In order to entice us to purchase subscriptions, online learning platforms such as Coursera offer potential students free trial periods, giving us a glimpse inside the platform ecosystem so we can decide if it’s well suited to our interests and learning style.
If you’re really dedicated, and you’ve got some free time on your hands, you may even get through an entire course during Coursera’s free trial, but can you pick yourself up a certificate if you’re yet to pay for any services?
The quick answer is yes… sometimes.
It would be nice to complete our course, snatch that sweet, sweet certificate, and then scarper, canceling our premium subscription before a dime leaves our bank accounts, but it would be pretty ruinous for Coursera, which is why it’s a pretty risky endeavor.
- What Are The Risks When Trying To Claim A Free Certificate?
- How Does Peer Review Affect The Claiming Of Coursera Certificates?
- How Much Is A 1-Month Coursera Membership?
- Can You Get Certificates When “Auditing” Courses?
- Final Thoughts
What Are The Risks When Trying To Claim A Free Certificate?
Coursera offers a 7-day free trial so you can get a feel for the platform and try out a few courses. In that week, you can absolutely finish one of the courses.
In fact, if you have enough spare time, you can complete multiple courses before the trial period expires.
Sounds pretty good, right? Well, yeah, it’s great, but do bear in mind that, and I quote, “If you complete a course during the free trial period, Coursera reserves the right to require you to pay for a one-month subscription in order to receive a course, and/or specialization certificate.”
As you can tell from this statement, the claiming of free certifications is being cracked down on by Coursera (see also ‘What Is Coursera Plus?‘), but it might not be an impossibility.
It only takes a quick scan of relevant online forums to learn that many Coursera users have indeed claimed certificates during their free trial and then canceled their subscription.
It’s thought that as long as you download the certificate before the trial period expires and you’re automatically charged for a month or year’s subscription, then you’ll have snagged them for free!
But be warned, it’s not always an easy heist.
How Does Peer Review Affect The Claiming Of Coursera Certificates?
Many of the assignments on Coursera (especially the finals) are subject to peer review, meaning one of your peers takes a look at your work and provides constructive criticism, or, if it’s flawless, gives you a virtual pat on the back.
It’s a fantastic process employed by all the best colleges and universities, especially in arts and sciences.
Not only does it encourage and help you to master your chosen discipline, it adds legitimacy to your work, which is always great! But it’s not so great if you’re trying to make a quick exit.
When your assignment has to be peer-reviewed, you’re at the whim of the peer in question, and it’s unlikely they’re trying to smash through as many classes as you in a short period of time, as they’re probably not trying to cheat the system.
What I’m getting at here is that peer review can take time.
Sometimes you won’t get your work back for over a week, and being that the trial period is only 7 days, there’s no chance of you riding off into the sunset with your free certificate.
Can You Opt Out Of Peer Review?
Fortunately for most learners, but unfortunately for you, you cannot opt out of the peer review element of Coursera courses.
It’s an essential part of the experience, and may even affect your results, so you will not be awarded a certificate until the peer review process is complete.
In light of this, if you’re planning to swipe a certificate or two, do a little bit of research on the particulars of the courses first.
If they’re attached to a peer review session, you should steer clear, unless, that is, you’re fine to pay for the one-month membership if it comes to it.
How Much Is A 1-Month Coursera Membership?
For a 1 month Coursera membership you can expect to fork out anywhere from around $10 to about $40 for that first month’s membership.
Guided courses land on the more affordable end of this pricing spectrum, while professional and specialization certificate courses will set you back that premium amount.
So, if you’re willing to take the risk and shoot for a few free certificates, I’d recommend having the money set aside to cover the costs of that monthly subscription, just in case Coursera clocks your cowboy claiming of certificates.
What If I Can’t Pay The Coursera Subscription Fee?
Non-payment is covered in the Coursera literature by this eerily vague line… “If your payment method fails or your account is past due, we may collect fees using other collection mechanisms.”
Now, as menacing as this sounds, I’m sure that Coursera isn’t going to “send the boys round” to reimagine your knee caps, but it’s pretty clear that they’re going to get what’s rightfully theirs.
They’ll most likely sell your debt to a collection agency that will hound you relentlessly until you give in and hand over the cash.
Can You Get Certificates When “Auditing” Courses?
You don’t have to be on a free trial to check out some Coursera resources for free. This is referred to by the company as “auditing” the course.
When auditing, you will only gain access to certain aspects of the sample courses. Certain assignments and grading will be omitted, meaning you can’t truly complete the course.
Unfortunately, this means that you will not be able to pick up any certificates simply by auditing courses.
That said, once you complete the audit, you can pay to pick up the relevant certificate; however, bear in mind that you may have to complete the omitted elements of the course in order to claim it after payment.
If you’re on the hunt for free certificates, you may well be able to pick a few up during your free Coursera trial (see also ‘Are Coursera Certificates Worth It in 2022‘), but it’s not a given.
Your success will be dependent on the courses you choose and whether you can make a quick getaway.