Coursera as a platform is growing exponentially. Over the past two years, the number of registered learners on Coursera has more than dobule 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 when it comes to workforce training. At first glance, Coursera seems like the perfect platform for learning any topic online. To see whether that’s really the case, I will have a deeper look into the platform in this review of Coursera.
Table of Contents
What is Coursera?
Coursera is one of the world’s leading online education websites. Massive open online courses (MOOCs), professional certificates, micro-credential programs, and online degrees are Coursera’s primary line of business. Coursera 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 easily one of the best MOOC websites 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 of Coursera:
- 92+ million registered learners
- 6,300+ online courses
- 760+ Specializations
- 21 Professional Certificate programs
- 27 MasterTrack micro-credential programs
- 32 online Master’s degrees
- 6 online Bachelor’s degrees
- 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. At the time when she was giving this talk, Coursera only had 43 online courses available. In less than eight years, that number has grown nearly a hundred-fold to 4000.
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 definitely 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 themselves. 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 into artificial intelligence projects.
Coursera is still a relatively new company, and I am really 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, but in most cases, they can be audited for free. Coursera’s specialization programs are based on monthly payments of $39 to $89 per month. The Coursera MasterTrack certificate programs cost beginning from $2000. Coursera’s online degrees, however, can cost anywhere from $15000 to $42000.
Coursera Plus is Coursera’s yearly subscription service through which learners can access all 3000+ Coursera courses, specializations and professional certificates with unlimited access. 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. 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 $140 million and most of it 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 arguably most important feature. That is, of course, Coursera’s online course catalog. As of the writing of this Coursera review, there are more than 6,000 online courses available on the platform, with new ones being added constantly.
All of Coursera’s courses are university-backed and developed as a result of university partnerships. This is actually a major benefit of Coursera when compared to other platforms such as Udemy. Online courses on Udemy don’t always have university support, and they are developed by a single 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 true experts.
With Coursera, you at least know that any course you pay for has had university-level quality assurance.
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 met with a quiz that will 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 on in the syllabus, as they already require a considerable amount of knowledge and skills in the students.
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 that you can review all of the learning material at no cost. Auditing, however, does not include quizzes and peer-graded assignments. For me personally, 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?
Yes, all Coursera courses are fully accredited by universities. Accreditation gives certifications significantly more value, which is why Coursera’s certificates are sought-after. After all, online certificates mean very little if they are issued by a random individual or organization. University-backed certifications, on the other hand, are generally seen as trustworthy by employers.
Auditing Coursera courses for free
Another important distinction of Coursera is that most of their online courses are absolutely free to audit. This means that you can access all of the video materials and reading materials for free. This is a fantastic opportunity for students who are on a tight budget and 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 certification. Coursera’s free courses don’t give certificates. 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 homework grading. Coursera’s free courses don’t include any kind of instructor grading or peer-to-peer grading options. This can become troublesome as you aren’t really getting any kind of professional feedback to your progress during studies unless you pay for the course.
- No quizzes. Even though many modern educators consider quizzes to be old-fashioned methods of student evaluation, 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. In most cases, Coursera’s free courses don’t give any credit towards a college degree. As I’m not from the United States myself, I have little opportunities to use Coursera’s college credit in any case. However, I know many students love the opportunity to get college credit for taking online courses so I felt like it was worth a mention.
Depending on the course, there might be some additional features missing from the free audit version. Overall, though, 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 completely 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 now move on to Specializations. These are some of the most popular categories of online classes on Coursera because they function in a similar way to a traditional curriculum. Students develop deep knowledge on a topic through a series of intertwined courses, and by the end of the Specialization, they will have a very solid 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 Specializations, the “Python for Everybody”, includes 5 courses on the topic of Python programming. It’s also possible to take these 5 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 absolutely 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.
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, so if you take a month’s worth of units in one week you can save money on the monthly payments. 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. This includes not only universities but also various international corporations.
There are currently 21 Professional Certificate programs available on Coursera and they include the following. Keep in mind that if you purchase a yearly Coursera Plus subscription that gives unlimited access to courses and certificates, these prices will essentially be reduced to $33 per month (the cost of subscription).
- “Google IT Support” by Google: $49 per month
- “IBM Data Science” by IBM: $39 per month
- “SAS Programmer” by SAS: $79 per month
- “TESOL” by Arizona State University: $49 per month
- “IBM Customer Engagement Specialist” by IBM: $99 fixed price
- “Google IT Automation with Python” by Google: $49 per month
- “Cloud Architecture with Google Cloud” by Google: $49 per month
- “IBM AI Engineering” by IBM: $49 per month
- “IBM Applied AI” by IBM: $49 per month
- “Data Engineering with Google Cloud” by Google: $49 per month
- “Cloud Engineering with Google Cloud” by Google: $49 per month
- “Applied Project Management” by UCI: $2980 fixed price
- “IBM z/OS Mainframe Practitioner” by IBM: $79 per month
- “SAS Visual Business Analytics” by SAS: $79 per month
- “(ISC)² Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP)” by (ISC)²: $200 fixed price
As you can see, Google and IBM have rather extensive catalogs of certifications to choose from. In fact, one-third of all certifications are issued by Google, and another third 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.
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 give an excellent boost to your resume.
Coursera's MasterTrack programs
In March of 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 gaining a monopoly 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 associated 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. Students who pass the course are issued a MasterTrack Certificate by the university in charge of the program. MasterTrack Certificates can act as a booster to resumes or count as college credit towards a full degree.
What Coursera MasterTrack programs are available?
As of the writing of this article, there are a total of 27 MasterTrack programs available on Coursera. Here is a sample of available MasterTracks and their cost:
- “Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization” by University of California, Davis: $3,000
- “Supply Chain Excellence” by Rutgers University: $2,000
- “Instructional Design” by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: $2,384
- “Machine Learning for Analytics” by University of Chicago: $4,000
- “Construction Engineering and Management” by University of Michigan: $2,000
- “Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship” by HEC Paris: $4,000
- “Big Data” by Arizona State University: $4,500
- “Software Engineering” by Arizona State University: $4,500
This selection of micro-credential programs offered by Coursera is high-quality, but not very varied. As of right now, some competitors have a considerably better choice of online certification programs. As mentioned before, edX being the biggest of the bunch with their massive selection of 57 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 a lot cheaper 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 wasn’t familiar with the alternatives, I would say “yes” in a heartbeat. However, if we directly compare Coursera’s MasterTracks to edX’s MicroMasters, it becomes apparent that Coursera’s prices are considerably higher. One important distinction has to be made here, though – edX is a non-profit company, while Coursera is a for-profit company. You can’t really fault Coursera for having higher prices than a non-profit company such as edX.
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 offered similar certification programs in this field.
Now, let’s start off by taking a look at Coursera’s “Supply Chain Excellence” MasterTrack program. It costs $2,000, takes 4 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 1 year and 5 months to finish, and is led by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). It appears that edX offers more comprehensive course content than Coursera (17 months at 8-12 hours/week vs 4 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 both 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 example in supply chain & logistics, edX certainly seems like a superior choice. However, this was just one example – and before making a decision, take your time and compare the programs that you are interested in across the different platforms to make sure 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 2022 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 are constantly competing against each other in order 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 catalogue. 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 being 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
Are Coursera degrees recognized?
Yes, all online degrees on Coursera are 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. When compared to other online degrees, Coursera’s degrees are priced fairly and the price ranges are very similar to competitors such as edX.
Coursera for Business (B2B)
With 90% of corporations now 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, and this type of growth is also evident when you look at Coursera for Business.
Coursera’s enterprise business saw a 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 all set to become the industry leader in corporate e-learning, so what better time than now to review Coursera for Business as a solution to 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 over 3900 top universities, with university-backed certificates being provided upon graduation.
How Does Coursera for Business work?
With Coursera for Business, corporate employees get access to nearly 4000 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.
The Enterprise plan which is for organizations larger than 100 employees, bring 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. The exact Enterprise price, however, is reached upon negotiation.
Review conclusion: Is Coursera Worth it?
Coursera is an outstanding 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 to be one of the very best websites out there. All their courses are fully accredited, and all certificates are issued by internationally recognized universities. 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 solutions, the MasterTrack programs, my personal verdict becomes a bit more complicated. On 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 offer significantly cheaper and more content-rich programs of a similar style. Therefore, before investing in a Coursera MasterTrack program, I would suggest that you first check out platforms such as edX. Their prices might be more competitive, depending on the specialization.
The selection of online degrees available on Coursera is also 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 degree platforms currently out there.
All in all, Coursera is absolutely worth a strong recommendation. They have some of the very 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. Personally, I’m very excited to see what the future has in store for the site.