Coursera initially started out as a small start-up, offering a handful of free MOOC courses.
Today, the site is profit-driven and hosts 3,000+ courses for more than 40 million students. Many courses are available for much less than US$100.
Which of the courses are still free? And how do prices and subscriptions work?
Free Courses From Coursera?
First, the good news. Many courses can still be accessed without paying anything.
Coursera calls this the auditing of a course. (Look for the small audit option link during enrollment. Sometimes it's labelled "Full Course, No Certificate".)
What's the difference between auditing a course and a paid enrollment?
You can also start with a free audit and later upgrade to the paid version.
Prices of Individual Online Courses
Some courses that are not part of a course series (Specialization) are available for a one-time fee.
Enrolling in the paid course track gives you the full learning experience, including all assignments and a certificate.
To view course prices, you need to register with Coursera and sign in to your account. The registration process is free.
Most individual courses cost approximately US$30-$100. For example, the highly popular Machine Learning course (Stanford University) may cost something like US$80, while a Sociology class from Amsterdam University may be available for half this amount.
The price difference does not reflect the course quality! It is part of a price differentiation strategy agreed between Coursera and its partner universities.
Learners who have made a payment may claim a refund within 2 weeks.
Subscription Plans: Specializations
Coursera Specializations are series of 5-6 individual online courses.
For Specializations, Coursera runs a subscription model with monthly payments. These can range from something like US$30 to $80 / month.
Most Specialization subscriptions offer a 7-day trial period. You can cancel your subscription within this trial period.
If you want to take an online class that is part of a Specialization, you need to subscribe to the entire Specialization. But you can simply cancel your subscription once you have completed the course.
Please note: Within a Specialization, you can usually audit the individual courses for free! This can be a good idea to test the Specialization before you commit to a paid subscription.
Professional Certificates and Online University Degrees
There are also Professional Certificate course series. They are similar to Specializations.
Online degrees that will earn you an accredited university degree are in a different pricing league, starting at around US$15,000.
Coursera has been found to experiment with pricing quite a lot in the past.
Users in different countries may see different prices (and of course different currencies).
Also, pricing of courses can be dynamic even for individual countries and users, meaning that prices can change according to Courseraʹs algorithms. However, our experience is that price changes are less frequent and less dramatic than on other course platforms (such as Udemy for example).
Coursera has in the past offered a subscription to the full course catalogue for certain users. This pricing plan has been terminated, presumably to prevent fraudulent use.
Some websites claim to offer discounts and coupons for Coursera courses. However, you should be very cautious before making any payments to these third-party sites. Most of them have no official relationship with Coursera and are not authorized to offer any price advantages.
Because changes in pricing may happen any time, please check out the help section if you have specific questions.
Scholarships for Students in Need
Learners who can't afford to pay for a course may apply for financial aid.
This requires to fill out an application, describing your specific situation and why you aren't able to afford the course fee.
We have been told that Coursera can be quite generous with the granting of scholarships.
For example, a college student from a developing country who plans to take a career-related online course should be likely to be accepted.
Short guide to the financial aid application (no sound):
Business Rates for Organizations
Special rates apply for companies who use Coursera to train their employees.
This includes team rates that can start at around US$400 per user per year for smaller organizations. Larger companies can negotiate their individual enterprise plans.
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