With over 4 million users, Coursera must be doing something right. Founded by two professors from Stanford University, the online portal aims to offer free education to the world. There are so many subjects to choose from that anyone can find something that they are interested in.

Coursera is considered a MOOC, which stands for “massive open online courses.” Anyone can take a course at Coursera for free by simply choosing one of the many online courses that are available. The majority of courses are offered by the bigger universities, like Yale and the University of Michigan, for example.

You can choose between timed or self-paced courses, although there are fewer timed classes to choose from. Some of the courses can be completed in an afternoon, while others run for weeks. There are discussion boards to facilitate peer interaction and there is never, ever any homework.

How Does Coursera Work?

Coursera is easy to use. You can sign up using Facebook and/or your email for instant access. From here, click on the “Get Recommendations” tab which will bring you to a page that asks you want your main goal is. Do you want to advance your career or start a new career? Are you interested in advancing your education or just learning for fun?

After choosing your goal, you will be taken to a new page that asks you to choose the three categories you are most interested. Coursera will then recommend some courses for you to take a look at. Alternatively, you can browse the vast library of courses using a keyword search. You will also be asked to verify your email address and complete a user profile.

What Makes Coursera Stand Out?

What makes Coursera unique is that aside from small course verification fees, the entire online portal is free of charge. It also stands out for offering courses by respected colleges and universities and taught by the professors employed there. While Coursera courses are free, however, you may have to wait until a slot opens up in a class before you are able to take it, especially for the more popular courses.

Common Reviews of Coursera

Overall, students seemed pleased with Coursera. Many customer reviews focused on the large variety of subject matter available, as well as the high quality of instruction. They felt that since the instructors were from respected institutions, the courses held more value. People were also commonly happy about the free price tag and the small fees for course verification. One customer said,

“I was always an avid student during my undergrad, but during my graduate studies for the first time I had the chance to watch videos of the lectures and watch them at whichever time I preferred. For me this was a game changer. Soon after that I started using Coursera, which had most of the benefits without the hefty price tag.”

People were also happy with the how the courses worked and what they gained from them. A couple who had the interesting experience taking Coursera courses together said,

“My wife and I took two classes on Coursera together: Fundamentals of Music Theory and Python for Informatics. We learned a lot in both classes. I am no longer totally lost if some talks about keys and tonics and she’s integrated coding into her Kindergarten classes via the Hour of Code.

I liked how easy it was to watch the lectures together. We could also compete to see who got the best grades on the quizzes and suchlike. The interface was fairly intuitive, especially if you’ve taken other online courses before or edited/used Wikipedia.

All in all, it was a very positive, if challenging, experience and one that I would recommend to anyone looking to further their knowledge.”

As for negative reviews, there were some people who were disappointed with the lack of engagement and interaction with professors and felt that the discussion forums were just another task to check off the list. Another complaint was that some courses were too short and/or lacked depth. Instead, they felt like short introductions to the subject matter and were far too easy to complete.

Other complaints focused on having to pay verification fees as well as some confusion about how pricing worked. People complained of getting charges they weren’t expecting and struggling to get refunded. For others who sought course verification, they felt that the fees were too high for such simple courses.

Is Coursera for Me?

Coursera is for everyone — almost. While the online portal has a wide range of free courses to choose from, Coursera can’t replace the advantages of a traditional college or university, which provides credentials, networking and a communal experience. Instead, Coursera is the perfect platform for anyone in the world who has access to the internet to develop new skills or satisfy a curiosity. Here are other reasons Coursera may be right for you:

  • If you are interested in starting a new career, Coursera gives you access to a vast array of information to help guide you along your new path or simply make a decision.
  • For those already working along a chosen career path, Coursera can help you stay on top of the skills needed to stay competitive in your market.
  • Employers and organizations can take advantage of the Coursera courses by using them for professional development for employees. This is especially attractive to small businesses or new businesses with a small budget.
  • For college students who may be struggling with a particular concept, a Coursera course can help break it down to a more understandable level.
  • For libraries and schools, Coursera is a free supplement to their education plan.
  • For anyone who wants to learn about almost any topic under the sun, a free course from Coursera is sure to satisfy their curiosity or spark it even more.