How Does Coursera Work?
Coursera is an online learning platform providing courses on various subjects from universities and well-known companies around the world. There are over 2500 courses on the platform, catering for undergraduate and graduate-level students. Platforms like Coursera, and more accurately the courses they offer, are often referred to by the acronym MOOCs - Mass Open Online Courses.
Coursera's courses are entirely online, accessed through an Internet Browser or via the Coursera app for mobile and tablet. If a course requires the use of software, it may need to be installed on your computer, if freely available. Otherwise, applications are made available in a virtual lab environment and through the Coursera platform. Other than that, students are free to study wherever they have access to the Internet. There is no requirement to attend a campus or class in person.
Classes on Coursera are in video format, taught by university lecturers or (in the case of courses offered by companies) qualified instructors. The majority of videos are pre-recorded and accompanied by readings, course notes, quizzes and assignments. Online forums allow students to interact, ask questions, discuss problems, and collaborate on work.
You can enrol in a class on Coursera and start studying immediately, except for MasterTrack and Degree programs, which are term based and a hybrid of recorded lecturers and live classes.
Enrollment options on Coursera
There are five types of course on Coursera which students can enrol in - Individual Classes, Specializations, MasterTracks, complete Bachelor and Master Degree programs and Professional Certificates.
How to Enroll in a Course and Start Studying
Enrollment is fairly straightforward. You first need to create an account, if you do not already have one. Then search or browse the catalogue for courses. Each course has a home page with an Enrollment button except for MasterTrack and Degree programs where you must apply before enrolling.
Once enrolled, the course will be displayed on your dashboard. The dashboard is an overview of the active and completed courses and accomplishments achieved to date. From the dashboard, you can click to continue with a class or un-enroll.
Coursera's Pricing Models
I find Coursera's pricing structure unnecessarily complicated. They offer three pricing models: one-off payments, subscriptions and audit mode.
Students wishing to enrol in a course but can't afford the fees can apply for Financial Aid. Financial aid is available for most individual classes and Specializations. Scholarships are also offered to MasterTrack and degree programs.
You apply for financial aid by clicking a link on the course's home page. Applicants must fill out a form detailing their educational background, career goals and reasons for applying. The more detailed the application, the more chance of being accepted. Applications must be at least 150 words.
Coursera recommend taking the course in audit mode while waiting for a financial aid application to be reviewed. The review process is usually quick, but Coursera's help pages state it can take up to 2 weeks. You should bear this in mind if you are enrolling in a MasterTrack or Degree course that has a deadline for enrollment. The deadline will not be extended because you're waiting for your application to be approved.
Applicants that are accepted to receive financial aid will be automatically enrolled in the course and then have 180 days to complete unless the course has a fixed schedule.
You can reapply for financial aid if your application is initially denied.
Coursera for Business
Coursera for Business was launched in 2016 and has since expanded to cater for organisations of all sizes. There are two pricing models, based on the number of users.
Smaller companies can pay $400 per user per year. This option is effectively the same as a standard user subscription, providing full access to classes and Specializations.
For larger companies, who opt for the 'Enterprise' model, the cost is negotiable. The 'Enterprise' model allows companies to curate their own learning programs by picking a collection of classes from Coursera's catalogue.
Coursera for Business enables companies to effectively outsource staff training, assuming the training required matches the classes and courses available on Coursera. This is particularly useful for smaller companies who are too small to have an in-house trainer or training department, or simply can't afford to train staff individually.