At times like this when a virus pandemic totally disrupts our daily activities, education at every level has come to a halt. Thanks to the power of the internet, however, our learning experience doesn’t have to. Whether it’s polishing or gaining a new skill, there are many things we can learn online nowadays.
That’s why I thought it would be a good idea to show how you can take Coursera courses for free and in the process, transforming the comfort of your home into a virtual classroom.
What Is Coursera
Have you heard of MOOC? It stands for Massive Open Online Course which means anyone from around the world can participate in the online courses without limitations. These courses are usually curated by experts from higher learning institutions or big corporations and provided through platforms like Coursera.
Founded in 2012, Coursera is a subscription eLearning service for higher education that currently serves more than 66 million learners from around the world. They offer a variety of distance learning courses to empower businesses, government/campus staff and college students in the following disciplines;
- Arts and Humanities
- Computer Science
- Data Science
- Information Technology
- Math and Logic
- Personal Development
- Physical Science and Engineering
- Social Science
- Language Learning
There are 6 types of learning programs to choose from, 5 of which are primarily paid courses;
- Online Degrees – Earn an accredited bachelor or master’s degree within 1 to 4 years. Costs start from $9,000 onwards. Best for individuals who want to study part-time.
- MasterTrackTM Certificates – Earn a master certificate in less than a year. Costs start from $2,000 onwards. Best for professionals who want to upgrade their career credentials.
- Professional Certificates – Earn a career credential in less than a year by learning a new skill. Costs start from $49 per month. Best for those who want to prepare themselves for an in-demand job.
- Specializations – Help to master a specific career skill within 4-6 months. Costs start from $49 per month.
- Guided Projects – Learn a new skill in less than 2 hours, guided by experts. Costs start from $9.99 per course.
The 6th program is basically known as Courses and they deliver mostly the fundamental topics from every discipline. Therefore, it serves more like an introduction rather than a full-fledged education module. Since this section also has both paid AND free options, they outnumbered other learning programs on Coursera.
When you sign up for Coursera, the choices can be overwhelming. So before committing to any paid programs, it’s worth checking out the free courses first to get a good feel on the teaching flow, the quality of the lessons, and the overall impact it has on your learning experience.
How to Take Free Courses on Coursera
There are two meanings to the context of free here. One refers to being totally ‘free for access’ while the other refers to ‘free with limitations’.
(1) Free Courses
As mentioned earlier, the Course section offers many free short courses from some prestigious universities. That is if you don’t want a certificate upon completion. If you do, however, then it would cost anywhere between $29 to $70 to enrol.
To search for this option, simply enter ‘free courses’ on the search bar and you’ll see more than 1600 topics to choose from. The platform also has a list called Popular Free Courses which shows trending topics people are actively learning in real-time.
For example, it looks like many people are keen to know more about the current pandemic situation. This may be something that interests you as well.
(2) Free Courses for College Students and Government
Since the COVID outbreak, Coursera and its partnering institutions are offering college students and government staff free access to their courses catalogue right up to December 2020. The enrollment will give the individual full access to selected courses AND a certificate for completion at zero cost.
Therefore if you have a valid student or government ID, it’s a good time to take advantage of this initiative to learn or improve in your field of expertise.
(3) Audit a Course
Another way of enrolling for free on Coursera is to audit courses. It means you can access most of the course materials but not assignments, grading, or certificate for your commitment. This option is only available for selected courses.
(4) Free Trial
A 7-day free trial only applies for Specialization programs (not Courses), those that focus on specific career skills. A valid credit card is necessary to begin the process and you’ll only be charged on the 8th day of subscribing to the program.
During this period, you’ll have access to most of the course contents and assignments. In fact, if you can complete it within 7 days, you can even earn the certificate for free. If you don’t want to be charged, just remember to cancel the trial before the time is up.
(5) Financial Aid
Financial aids are available for most of the learning programs including short courses and they are meant for individuals who can’t pay for the certificate of completion. To apply, you need to log on to the official website (not mobile), choose the program you’re interested in and fill out an online form.
In the application, they will ask a few things like our educational background, income status, and reasons for needing financial assistance. Of course, you’re expected to be honest when providing this information.
If you hear from them within 2 weeks, you’re basically approved and will be automatically enrolled in the program. If not, they will let you know what went wrong and you can always re-apply at another time.
Why You Should Take The Free Courses on Coursera?
The plethora of courses offered through this platform is impressive. I mean, for the price of free, you can learn some pretty neat skills from prestigious universities and corporations. If you have a great desire for new knowledge, these options are going to keep you busy for a while.
The accompanying videos and reading materials are of good quality too and they seem to do a pretty good job in helping everyone from different language backgrounds achieve the goals of the courses. Unlike FutureLearn, I find that most of the topics are quite practical in nature and aren’t overly academic-oriented which tends to be a bit boring.
Taking these courses is also a good opportunity to review Coursera as an education platform and join their affiliate program. Affiliate marketing provides a means for people to recommend products and services and earn sales commissions through online purchases or subscriptions.
In the case of Coursera, commissions are paid when you refer a new student to the following learning programs.
- Coursera Plus (gives unlimited access to 3,000+ courses, Guided Projects, Specializations, and Professional Certificates, worth $399/year) = 10% commission
- Specializations (starts from $49/month) = 45% commission
- Other Courses and Professional Certificates (starts from $49/month) = 20% commission
These are something worth looking into if you’re planning to start a blog about online learning and education. I think this is a great niche to get into as more people utilize the internet for upgrading their skills and knowledge. Go to Rakuten Marketing if you’re interested to apply for the affiliate program.
Are There Any Downsides to the Free Courses?
Not many, but one of the things I encountered is that you can’t fast forward until a current module is completed. In other words, the learning process has to be in sequence and the interface won’t let you skip around different modules.
The number of free courses can be overwhelming and one may not know where to even begin. Should that be the case, I recommend picking according to your discipline of interest or just start with the Popular Courses first.
As for the affiliate program, the commissions are only paid once per subscription. That means, even when the subscriber continues the following year, no commission will incur on your side. If you’re interested in making recurring commissions, check out these online membership programs instead.
Here’s Another Free Course You Should Try…
Have you always wanted to do more than just the confinement of your classroom or workspace? Maybe something that can let you express endless creativity or achieve greater financial success in life?
If you find yourself nodding to these questions, you’re not alone. Time has changed (more so during this crucial period) and conventional learning may not necessarily take you to where you want to go. That’s why I created this blog back in 2014; firstly, to enable myself to pursue other interests in life while building a second income and secondly, to get out of the 9-5 grind.
Your reasons could be different from mine but the solution may be more similar than you think. This comprehensive entrepreneurship training is great for passionate individuals, aspiring professionals, and existing business owners. Try the program free for 7 days to see how you can transform skills into something more exciting in the online space.
Overall, I hope this article will encourage you to take some free courses on Coursera – while they last. Let me know in the comments below what you think. Talk soon.