The internet has opened the doors to communication and education for many across the globe. Just by going online, you can learn a language or find out how to fix a simple problem with your car. You can even enroll in online courses to earn a degree from anywhere. Unfortunately, these programs still come with tuition costs — a barrier for many. However, there are now plenty of Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCs) that you can participate in free of charge. One of these platforms is Coursera.
Coursera hosts thousands of courses across various disciplines. They partner with universities around the world — including the Ivy League. They also partner with companies like Google and IBM for more technical courses. You can take as many classes as you want through Coursera at no charge. Want to study Constitutional Law with Yale? Or algorithms with Stanford? You can watch lectures, take notes, and chat with fellow students all for free and at your own pace. You can also access the entire course on any device you choose, making it easy to study anytime, anywhere.
Classes are structured mostly like a traditional college course. You'll have reading and possibly homework assignments each week as well as lectures to watch. Coursera operates on a sessions schedule, which allows students to communicate and discuss the course material more easily. There are weekly deadlines to keep students on track, but you have no deadline to complete the course. If you don't finish the class within one session, you can always re-enroll until you complete it.
However, unless you pay for a specific course or specialization, you won't be able to earn an official certificate that proves you took the course. Some courses won't allow you to get grading feedback unless you pay for it either. If you just want to learn something new on your own spare time, this won't be an issue. If you want to take the course to advance your career, you'll definitely need proof. To help with the funding gap, Coursera provides financial aid. If you're approved for aid, you'll have 180 days to complete the course. If you do not complete the course within that time period, you can re-apply.
If you want to go further than just one course at a time, you can also enroll in professional certificate programs or even earn a full degree. Coursera currently offers two kinds of certificate programs and four Master's degree programs. These tracks are mostly focused in business, management, accounting and computer science. These are offered in partnership with specific universities, making your degree just as valuable as those of students who enrolled on campus.
Coursera is a great resource to learn more anywhere you want. However, its course catalog can be limited in some fields. If you're looking for more classes in a specific subject area, take a look at MOOC-list.com. This website lets you search across various MOOC platforms by subject to find the classes you are most interested in.