How to use Coursera to improve your career prospects? A review.
Coursera is a globally recognized eLearning platform to provide broad access to online courses from top universities. It’s free to join and more than 24 million learners have already been able to improve their skills through one of the many programs offered. Keep reading our Coursera review guide to see if this platform would be suitable for your needs.
Coursera – Overview
Founders – Coursera was founded by Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, both full professors from the Computer Science Department at Stanford University. They knew that they could help more students in two months online than they would be able to achieve in a lifetime of classroom lectures.
Students, Universities – Apart from the 24 millions students that have benefited from the more than 2,000 courses on offer (and this only during the past five years), Coursera boast an impressive 149 university partners, all of them educational institutions that enjoy a high level of respect globally.
Accessibility – Every effort is made to make quality training available to everybody. To this end Coursera goes to great lengths to make their courses accessible to those with hearing or sight disabilities and even those suffering from learning disabilities.
Specializations – Apart from the 2000+ courses on offer, this provider also offers more than 160 specializations and two degrees. Here’s a list of popular Coursera courses and specializations of 2017.
Coursera Platform – Structure and Features
The Coursera platform offers a host of information, but it is extremely easy to use. You will find the information you need quickly and without hassle. The layout of the website also allow you to browse in a sensible manner without getting lost in layers and layers of information.
1. Course Categories
Catalog – Most potential learners have a very good idea of the type of course they are looking for. However, you may also be browsing for courses that will help you start a new career or to enhance your current curriculum vitae. In both cases you will find what you are looking for.
Coursera Categories – The courses are grouped into categories, such as Business, Computer Science, Personal Development and many more. These categories can be viewed by simply opting for the “Find a Course” option.
Sub-categories – Once you choose a specific category you will be presented with a list of all the courses that are available in that category. To make things even easier, the courses are further sorted into sub-categories. In this list, the University presenting the course and the scope of the course (e.g. specialization of 5 courses) are indicated.
Keyword Listing – If you do not see the category you are interested in, you can still find the courses you are looking for. For example, you may be interested in courses on the topic Psychology, but there is no such category. All you need to do is type the word “psychology” into the search box and you will be presented with a list of all courses dealing with this topic.
2. Search Options
General – The Coursera website provides various ways to find the course that will suit your needs. The easiest way of exploring the catalog is to browse the various categories. This can be accessed by using the “Find a Course” option. This will result in a list of course categories.
Category Listings – When you select a specific category you will be presented by a list of all the courses in that category. Only basic information about each course is provided, but you can access very detailed information if you choose to do so. You will also be given more information about the university involved and the lecturer that will be presenting the course. This may also help you decide whether the course is for you.
Search Function – There are other ways to access course information. One of the simplest methods is to use the extensive, yet easy to use search function. You can search for virtually anything. For example, you may want to see only courses that are part of a specialization, or courses where a specific topic is covered. The possibilities are truly endless.
Alternatives – Another great way to find the ideal course for you is to follow the trail of other visitors to the site. This can be done by selecting the “Students who viewed this course also viewed…” option. In addition, it may be helpful to browse the suggested courses based upon your search criteria.
Feedback from previous students can be a very helpful resource. The feedback provided by students are presented as it was given. Negative comments and suggestions are not edited or deleted. In this way you can get an independent opinion about any course that caught your attention.
Search by University – You may even want to see only courses that was designed by specific universities or that are presented by specific lecturers. This is perfectly possible on the Coursera platform.
3. Course Information
When you browse through a list of courses you are initially provided with only basic information regarding each course. (The course name, the type of course and the name of the university presenting it.) You can then zoom into a specific course and access more information.
Nobody wants to wade through masses of information that may just turn out to be irrelevant. That is why information about courses are presented in layers, each layer providing more and more detail.
Specific info – If a particular course catches your attention you can access more information about that particular course. You will be told how much time you will need to commit each week, when the course is next scheduled and what the learning outcomes of the course will be. There is also a detailed overview of the course or, in the case of a specialization, all the courses. If you need prior experience or qualifications to enrol for this course, you will also find that information here.
In every instance, you can access even more detailed information by activating the “More detail” option. You will then be presented with much more detail. The topic covered for each week with the title of each lecture, practical assignment and quiz is also listed.
4. Additional Information and Help
Detailed information on each course is important, of course, but you may also need other information to guide you towards starting your studies. The Help section, at the bottom of the page, is the first place to visit.
- There is an entire section on how to set up and personalize your account.
- Another section deals with all matters related to payments and refunds.
- The Trouble Shooting section deals with common problems and how to solve them.
- If you cannot find the topic on which you need help, you can use the search box in the Help section.
- You may also find it helpful to visit the Frequently Asked Questions section.
- The support team at Coursera (academic and administrative) will respond to your queries and answer your questions promptly.
5. Device Compatibility
All Coursera courses can be accessed through a wide variety of devices (tablets, smart phones and laptop computers). It does not matter whether you use iOS or Android. In addition, you can download a free app that will enhance your whole Coursera experience. You can also connect with Coursera through their blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.
6. Coursera Refund Policies
The Coursera refund policy is clear and reasonable. You should keep the following in mind:
- Refunds are not offered for payments made under a subscription plan, unless you cancel your subscription before your free trial period ends.
- Once you enrolled and paid for a course or a specialization, you can request a refund, but this must be made within 14 days of the payment.
7. You signed up. What next?
Once you have downloaded the Coursera App, you are ready to enroll for the course of your choice.
- Simply click on the course you want to take and choose Enroll. You simply set your enrollment options and you are ready to go.
- If you enrolled for a current course you will be able to access the course materials immediately. If this is not the case, you need to wait until the next time the course is scheduled.
- As an enrolled student, you are able to ask for help, advice and support at any time. You will also have access to student forums, where you can exchange ideas and discuss course aspects. Coursera will never allow you to become a student in isolation.
Coursera Pros and Cons
The big name universities that back all the courses are a very big plus. This means that you can be absolutely sure that you will learn from reputable educational institutions and be lectured by highly qualified and experienced lecturers.
The courses have been designed with busy people in mind. Lectures can generally be completed within 30 minutes and in most cases you need to dedicate only three or four hours to your studies each week. Time constraints will therefore not be an obstacle in your path.
Many students think that it is very difficult to study from home, without the support of a group of other students and real live lecturers. This should not be a problem, however. The Coursera support team is indeed very supportive and you should find valuable advice and help by participating in student forums.
Coursera Review – Verdict
The modern world is fiercely competitive and you can only hope to succeed if you remain at the cutting edge at all times. This is what Coursera offers you: up-to-date, well designed courses that are presented by acknowledged experts from eminent universities. For people like me, who simply cannot take time out to attend traditional, classroom-based courses, Coursera offers a lifeline and the chance to keep sharpening my skills.
Please share this Coursera review or leave a comment about your personal experience.