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Coursera

Coursera Review

By: Coursera Inc.

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Detailed Review

We are aware that the US is amongst the countries that offer the costliest education. They also have an inside joke. It goes as, “people go to college to get a job, but then you have to get a job to pay for the college.” The situation may be due to Federal students loans. The graduates face massive debts and struggle for a lifetime to pay them off. Many people will opt for a local community college to complete undergraduate degrees.

They may choose State universities to earn masters or Ph.D. Research by ValuePenguin reveals that the majority of Americans pay between $6 000 to $15 000 for tuition in public and private schools.

Coursera is a MOOC platform that saves a student from such hefty fees. They offer free as well as priced courses (starting at US$39-79 per month.) Moreover, they provide financial aid for deserving learners.

Pros

  • Coursera allows learners to audit a course and gain knowledge for free. Moreover, they can subscribe to their specialization, MasterTrack, and professional certificates and earn credentials.
  • If there is a learner who cannot pay for the courses, then they provide financial aid. The learner applies for the funding, and Coursera reviews his/her credibility.
  • They also offer online bachelor and master’s degree programs from accredited universities.
  • With more than 3600 courses, its catalog is massive and offers university-level quality online courses.
  • The system supports multiple languages for instructions, and even more, options are available for the subtitle and transcripts.

Cons

  • Not all the MOOC platform content is for free. Those who audit courses do not earn certificates. Meaning no way to demonstrate the acquired proficiency on resumes or LinkedIn.
  • Short and meaningful videos deliver better results. Coursera’s video lectures are relatively long and are monotonous, hence prevent the student from grasping the content.

Introduction

There are a lot of things that we take for granted. Take, for example, the fact that we woke up this morning.

We only realize the importance of things after losing them. Fortunately, no one can steal knowledge. It may be disregarded but not lost completely.

By active recalling, we can reactivate our neurons and access the missing pieces of information. We should value our ability to learn new concepts and re-discover the buried skills, talent, or knowledge.

Today having a formal education is a necessity as well as a human right. It is because it empowers us to live a quality life.

With the emergence of technology, a new era has dawned upon us. Every aspect of life is becoming more comfortable and more efficient.

Take, for example, communication; we used to have letters then came the rotary dial phones. Now a smartphone is a comprehensive solution; as it is a combination of various features.

We can only grow if we develop our knowledge and apply it to real-world situations. Thus, there is no denying the worth of education.

Two Stanford University professors found out that they could offer education to more students by conducting online classes.

That is how they found Coursera in 2012, with headquarters in California. They approached various universities who provided them with content for their MOOC platform.

They currently have more than 190 university partners. A staggering number of 40 million-plus learners have accessed the content of Coursera.

Their partners include institutes such as ACCA, BCG, Arizona State University, Cisco, H2O, IBM, Intel, Google, Commonwealth Education Trust, Duke University, VMware among others.

At present they have over 3 600 courses, with 390 specializations, 15+ certificates, and 14+ degrees.

They also support multi-languages as one can select the instruction language from English, Spanish, French, Turkish, Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, among others.

Their Global Translator Community (GTC), which is community-based keep translating the video subtitles from English to various other languages.

With the statistics and the history of the platform being so fascinating, let us find out how a user chooses an appropriate course.

Making the right decision

A learner sometimes may be unaware of what he/she wants to pursue. They may have an idea of the field but narrowing it down to a specific course can be challenging.

Thus, the platform provides suggestions. Coursera attempts to guide the new learner by asking a few questions which can be the basis of their recommendations.

As such, upon signing up, Coursera tries to identify your background by asking about your education and work experience.

Even in the real world, we have career counseling services. What to do study is a significant decision in life. It decides the career of the person, hence needs to be taken wisely.

Coursera provides one with the option to audit a course (free). But the decision is not prudent for professional purposes.

The learner cannot be awarded any certificate, thus, difficult to prove credentials. Having accreditation in the resume or portfolio means assured credibility.

Coursera makes further inquiries about the learner's goal. To find out if the user intends to study to advance in a career or start a new one.

A learner may already have some necessary skills but needs to be proficient to take up a new profession path. One may take up a course to increase knowledge and advance in the area of study.

We also have people who are always thirsty for knowledge, never satiated with the information they have. Such individuals remain learners throughout their lives.

Depending on your goal, the system generates a list of topics that can be most appropriate for the user.

They offer flexibility in choosing the course depending on the current level of the learner.

The student can choose up to 3 areas of interest from the list. They can suggest courses related to the selected options.

The user can avoid all these steps and choose one career option from Coursera’s most popular list. One may want to become a data scientist, a designer, an HR specialist, among others.

Being aware of the specific career line simplifies the process of choosing the right courses. The bottom line is that the learner should have a direction and a purpose before enrolling in any class.

Thus, the user attempts to figure out his/her course work, and the result is the list of recommendation.

Navigating the website

Courses are the basis of all the programs offered in Coursera. All the active, inactive, and completed courses of a user appears on the dashboard under “My Courses.”

Apart from the courses, the page also displays tabs for updates, accomplishments, and recommendations.

 The design of the homepage is minimalistic. The plain white background makes the content eye-catching. Despite the considerable course catalog, Coursera’s UI is simple and straight forward.

The user can easily navigate through the content as there is an “Explore” tab on the top panel, which provides access to all the topics/skills.

The explore tab is a drop-down button. It holds all the content, in a three-panel window on top of the dashboard. One can access all the content by selecting explore all of Coursera.

The section provides a glimpse into the full range of courses, degrees, and certificates that are available in the course catalog.

They display the topic on 2 slides at the top of the browse page. Exploring any one section takes one to a page where the topic courses can be filtered further.

These 11 topics include data science, business, computer science, personal development, information technology, language learning, math and logic, health, social science, arts & humanities, and physical science & engineering.

If the user selects a business topic, then the browse page first provides its segments such as finance, marketing, business strategy, etc.

The user can also filter the topic using skills, job title, level, language, type, and creator. They provide exhaustive ways to zero down to a course of choice.

Below they suggest the various courses under the categories of most popular, trending, top-rated and others.

The user selects any content under the page, and have it saved under my course. We can conclude that searching for appropriate learning content is not very tough in the system.

Well, Coursera offers individual courses as well as degrees and certifications. Let us now dive into what Coursera has to offer to its users.

Various offerings of Coursera

Coursera’s various programs are designed to meet the requirements of multiple students. The browse page gives us an overview of what Coursera has in its basket to fulfill the needs of its users.

It is visible from the list of the catalog, Coursera provides courses, specializations, professional certificates, MasterTrack certificates, and degrees.

When it comes to individual courses, one can audit them. They are usually 4-6 weeks long and enables the user to learn something new.

Coursera is a MOOC platform because of this reason, free courses, available to all, no restriction on accessibility and also no certification.

However, one can purchase a paid course. The general feature of the audited courses is video lessons, homework & exercises, and community forums.

The paid version provides additional tasks of quiz and projects. Moreover, the user can earn certificates.

Specializations enable on to master a specific skill. These are made up of various courses that are designed to achieve the set goals in learning.

One can master a skill within 4-6 months and earn a specialization certificate. It can be shown in the resume and to potential employers.

The professional certificate is a unique program targeted to make the user job-ready within a year. It entails hands-on projects that teach the learner the skills required for a particular career track.

Top businesses and universities collaborate with Coursera and provide the learner to the opportunity to earn credentials that can result in employment.

It is apt for learners who wish to start a new career or to advance in the current profession. The learners get hands-on projects and access to career support resources.

The MasterTrack certificates is a trademark of Coursera. They enable students to proceed to a master’s degree in small but secured steps.

It is a smart move to divide some portion of a master’s program into modules that earn the learner a certification.

It is an efficient way to decide if the related degree course is suitable for you or not. They offer live expert instructions, team-based learning, and feedbacks.

The certificate is from an accredited university and can be a beneficial addition to CV or on LinkedIn.

Many prestigious universities offer their online degrees via Coursera. The added advantage is that it is online, self-paced, enables one to earn credits and complete it within 1-4 years.

We notice that their current prices for the degree are relatively cheaper (starting at US$15 000). According to FinAid.org, on average, the cost of pursuing an MBA is US$40 000 for on-campus learning.

Coursera’s online degree enables the student to earn an accredited university’s bachelor or master’s degree.

They currently offer a master’s degree in Data Science, Computer Science, Information Technology, Engineering, MBA, Accounting, Entrepreneurship, and Public Health

There are various learning options for a learner to choose from Coursera’s extensive scope of topics and programs.

Enrollment options for the learners

For far, we have figured out that some of the courses can be audited(free). However, all the other programs are paid services.

When a student audits a course, they are unable to access the graded assignments, get feedbacks or grades hence no course certificate.

A learner can choose to upgrade the audited course by paying for it. One may need to submit extra coursework for certification though.

The other way to access a paid course is to use their 7- days free trial or apply for financial aid. What happens in the free trial is that learner submits credit card information.

He/she can view all the course content, assignments, and also capstone projects if any. On the 8th day, the subscription becomes payable unless the learner cancels it.

The financial aid is like a scholarship for the approved courses. The user has to fill a form for application. They provide educational, career, and financial background.

One must abide by meeting the honor code of Coursera, which ensures that there are no violations. The learner is expected to submit his/her original work and not share answers with others.

They review the application within 15 days. They update the user via email, letting them know if the request was approved or rejected.

The approved application enables the student to enroll in the program and start learning. Most of the courses are self-paced thus no need to worry about deadlines.

However, the degree program has deadlines, and the student should apply for aid 15 days before the date of enrollment.

A user can take up a course that is a part of the specialization, without paying for the whole subscriptions. The learner earns a course certificate for every individual course.

The user is free to cancel the subscription once done with the required courses.

The landing pages of degree and certificate programs

All the programs offered by Coursera may differ in depth and scope. Of course, a master’s degree is the most exhaustive of them all and may contain a combination of various certificate courses.

We can notice the visible distinction when it comes to the layout of degree (bachelor and master’s) and certifications (specialization, professional, and MasterTrack certificates.)

Since the content origins from different universities, there might be minor differences. We are referring to the first landing page after selecting any content.

However, the overall layout of the degree program is an overview, admissions, academics, student experience, careers, and about the university.

The overview section provides various details of the particular program. It includes the time scheduled to complete the degree, the number of modules, the price, and the mode of learning(online).

They also list the number of times they offer the program within a year and when (dates of application and deadlines.)

These programs usually have prerequisites, which they mention under admissions. The academics section provides an outline of the curriculum.

The student experience reveals the ways the student will be able to obtain online learning. It includes study materials, online support, and assessments.

The career segment throws light to the prospective career options the learner will have after completion.

Lastly, the university portion provides in-depth details of the university offering the program. The specialization and professional certificates follow a similar layout.

It includes segments of about, how it works, courses, instructors, enrollment options, and FAQs. The about section provides information on the skills the learner will learn.

The “how it works” section addresses the hands-on projects, and career credential.

The instructor may be people or organization. The enrollment option shows how the learner can enroll in the courses. The last part is the FAQs; it holds answered questions to assist learners with queries.

The individual courses have segments of about, syllabus, reviews, instructors, enrollment options, and FAQS.

With these in mind, we need to take a step further and indulge in their courses. It involves enrolling for the course, choosing appropriate enrollment option, and accessing the course’s home page.

Homepage of the course

Any student who enrolls should be having an understanding of how the content is delivered. They have it neatly organized on the left panel of the page.

It includes an overview which is week-wise. Then there are grades, notes, discussion forums, messages, and course info sections.

The name of the topic, its creator, and the instructor’s comment appear on the center screen. A progression line illustrates the start of a course, its weekly content, and the end.

The linear representation provides a summary of the course and its content. Then there is also a weekly in-depth explanation of the modules.

They provide the learner with the weekly video, reading, and practice exercises with their estimated time. Anything due is shown along with it, e.g., assignments, peer review, among other activities.

There is a start button on week one, which takes us to the learning content. That is the video-based classes.

The video lectures of Coursera

Learning via visual stimulation results in better grasping and memory retention. The courses have a start date, after which the video material is available.

They pre-recorded the lectures, and the student can download them. They host relatively prolonged videos, an average of 25-30 minutes.

It may start with welcome and introductory parts. The learner can tackle the course by proceeding with the course in sequence or choose to learn the content in any way he/she prefers.

Most courses are self-paced; however, there are deadlines for assignments and final exams. The lessons may also have reading content.

The layout of the course is neat and self-explanatory. Any student will be able to navigate through the content without any hassle.

It has a toggle navigation panel which appears on the left side and displays the sections under every week. There is an icon next to the title to show whether the content is reading or video.

The video player has a couple of control buttons. It includes play/pause, volume, subtitles (not all), settings, and full-screen toggle.

There are options to save notes, discuss and download below the player. They also have provided the student with icons to like, dislike, or to report a problem.

There is a transcript, which shows the written content of the video player along with time in minutes and seconds.

The right panel hosts the saved notes of the particular video lesson. Thus, the idea is to conduct the lessons in each module, give the related tests and assignments, and proceed with the course.

Other features that support learning

Learning without applying known concepts can prove to be useless. We can gauge our understanding by taking quizzes, tests, and assignments.

Coursera offers such exercises to enable the student to identify his/her weakness and strength within a module. The final exam at the end of the course can be a system or peer-graded assessment.

Some of the evaluation have due dates, and the student can add the deadlines to Google, Apple, or other calendar apps. Once the calendar is in sync, then all the important dates are highlighted.

The assignment which requires writing codes or any other programming task, the student uses the Jupyter Notebooks.

It is an open-source app that supports computing across various programming languages. Another tool they use is the Qwiklabs which provide hands-on labs for an online learning environment.

It temporary provides the student with access to the cloud (AWS and GCP) for the duration of the lab.

The student is required to create an account with Qwiklabs and may also ask for credit card information. The students can monitor their progress through the graded assessments.

The grades section is available on the left panel of the course’s homepage. It shows the graded assignments, personalized deadlines, completed assessments, and peer-reviewed activities.

One can also figure out how much weight each assignment contributes to your course grade. There are several statuses of the grades too.

It includes pass, didn’t pass, started, submitted, graded, dropped, and adjusted. Some courses have honor assignments. It is for special recognition in the course and can appear in the certificate.

The specialization courses usually have a capstone project at the end of it. It allows the student to apply the theory of the learned content to practical tasks.

They are hands-on projects, e.g., developing websites, writing research papers, developing business strategies, etc. they may be a peer or automatically graded too.

The student can add notes while going through the video lessons. It enables the student to highlight relevant content.

Another essential feature is the discussion forum.  The forums appear in the weekly order by its number. One can also choose to access all the threads within the forum.

One can sort the weekly discussions, search for, or add a new thread. There are several views and replies under each thread.

The replies can further appear as earliest, top, and most recent. The students can add their responses too.

It is an active and interactive community of peers and instructor. Students can post their doubts and fellow learners, or Coursera staff can attend to them.

There is a section dedicated to the messages. It includes the conversation between the university and the student.

The course info section provides in-depth details by submitting the syllabus, showing how it works, and listing the related courses.

Moreover, it entails information such as commitment time, language, how to pass, and user ratings.

There is a resource section where download options for HTML book chapter and attribution & credits links are available.

The student can download these external resources, displayed chapter wise. One cannot limit the extent of learning, as such learners should be ready to adopt valuable information from other sources.

Conclusion

Coursera is a well-established name among the e-learning and MOOC platforms. They provide training solutions to individual learners as well as to businesses.

Many companies have trained their workforce through Coursera certificates. It includes the likes of L’Oréal, P&G, Signify, Infosys, Danone among others.

Experts from various universities and organizations contribute to the course content of Coursera.

Their top online courses include AI for everyone, machine learning, R programming, financial markets, the science of wellbeing, and others.

The beginner and intermediate level of students can optimally benefit from their learning content. One may choose to audit a course or pay for the subscriptions.

Either way, their video lectures are long with transcripts, provision for notes, and can be downloaded. There is a discussion forum where the community members can communicate with each other.

The peer and automatically graded assignments, quizzes, exercises, and final exams are a means of testing the know-how of the learner.

A learner who enrolls in specializations or professional courses earns a certificate. He/she can then pursue degree programs from a variety of universities.

Coursera is available for mobile learning through their apps, both on Android and iOS. Their community is a place where peers and the instructors communicate through the discussion forums.

The previously limiting factor of lack of on-demand courses is now a thing of the past. Their course calendar allows the learner to attend courses frequently within a month.

A MOOC platform may be applauded for its openness to all, providing cost-free learning, but at the end of it, they lack certifications.

Learners who audit a course fail to receive any certificate; they also lack graded assessments. A such there is no way to showcase it in resume or portfolio for career advancement.

The learners undergoing the degree programs may have to follow a different set of policies and rules depending on the university providing the degree.

The instructors are mainly professors from the university. Thus, they might be unable to dedicate time for online learners.

Udacity, which is a MOOC platform, also offers career services for its graduates, and the corporate partners also recruit the learners.

Such a scenario is missing from Coursera. Another MOOC platform, edX, which is a nonprofit organization that conducts research activities and has developed an open-source LSM open edX.

Coursera is a for-profit e-learning platform that offers higher education certificates and degrees. It is recommendable to the beginners and intermediate students who wish to audit a course.

Those who look forward to earning their bachelor or master’s degree from accredited universities can also enroll with Coursera’s degree programs.

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