October 4, 2012

Coursera – Free Learning Tools Online

Book learning doesn’t have to end once you’ve graduated from college and collected your degree. Coursera is a tool that anyone can use to take university-level courses online, with topics that run the gamut from humanities and social science to mathematics, business, and more.

Coursera courses are spread out across 16 unique categories. Once you’ve signed up and logged in, you can begin browsing through available courses by department, university, or keyword. When you find a course that looks interesting, click on the title and watch an introductory video for a better idea of what you’re getting into. Each Coursera course page also provides detailed course information, like the weekly workload, length of the course, and the instructor’s professional background. You can begin a Coursera course at any time, although most courses do have a preferred start and end date. To get going with the material, visit the class page, check out the syllabus, and start watching the video lectures that go along with that week’s topic. Most courses have an active “forum” section, where you can discuss coursework and debate relevant issues with fellow classmates online.

Unlike competing web-applications, Coursera courses are taught by actual professors from top universities around the United States, and students can earn signed certificates for completing certain courses. Coursera gives people a great way to master new concepts and learn new skills without ever having to leave the comfort of their living rooms.

Practical Uses:

  • Take an introduction to finance course
  • Learn more about game theory
  • Earn a certificate in health policy
  • Impress your friends by boning up on your medical knowledge

Insider Tips:

  • Coursera currently offers more than 100 courses
  • Video lectures can be streamed in real time
  • Students are often asked to answer simple questions during video lectures to ensure they’re staying engaged with course content
  • Coursera courses are taught by actual professors

What we liked:

  • Students can communicate with their peers in the classroom forums
  • All Coursera courses are free
  • Coursera offers courses in 16 categories
  • Students can earn actual signed certificates for passing certain courses

What we didn’t like:

  • Some people may not realize that Coursera is meant to compliment university coursework, not replace it entirely


Company Info:

  • Launched: 2011
  • Privately Held
  • Headquarters: Mountain View, California
  • Founded by: Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller
  • Web site:


  • Free

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