pay for has university-level quality assurance.
Coursera’s model is very similar to edX, but has a different catalog, more developed higher-end offerings in terms of degrees and certificates, and a more streamlined interface.
How do Coursera’s courses work?
Coursera’s courses, for the most part, work similarly to other online course providers. The syllabuses on Coursera are split into weekly units, and the online courses usually involve the following types of learning materials:
- video-based lectures
- online reading materials
- peer-graded assignments
After soaking up the knowledge through video lectures and reading materials, you are usually given a quiz to test your knowledge. Depending on the course, the first learning week might not include a quiz, but every course on Coursera that I’ve seen has included quizzes at some point in the curriculum. Peer-graded assignments usually start later in the syllabus, as they already require a considerable amount of knowledge and skills in the student.
It should be noted, however, that not all of these features are free to access. In most cases, auditing an online course on Coursera is free, meaning you can review all the learning material at no cost. Auditing, however, does not include quizzes and peer-graded assignments. For me, the quizzes and assignments are the most educational (and fun!) parts of taking a Coursera course, so there is a strong motivating factor to pay for the course.
Are Coursera courses accredited?
Coursera courses are in general delivered in partnership with universities and are accredited accordingly. When completing a course, you will be issued a certificate which is issued by Coursera and the university – these have significantly more value than certificates from many other platforms where they are issued by a random individual or organization. University-backed certifications are generally seen as trustworthy by employers.
Auditing Coursera courses for free
Another important distinction of Coursera is that most online courses are free to audit. This means you can access all the video and reading materials for free. This is a fantastic opportunity for students on a tight budget who can’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars on courses they are interested in.
However, as mentioned before, there are some downsides to the free auditing of courses:
- No certificates. Auditing a course on Coursera does not give you a certificate. Therefore, if your end goal is to land a job with your newly gathered skills and knowledge, you might want to consider paying for the course so that you can put a Coursera certificate onto your resume.
- No assignment grading. Coursera’s free courses don’t include instructor or peer-to-peer grading options. This can become troublesome as you aren’t getting any feedback on your progress during your studies unless you pay for the course.
- No quizzes. Even though many modern educators consider quizzes to be old-fashioned assessment methods, they still have a soft spot in my heart. Well-built quizzes are some of my favorite tools for knowledge testing, and a total lack of quizzes in audited Coursera courses makes me prefer to pay for them.
- No college credit. Auditing Coursera’s courses does not give you any credit toward a college degree, as you can otherwise get with some of the courses. Note that most courses that provide credit are for US universities, but some exceptions exist.
Depending on the course, some additional features might be missing from the free audit version. Overall, despite all these penalties for choosing to audit a course instead of paying for it, I think auditing courses on Coursera is still a spectacular opportunity for learning new skills for free. I know people who have started careers in entirely new fields as a result of taking a few online classes on Coursera. And they didn’t pay a single cent for those courses. Not a bad deal at all, if you ask me.
After reviewing Coursera’s courses, it makes sense to move on to Specializations. These are some of the most popular categories of online classes on Coursera because they function similarly to a traditional curriculum. Students develop deep knowledge of a topic through a series of intertwined courses. By the end of the Specialization, they will have an excellent foundation of knowledge, together with a finished student project and Specialization certificate.
What is a Coursera specialization?
Coursera Specializations are a series of related online courses. For example, one of Coursera’s most popular offerings in this category, the “Python for Everybody Specialization,” includes five courses on the topic of Python programming. It’s also possible to take these five courses individually, but then you would miss out on the Specialization certificate and hands-on project.
Are Coursera specializations worth it?
Yes, Coursera Specializations are worth the investment. Coursera Specializations provide degree-level knowledge at a relatively low monthly cost, and they come from the world’s top universities, such as Stanford University and Johns Hopkins University. If you have a Coursera Plus subscription, all specializations are included.
How do Coursera specializations work?
Coursera Specializations work similarly to regular courses where you have to pass weekly units with lectures, readings, and quizzes. The units CAN be taken in succession quicker than the proposed schedule. Since you are paying for access to Specializations on a monthly basis, you can take a month’s worth of units in one week and save money. Once you have finished all the units of the first course, you are taken to the next courses, until finally arriving at the hands-on Specialization project. After that, you will be awarded a Coursera Specialization Certificate.
Coursera's Professional Certificate programs
If building a strong resume is one of your end goals, then taking a Professional Certificate program on Coursera will be right up your alley. Upon graduation, these programs give students professional certification from the institution that created the course. Unlike the Specializations that are mainly delivered together with academic partners, the Professional Certificates have been developed with leading corporate partners, including Google, Meta, Microsoft, Palo Alto Networks, and IBM.
However, even if they are delivered by companies, some certificates will give you university credit that you can apply toward your university degree – and the degrees are available to take online on Coursera as well, as a bonus. For example, completing the “Google IT Support” certificate will earn you college credit if accepted to the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science at the University of London and the Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences at the University of North Texas. This can be a great deal as it can save you both time and money once you are accepted to the degree.
There are currently over 100 Professional Certificate programs available on Coursera. We’ve listed a selection of these below, together with their prices. Keep in mind that for the certificates that are included in the Coursera Plus subscription, these prices will essentially be reduced to $33 per month (the subscription cost for an annual plan).
Included with Coursera Plus:
- “Google IT Support” by Google: $39 per month
- “Google IT Automation with Python” by Google: $39 per month
- “SAS Programmer” by SAS: $49 per month
- “SAS Visual Business Analytics” by SAS: $79 per month
- “TESOL” by Arizona State University: $49 per month
- “IBM Technical Support” by IBM: $39 per month
- “IBM Data Science” by IBM: $39 per month
- “IBM AI Engineering” by IBM: $49 per month
- “IBM z/OS Mainframe Practitioner” by IBM: $79 per month
As you can see, Google and IBM have rather extensive catalogs of certifications to choose from. About half of all certifications are issued by Google and another 20 or so by IBM. This should also give you an idea of who Coursera’s Professional Certificate programs are largely meant for. It’s for people who want to start new IT careers in large international corporations such as Google and IBM (or in other companies using these companies’ products).
If your end goal is landing a job at companies such as Google or IBM, then getting a professional certificate or two issued by the companies themselves will boost your resume.
Coursera's MasterTrack programs
In March 2018, Coursera announced its version of micro-credential programs. Dubbed the Coursera MasterTrack Certificates, they were introduced at a time when edX, another massive MOOC website, was becoming dominant in the micro-credential marketplace. These types of micro-credential programs are designed for students who want knowledge on the level of a Master’s degree but without the time and costs that normally come with obtaining one.
What is a Coursera MasterTrack program?
Coursera MasterTracks are university-backed single-semester online certificate programs that last 4 to 7 months. The university in charge of the program issues students who pass the course a MasterTrack Certificate. MasterTrack Certificates can act as a booster to resumes or count as college credit towards a full degree.
Importantly, unlike a normal Master’s program, there is no application process – you can enroll directly. However, the program is not self-paced and you will have to wait for the next cohort to start.
What Coursera MasterTrack programs are available?
As of the latest update of this article in 2023, there are a total of 30 MasterTrack programs available on Coursera. Note that the MasterTrack programs are not included in Coursera Plus. Here is a sample of available MasterTracks and their cost:
- “Business Analytics for Managers” by Tufts University: $3,000
- “Instructional Design” by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: $2,384
- “Machine Learning for Analytics” by University of Chicago: $4,000
This selection of micro-credential programs offered by Coursera is high-quality but not very varied. Currently, some competitors have a considerably better choice of online certification programs. As mentioned before, edX is the biggest of the bunch, with its massive selection of 59 micro-credential programs to choose from. However, that is to be expected since edX has been building its micro-credential catalog longer than Coursera has.
Another thing to note is that the cost of these MasterTrack certificates is not exactly cheap – although they are certainly more affordable than following these courses in person at the institutions in question. But the similarly structured edX MicroMasters programs begin at around $1,000. With Coursera MasterTracks, you will be hard-pressed to find anything under $2,000.
Are Coursera MasterTrack certificates worth it?
If I weren’t familiar with the alternatives, I would say “yes” in a heartbeat. However, if we directly compare Coursera’s MasterTracks to edX’s MicroMasters, Coursera’s prices often come out considerably higher. To showcase the value of Coursera’s MasterTracks compared to edX’s MicroMasters, let’s take an example in the form of supply chain online certification programs. The reason for this choice is that both of the two sites offer similar certification programs in this field.
Let’s start by looking at Coursera’s “Supply Chain Excellence” MasterTrack program. It costs $2,000, takes four months to finish, and is taught by Rutgers University (The State University of New Jersey). It doesn’t seem like a bad deal at first glance. After all, you’re getting university-level knowledge on a similar level to a Master’s degree for a fraction of the cost. However, let’s have a look at the alternative:
edX offers an online certification program on the same topic: the “Supply Chain Management” MicroMasters program. It costs $1,524, takes 17 months to finish, and is led by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). The edX alternative appears to offer more comprehensive course content than Coursera (17 months at 8-12 hours/week vs. four months at 6-8 hours/week). And it does so at a 20% discount. Moreover, the university that teaches the program edX is MIT. According to worldwide university program rankings, MIT is considered to be the world’s #1 university for programs in supply chain management and logistics. This could mean that the courses are of a higher quality and that the certificate from MIT would be more recognized than the one from Rutgers.
From this supply chain and logistics example, edX seems like a superior choice. However, this was just one example – and before making a decision, take your time and compare the programs you are interested in across the different platforms to ensure it is a good fit for your priorities. Compare the universities, prices, course difficulty, program duration – everything. You might find that you prefer shorter programs, for example, and in this case, MIT’s 17-month program is not that great of an option for you. Take your time, and make an informed decision – that’s my best recommendation.
Coursera's online degrees
Coursera has a total of 38 online degrees available (32 Master’s + 6 Bachelor’s). Currently, it’s the second-best selection of online degrees out there, now in 2023, even ahead of FutureLearn with its 35 online degree choices but behind edX, with its 105 online Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees.
The demand for online degrees is increasing every year. With more than 3 million students studying fully online higher education in 2018, MOOC websites constantly compete against each other to offer the most appealing solutions to students and universities.
Coursera has been offering online degrees since 2017, which was the year when it released its first two fully online master’s degrees:
- “Online Master’s in Innovation and Entrepreneurship” by HEC Paris
- “Online Master’s of Accounting (iMSA)” by the University of Illinois
In 2018, Coursera added another six fully online degrees (5 Master’s, one Bachelor’s) to their catalog. The lineup of online master’s degrees on Coursera now also included the following programs:
- “Online Master’s of Computer Science“ by the Arizona State University
- “Online Master’s of Public Health“ by Imperial College London
- “Online Master’s of Computer Science in Data Science“ by the University of Illinois
- “Online Master’s of Applied Data Science“ by the University of Michigan
- “Online Master’s of Public Health“ by the University of Michigan
And, this was also the year when Coursera introduced their very first online bachelor’s program:
- “Online Bachelor’s of Computer Science“ by the University of London
The lineup of online degrees on Coursera has been growing since then, with another seven online master’s degrees added into the selection in 2019:
- “Online Master’s of Business Administration“ by the University of Illinois
- “Online Master’s of Global Business Administration“ by Macquarie University
- “Online Master’s of Software Engineering (in Spanish)“ by Universidad de los Andes
- “Online Master’s of Electrical Engineering“ by the University of Colorado Boulder
- “Online Master’s of Computer and Information Technology” by Penn Engineering
- “Online Master’s of Data Science“ by HSE
- “Online Master’s of Data Science“ by University of Colorado Boulder
And, another single online bachelor’s degree was added to Coursera in 2019 (raising the total to 2):
- “Online Bachelor’s of Applied Arts and Sciences” by the University of North Texas
The pace has increased since then, leading to the 38 degrees available today.
Are Coursera degrees recognized?
Yes, all online degrees on Coursera are delivered directly by the universities in question and are therefore fully accredited and internationally recognized. Degrees on Coursera are developed by universities from across the globe and then hosted on Coursera. This means that you get the same university-level knowledge from a Coursera degree that you would from a traditional college degree.
Are Coursera degrees worth the price?
Yes – Coursera degrees offer significantly better value than traditional college degrees, and you can expect to save at least 50% to 75% on overall expenses by choosing to learn online. Compared to other online degrees, Coursera’s degrees are priced reasonably, and the price ranges are very similar to competitors such as edX.
Coursera for Business (B2B)
With 90% of corporations using e-learning, high-quality enterprise online learning solutions are becoming highly sought after in the industry. The corporate e-learning industry is showing massive growth of 15% per year, which is also evident when you look at Coursera for Business.
Coursera’s enterprise business saw 100% year-over-year customer growth in 2019. This was fueled by partnerships with organizations such as Mastercard, Southwest Airlines, Adobe, and 60 other Fortune 500 companies. Coursera seems set to become the industry leader in corporate e-learning, so what better time than now to review Coursera for Business as a solution for enterprise customers?
What is Coursera for Business?
Coursera for Business is a corporate e-learning service from Coursera. Its aim is to provide corporate training and workforce development through online courses. Through Coursera for Business, employees get access to learning programs from top universities, with university-backed certificates provided upon graduation.
How Does Coursera for Business work?
With Coursera for Business, corporate employees get access to over 7,000 online classes which they can use for building new skill sets and knowledge. Employees also get access to projects, graded assessments, and quizzes, while managers can track the learning progress of employees and provide feedback when necessary. It is basically Coursera Plus for teams but with additional features.
The Enterprise plan which is for organizations larger than 100 employees, brings some extra features to the table:
- Industry skill insights and benchmarking from Coursera
- Course recommendations for employees
- Customer success managers
- LMS integrations (Degreed, Cornerstone, CrossKnowledge, SuccessFactors)
- API integrations
How much does Coursera for Business cost?
Coursera for Business has two different payment plans: Team, and Enterprise. The Team plan costs $400/user/year. The Enterprise plan, aimed at organizations with 100+ employees, provides numerous extra features and costs less per user than the Team plan (at a negotiated price).
Review conclusion: Is Coursera Worth it?
Coursera is an excellent MOOC website that has earned its place as a leader in the industry.
For taking individual online courses or groups of courses (specializations), I consider Coursera one of the best websites out there. All their courses are accredited, and internationally recognized universities and industry partners issue all certificates. Well-built quizzes, high-quality video lectures, and relevant reading materials are something I expect from all Coursera courses, and I have yet to be disappointed. The opportunity to audit most of Coursera’s online classes for free is also a splendid opportunity for many students.
As for Coursera’s new micro-credential solution, the MasterTrack programs, my verdict becomes a bit more complicated. On the one hand, the MasterTrack programs offer degree-level knowledge for a fraction of the price of an actual degree. But on the other hand, competitors such as edX and FutureLearn offer programs that can sometimes be more content-rich and affordable. Comparing the specific programs you are interested in across platforms is essential.
The selection of online degrees available on Coursera is one of the very best out there. With competitive price points and excellent universities backing these degrees, Coursera certainly becomes one of the most appealing online learning platforms.
All in all, Coursera is absolutely worth a strong recommendation. They have some of the best online courses in the world, and any serious e-student can’t afford to miss out on their online class selection. Andrew and Daphne, the founders of Coursera, have really achieved something historical with this website. I’m very excited to see what the future has in store for the site.
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