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Written by:
Martin Barrett
Last Updated:
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Is Coursera As Good As A Degree? Everything You Need To Know

Coursera is what you would call a ‘Massive Open Online Course Provider (MOOC), they work alongside universities and other organizations to offer university-level courses you can complete from the comfort of your home.

It can all sound a little too good to be true, whether you are an employer seeking to train your employees with Coursera, or simply an eager student looking to widen their knowledge.

One thing that you may wonder about is whether these courses are really equivalent to a university degree, or if they could waste your time down the line. 

We’re here to do the work so you don’t have to, here’s everything you need to know about Coursera and its courses.

Keep reading to learn our honest verdict to know if is Coursera as good as a degree program.

What Is Coursera?

Put simply, Coursera is an education provider, however, you look at it. They provide you with courses, as well as the subsequent resources and examinations required to gain a Coursera certificate in whatever discipline you are studying.

The twist is that rather than paying through the arm for a university course that you have to be present for, Coursera can cut your studying times in half and is totally remote, allowing you to study at home.

With over 6300+ online courses and 95 million + learners Coursera has been valued at over $1 billion since 2019, so it’s clear they are not only popular but dominating the MOOC industry.

Who Founded Coursera?

Coursera was developed by two computer scientists at Stanford University, namely, Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller.

They previously dabbled in creating online learning platforms previous to Coursera, Ng had created the Stanford Engineering Everywhere Programme that taught Stanford students very complicated courses like machine learning in the free trial.

The demand pushed Ng to seek reinforcements in fellow professor Daphne Koller to create something bigger, Coursera.

They started in 2012 and in around eight years they had gained the backing of 4000 learners. The popularity pushed them to resign from their own academic careers to push Coursera to the masses.

Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, while still founders, don’t actively manage the company anymore, but rather a whole board of directors now manage the company under the CEO management of Jeff Maggioncalda.

What Courses Can Coursera Offer?

One of the main attractions of Coursera is the number of courses they offer to both independent learners as well as corporations who want to use Coursera as an online learning platform to train their own employees. Coursera can easily offer over 10,000 courses at the time of writing.

Another huge advantage of using Coursera, one of the reasons it is so popular, is that all of these courses exist as a result of university partnerships. Put simply, unlike other MOOC sites, Coursera only offers courses that are backed by universities, and nothing less.

If you were to use another MOOC website to study, many of their courses will be developed by a single instructor acting on his own, rather than with the backing of a huge institution like a university.

Coursera can basically offer you anything that a listed accredited university can.

While there are shorter, more beginner, courses that can offer you a basic insight into something like Data Engineering and give you a professional, accredited, certificate as a result of a pass, you could literally do a college degree programs or Bachelor’s degree on Coursera, should you want to.

For instance, you can do a BSc in Computer Science or Data Science at The University of London, simply from your sofa in the US, with full certification, if you so wish to.


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What About Admissions?

One thing that often paints how we view universities and their requisite courses is admissions. Having access to a Bachelor’s degree is awesome, but does this still require the same amount of vetting, qualifications, and other considerations, in order to be accepted? Well, the answer is a yes and a no.

Certain courses on Coursera require no qualifications at all, so long as you pay you can learn but will suggest having certain skills before the course in order to excel, while not requiring them.

Meanwhile, other courses that are university-backed may indeed require some qualifications related to your country’s qualifications in order to be accepted.

So it can depend completely on the course. But Coursera is backed by its community, in other words, they want your money, so most courses can be easier on admissions than a physical university. If you are studying online there are lots of reasons why admissions are less restricted. 

A physical university has resources that need to be spread, such as library spaces, books, space in lecture halls, capacity for seminars and lectures, and a certain number of students per a lecturer.

These considerations are not there with Coursera, they simply provide you with the course, so having a restricted amount of learners per course is not really something they need to worry about, opening up places for those who simply want to learn.

Fail or pass would only affect you, rather than reflect on the institution.

How Do The Courses Work?

There’s nothing fancy to how the Coursera courses operate, they are in fact basically the same as any other online learning service – let’s take a look. When taking a Coursera course you can expect the learning to be split among four resources:

  • video-based lectures
  • online reading materials
  • quizzes
  • peer-graded assignments

Each course is generally up into weekly learning chunks, like at a university, in the longer courses they usually run a quiz at the end of each day or at the end of the week, some will exclude the first week so you can settle in.

As the course continues you can expect peer-graded assignments to assess what you have learned and to gain the Coursera certificates.

What If I Fail A Course?

When you pay a lot of money at a University, if you fail your exams, you don’t actually get that money back but are expected to perform – with Coursera things are a little different.

If a Coursera-paying student fails a peer-reviewed assessment that can re-submit the assessment to be graded again. You won’t get the course certificate or degree if you fail the assessments, but you can essentially re-sit them for free.

It’s worth being aware that each course is different, so check out the course description to know what the passing grade is, which assessments are weighted more highly, etc.

Is Coursera As Good As A University Degree? Everything You Need To Know

How Much Does Coursera Cost?

Each course or degree often a different amount of money, per the provider. Some single and individual courses can cost anywhere from $30 to much more.

Of course, if you are enrolling in something like Bachelors’s or Masters’s degree, these can require quite a lot of money, as the University provider doesn’t want to be undercut by students who think they can get it cheaper on Coursera.

While it is certainly cheaper, this is mainly in line with the resources you aren’t using in the physical university.

It can be worth weighing up the advantages of learning at home, particularly if you are looking into a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent.

You don’t get too much of a discount from Coursera in comparison to attending a physical university. Without access to the university’s physical resources like a library, etc, the amount you pay to study online degrees with Coursera might not be worth it in comparison.

You might want to consider collaboration and simply being around other students could be worth the full price of physical enrollment.

A cool thing about Coursera is that you can audit nearly any course on there for free. Auditing in this sense, a US term, refers to attending an academic class informally without earning college credit. You don’t take the quizzes or gain any certification but simply review the materials there should you wish to.


Degrees, Certificates, & Free Online Courses

  • More than 5,000 courses
  • Professional Certificates
  • Degrees from the Top Universities
Try Coursera

Coursera For Business And Corporations

One of the main reasons that Coursera has gained so much popularity and capital is thanks to their accredited Coursera courses, but also that corporations and businesses can use Coursera to provide certification to both current and prospective employees.

For example, Adobe, Google, and other companies like IBM pay Coursera a certain fee so that their employees have free access to the relevant courses.

This means your employees will be getting accredited certificates and more through Coursera, making them better employees.

In the age of remote and hybrid work, this ability to learn online and gain certifications all thanks to a corporate license with Coursera is really useful for businesses and corporations who want to ensure their employees get the best opportunities to learn and gain new skills.

This is ideal for roles that require re-skilling or even up-skilling. These corporations usually pay a flat fee annually per user, with different packages depending on how many users you want to sign up from your company.

The professional certificates from Coursera are ideal for large corporations who want to upskill employees or prospective employees who want to get ahead of the rat race.

Put simply, if you want to move to Google, you could take the Google IT Support Course, gain a certificate, and then present that to Google as a prospective employer. Around ⅓ of all certificates are issued by Google to prospective employees, while IBM also takes up ⅓ of these certificates.

Our Verdict: Is It Better Than A Traditional University?

There can be quite a few things to weigh up here. First of all, if you plan on studying online and receiving an accredited certificate, then Coursera is certainly the place to do it.

Turning up to a job interview with an accredited certificate is exactly the same as a certificate you earned in person, whether that’s a Bachelor’s degree or simply external learning to beef up your resume.

On paper, not many employers will really mind whether it was online or in-person, it’s the grade itself that they will look for, as well as whether it is accredited – an unaccredited course is relatively pointless to employers.

Time is worth considering as well, you can complete certain courses more quickly than in-person should the course allow it, meaning you can take weekly units in succession rather tha