Coursera is a phenomenal online learning platform with a lot to love; however, individual course quality can be unpredictable. For the most value, sign up for a specialization path or shareable certification.
- Coursera provides an extraordinary broad inventory of classes — everything from digital marketing to project management.
- Quite a few Coursera courses are offered by top universities. There are even complete four-year degree paths in fields such as Computer Science.
- Students must be self-motivated and willing to learn — many shorter classes and certificate courses are almost entirely self-paced.
- Students who prefer instructor-led content and peer interactions may find the experience lackluster.
So, is Coursera worth it?
Read on to read a full Coursera review, where we’ll discuss courses, instructors, costs, and even employer perception.
What Does Coursera Offer?
Coursera offers over 7,000 online courses in disciplines like data science, online marketing, and web development.
Each course’s depth varies, from coding boot camps to completing degree programs. Coursera has four categories of learning: individual classes, specializations, certification paths, and degree programs.
Here are some examples of Coursera’s offerings in data science:
Google’s introduction to the field of data science, is a single standalone class that is also integrated into specializations.
Amazon’s data science specialization focused on the AWS Cloud and comprising multiple data science classes.
A no-degree, no-experience necessary class that provides you with the fundamental knowledge to become a data science professional.
An accredited, online degree program provided through the University of Michigan’s School of Information.
Classes are individual courses covering a specific topic or providing an overview of a broader field.
Specializations are collections of sequential classes that give you deeper insights into a discipline.
Certifications are courses and specializations that deliver a certificate at completion — providing proof to an employer that you understand the fundamental concepts discussed. Frequently, certifications are courses and specializations provided by well-known enterprises, such as Google and IBM.
Finally, Coursera’s degree programs are provided through universities, both in the US and abroad. Some of these universities are accredited, and some are not.
Is Coursera Accredited?
Coursera offers both unaccredited and accredited degree programs. To be accredited, the course must come from an accredited university that already maintains an online degree program — such as the University of Colorado Boulder’s M.S. in Electrical Engineering.
Who is Coursera For?
Coursera primarily focuses on IT and computer science — but that’s not all that’s available. Most Coursera students want to accelerate their career, either by studying for a new career or acquiring a certificate.
Coursera’s core subject categories are:
- Data Science
- Computer Science
- Information Technology
- Language Learning
- Personal Development
- Physical Science and Engineering
- Social Sciences
- Arts and Humanities
- Math and Logic
So, while Coursera does focus primarily on computer science and information technology, there is a wide breadth of classes, certifications, and degrees available. If you can learn it in an online-only environment, you can learn it through Coursera.
How Does Coursera Work?
Coursera connects users to an extensive library of courses provided by businesses, colleges, and other educational entities. Each course has an instructor (or instructors) and a set syllabus.
Users “enroll” in courses. Although technically self-paced, courses start and end at specific times, in waves. This timing allows learners to work with other students and their instructor.
Courses are segmented by week. While you can race ahead, you can also just follow along weekly. Coursera will track your progress, but you can usually just “reset” your deadlines if you fall behind.
Some courses provide shareable certificates or even accredited degrees at the end.
You can restart courses or certificates at any time, though degrees are more structured and rigorous. But if it’s a premium class, you’ll need to continue paying for your Coursera Pro subscription.
How to Open a Coursera Account
You can sign up for a 7-day free trial of Coursera Pro or just use Coursera for free.
Sign up for an account to instantly access Coursera’s free and premium classes. Remember, degree programs will require a separate application process. You can create an account or log in with your Google or Facebook accounts.
Once you’ve created your Coursera account, you can “enroll” in each class. Some classes are free, and others have a 7-day free trial.
If you enroll in a Coursera Pro class, you’ll need to enter payment information, which will automatically renew. Enroll in a free class, and the platform immediately takes you to the course materials.
Coursera course materials are a mix of videos, interactive quizzes, exams, and practice projects. When you work on a project (such as a capstone), you will frequently upload it for either instructor or peer review.
Is Coursera Free? Coursera’s Free vs. “Pro” Courses
Coursera has both free and “professional” courses. Many of the free courses offered by Coursera are provided through schools such as the University of London, UC Berkeley, and Stanford.
Here are a few of Coursera’s free courses in computer science:
- Machine Learning by Stanford: A self-paced, 61-hour course that provides a shareable certificate.
- Algorithms, Part I by Princeton University: A flexible-deadline, intermediate-level course that takes 54 hours to complete.
- Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency by Princeton University: A brief online course with 23 hours of highly focused content.
But there are many free coding boot camps available for those who want to dig deeper into computer science and programming.
Coursera’s professional courses vary in cost. Most Coursera courses are provided with the “premium” Coursera membership — Coursera Plus. But degree programs are more expensive.
Coursera Plus is $59/month or $399/year. It provides unlimited access to over 7,000 courses and certifications. Degree programs are not included in Coursera Plus; degree programs range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.
Financial aid is available through Coursera — financial aid is need-based and provided primarily for professional certificates. However, you can’t use federal financial aid for Coursera courses because they don’t meet the required standards.
Coursera Classes: Do Employers Take Them Seriously?
It's a valid question. After all, Coursera classes are offered online for free and don't confer traditional credentials like a degree from a brick-and-mortar school. But the answer, as with many things today, is: It depends.
Today's employers understand that learning doesn't always happen in a classroom. Particularly in the IT field, self-taught individuals can be considered just as knowledgeable as those with formal education. Certainly, certifications prove that you have specific, often niche knowledge — but classes may not.
If you want to learn more about a specific aspect of your career or discipline, a Coursera class is an excellent way to start. But if you want your employer to take it seriously (for a promotion or career change), a specialization or certificate path is more likely to impress.
Coursera Specializations: Do You Need a Class or a Specialization?
A specialization is a set of courses that helps you gain proficiency in a specific topic. Specializations typically culminate in a capstone project, which allows you to apply what you've learned to a real-world problem. They also tend to be more expensive than individual classes, although some employers will cover the cost.
Specializations are most frequently suggested for those who are trying to change careers. For instance: if you're in IT but trying to get into data science, you would take the Data Science specialization.
On the other hand, if you're trying to learn more about your current field or expand your skill set within it, a class might be all you need. For example, if you're a marketer who wants to learn about Google Analytics, you could take the Google Analytics for Beginners course.
Coursera Certificates: Are Coursera Certificates Worth It?
Coursera functions primarily as a marketplace. As noted, the quality of courses, certificates, and degree programs vary depending on the organization. Nonetheless, many extremely notable enterprises provide certificates through Coursera.
Notable certificate programs include:
- Google’s Digital Marketing & E-Commerce Professional Certificate
- IBM’s Technical Support Professional Certificate
- Meta’s Social Media Marketing Professional Certificate
Many of these certificate programs are included within Coursera’s Pro subscription — if you can finish the certificate within a month, it’s well worth it. But because these are self-paced certificates, they become less “worth it” the longer you take to complete them.
If you received an IBM Technical Support Professional Certificate, your employer would only see that you received a certificate from IBM, not Coursera.
Want to Make More Money?
According to CNBC, these four certifications can get you a better job: Project Management Professional, Certified Associate in Project Management, Certified Scrum Master, and Digital Marketing.
Coursera Degree Programs: Can You Get an Online Degree?
Coursera offers a handful of degree programs in partnership with brick-and-mortar colleges and universities. For example, some are fully online computer science degrees conferring the same credentials as an in-person program.
Note that accreditation follows the school and program, not Coursera; some programs are accredited, and others aren't.
Employers will take Coursera degrees just as seriously as traditional college degrees. But because they're relatively new, it may be easier to find a job if you have complementary experience in the field. For example, if you have a degree in business administration but want to work in marketing, having relevant internships on your resume will make the transition smoother.
Coursera degree programs can be expensive, although they aren't anywhere near as expensive as going to a brick-and-mortar college. Expect to pay at least $10,000+ on a degree program.
Most Popular Courses on Coursera
What are students actually learning on Coursera? Based on student enrollment, these are some of the most popular Coursera courses:
- Google IT Support Professional Certificate. This program prepares you for a career in IT support. You will learn about troubleshooting, customer service, networking, and operating systems through a series of video lectures, quizzes, and hands-on labs. Get a job at an IT help desk with this certificate.
- IBM Data Science Professional Certificate. This program introduces you to data science and teaches you how to apply these skills to real-world data sets. You will learn about Python, R, SQL, and NoSQL databases.
- Machine Learning by Stanford University. This course will teach you about the most effective machine learning techniques and how to apply them to real-world problems.
- Python for Everybody by University of Michigan. This course is designed for people with no prior programming experience. It will teach you the basics of Python programming, one of the most popular languages for rapid prototyping and machine learning.
- Data Science: Foundations using R by Johns Hopkins University. This course will introduce you to the basics of data science using the statistical programming language R. You will learn about data management, visualization, and predictive modeling.
These courses make sense for today’s professionals, as they’re all high-growth areas within the IT field. Additionally, reputable organizations like Stanford, Google, and John Hopkins University provide these courses.
How to Find the Best Classes, Courses, and Certificates on Coursera
With literally thousands of courses available, how do you find the best classes? When you explore courses, you can first view the most popular. For each class, Coursera gives you:
- A user-generated star rating. Star ratings indicate how much people liked the class — a 4.8 or better indicates the content is phenomenal.
- Reviews on the class. Many of the most popular classes have over 30,000 reviews, which you can read to get a better understanding of what the class provides.
In addition to the above, consider:
- Who is the course presented by? Look for courses presented by big names such as Google and IBM.
- What are the credentials of the instructor? “Top Instructors” are instructors who have other successful courses on Coursera.
- What will the course outcomes be? Does it provide a shareable certificate or even a degree?
Coursera gives you all the information you should need to evaluate whether a class is right for you. But you can also just hit the “Enroll” button to preview the course material at any time.
Coursera Review: Pros, Cons, and User Reviews
Most students are extremely pleased with Coursera’s courses. But while Coursera maintains a TrustRadius score of 9.1/10, its TrustPilot rating is 1.7/5. Why is there such a significant disparity in the web’s Coursera rating? Is Coursera good — or not?
Coursera is a marketplace for self-paced courses. Most negative Coursera reviews highlight the impact of this self-paced model:
- Instructors may be unavailable (or essentially nonexistent)
- Projects are frequently peer-graded (sometimes incorrectly)
- Little guidance and support
Conversely, those looking for a flexible, self-paced course that will give them an edge in their career tend to rate Coursera quite high. Most Coursera certificates reviewed at over 4 out of 5 stars. Coursera courses review similarly.
If you decide to use Coursera, understand that you will be responsible for your own success. You can’t rely on an instructor as you would in a brick-and-mortar class.
Alternatives to Coursera
Online learning is booming, so there are many alternatives to Coursera, depending on what you want to learn. Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular.
$50 to $300
$12 to $200
Codecademy provides interactive courses focused on programming and tech. Compared to Coursera, it provides substantially fewer classes and has fewer students — but its platform includes an embedded, fully interactive coding platform. For those who are interested in learning programming or going through a programming bootcamp, Codecademy may offer a better way to learn.
edX provides course materials from some of the most prestigious academies in the world, such as Harvard, Yale, and MIT. Taking a course is completely free, but verified completion comes at a variable cost (depending on the course). edX is ideal for those who are truly looking to expand their knowledge with best-in-class educational opportunities.
Compared to other learning platforms, Udemy has by far the largest class-to-student ratio. Udemy’s courses tend to be far more variable in quality than other learning platforms, as it has a lower barrier to entry. But that also means there is a significantly broader inventory of classes available — including in niche utilities and disciplines.
Other popular learning platforms are PluralSight and SkillShare.
Coursera compares favorably to most learning platforms, in terms of breadth, quality, and value. But it may be worth it for students to look at multiple learning platforms to see which courses are available.
Conclusion: Is Coursera Legit?
Coursera provides affordable, industry-recognized certifications and accredited degree programs. Our Coursera review verdict? A flexible, affordable way to attain a quality education. But ultimately, the value you get from Coursera depends on what you’re looking for.
Coursera is great for:
- Employees looking to upskill into another industry or get a promotion.
- Students are interested in taking an online degree program.
- Hobbyists want to learn more about a specific discipline.
Coursera offers many free courses for those who just want to dabble and for those who want to take a more formal approach. The latter can sign up for Coursera Pro and dig deeper into specialization paths and certifications. Ready to learn a 2024 in-demand skill?
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is Coursera Trustworthy?
Coursera is one of the largest online course providers — and there are many reputable companies (such as Google and IBM) that use Coursera for their course materials. That said, some users have complained about Coursera's customer service. Certain reviews claim Coursera charged them for services that they didn't receive, while others complain they haven't received their certificates upon course completion.
2. Does a Coursera Certificate Have Value?
While Coursera certificates may not be as valuable as a degree from a brick-and-mortar university, many potential employers still view them favorably — especially if the courses are highly relevant to the position. Some Coursera courses are designed and taught by professors from top universities. Pay attention to the details of the course: Who is providing it? Who is the instructor?
3. Are Coursera Certifications Recognized?
Coursera partners with many organizations — corporations, government agencies, and nonprofits — that recognize Coursera certificates. You can check with your desired employer to see if they would value a Coursera certificate or even pay for your Coursera certification.
4. Can You Put Coursera on Your Resume?
Because Coursera certificates are becoming more and more recognized, you can absolutely list your completed Coursera courses on your resume — especially if they're relevant to the job you're applying for. Coursera's servers automatically validate shareable certificates.
5. Is Coursera Accredited in the USA?
Some Coursera courses, especially degree programs, are accredited. Others are not. Check on individual course web pages for accreditation information.
6. Can Coursera Detect Cheating?
Coursera has an Honor Code you agree to follow when you enroll in a course. But, the platform isn’t likely to detect all forms of cheating, such as someone else taking a test for you, for instance. However, you won’t benefit from the course or gain your desired skills if you cheat.