Coursera partners with top universities and educational institutes to provide universal access to the world’s best education. Through this partnership Coursera is able to to offer online courses in a wide range of the most current disciplines for anyone to take, free of charge.
The majority of each course is offered free of charge but if you complete certain criteria and pass the tests then you can earn a Verified Certificate which you have to pay for. The idea is that these courses are recognised by employers and universities so can be used to increase your employability. If you do decide you want the official certificate then you can expect to pay a premium and some of the courses comprise of several parts that all require a separate payment.
Everything is well designed making it easier to manage your schedule. The site allows you to enroll in multiple courses at the same time if you wish and they have an excellent email notification system to remind you about upcoming courses and any deadlines you might have missed. Each topic has a discussion board where you can interact with other students and even benefit from them reviewing your work.
Coursera can boast that they have now had 10 million learners globally use their platform to gain knowledge and skills from a selection of the world’s most respected academic experts. The site offers a broad range of subjects aimed at beginners and more advanced learners alike. One of the key benefits as well as the opportunity to learn from leading experts is the structure of each course complete with many tests to help you learn as you go along. Easy to find courses by specialism and you can also search for particular universities as well to see what courses they have to offer.
The lectures themselves are all of a very high quality and the site is far more interactive than others allowing more collaboration with the active community of students who use the site. Although most of the courses are spread out over several weeks the lectures range from 4-10 minutes in length and you are only expected to get through a couple of hours a week.
Each course comes with a preview video and plenty of upfront information about the full range of topics covered. Once you start the course they also provide a huge amount of supplementary material through suggested further readings and optional videos. This aspect also gives it the feel of a typical university course and can be helpful to flesh out what you have already learnt from the lectures.
Check out our top five courses on Coursera here
While discussion boards often have regular participation from your fellow students there is often less interaction from staff due in part to the regularity of the courses offered. As the same course is run on an overlap starting every week it would be unrealistic to have the lecturers constantly available for support. The material covered is generally more theoretical and provides more depth on a topic so may not suit those looking for a quick fix. Depends on your current situation and whether you have established your learning outcome in advance. As courses are produced by universities they tend to be more formal and at times less engaging than other sites.
Some people will not appreciate the amount of time required to complete a course as most take at least four weeks. The site does allow you to skip parts though at your convenience so if you are not trying to earn the certificate then you are able to only watch the parts you are interested in. Therefore if you decide to follow the structure exactly you need to ensure that you are going to get enough value to justify this commitment.
Student ratings are clearly displayed so you can see what others thought but the menu options could be improved to enable you to filter through content quicker. The categories shown are quite broad and the results are not listed in order of rating so you have to search through each one individually. Also it has been mentioned on several forums that they are very strict on their refund policies. They offer a 14 day cancellation period but are not flexible if you exceed these timescales.