What is Coursera and How Does It Work?

By Corbin HartwickUpdated on March 14, 2022

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Techboomers is your online source for learning the basics of using the most popular websites and applications on the Internet in simple, easy-to-understand steps (or at least, we hope we are!). Now, wouldn’t it be nice if there was a website like us that could teach you skills normally reserved for post-secondary education, without the monetary and logistic conundrums of actually setting foot on a campus? One of the best websites in that model is Coursera.org.

Coursera has partnered with top universities and educational organizations across the United States and beyond to make post-secondary learning available through the Internet via massively-open online courses (M.O.O.C.s). Coursera offers courses in subjects such as business, engineering, computer technology, social science, medicine, and more! These courses are available in several countries around the world, and some can even count as credits towards completing a degree!

So what exactly is Coursera?

Coursera is an open online course website featuring post-secondary courses from top global academic institutions. Most courses are free to take, and consist of watching lecture videos and presentations, doing readings, holding discussions with other students, and completing assignments and quizzes.

Accreditation is available for some courses (and groups of courses), but requires additional processing, such as verifying your identity on assignments and paying money.

How does Coursera work? 3 steps to start learning

1. Sign up for a free account, and choose the subject fields that you’re interested in.

Signing up for Coursera is easy and costs you no money. Simply enter your name, email address, and a password, or log in through your Facebook account. Then tell verify your email address and tell Coursera what you’d like to learn about, and you’re done!

Select your preferred Coursera subject fields

2. Pick the courses that you want to take, and decide whether you want accreditation from them, or just the knowledge.

Coursera has nearly 1500 university-level courses for you to discover, spread across 9 broad academic disciplines. You can get recommendations based on your preferred disciplines, or search for a particular course on your own. Some courses are open year-round, while others have specific enrollment dates and run times, so be sure to look for this information before you sign up!

Many courses allow you to earn a “learner’s certificate” that you can show off on your résumé, or (in rare cases) credit towards a university degree. And some courses are part of “specializations”, groups of related courses that let you master a particular field of study all in one go! (Note that both of these things cost money, though.)

Selecting from recommended Coursera courses

3. Get down to studying with readings, lectures, class discussions, assignments and quizzes, and more!

Once you’ve joined a course or two on Coursera, it’s time to hit the books! Check the weekly modules for course information, readings, lecture videos, and presentation slides. Head to the discussion forums and chat with your fellow Coursera classmates about what you’re learning. Demonstrate your skills by completing assignments and quizzes. Each course is different, so the assignments that you receive may work a bit differently for each one. Just stick to the deadlines, and you’ll be fine!

Accessing Coursera course materials

It’s not quite the same as the on-campus treatment, but Coursera is one of the next best ways to get a higher learning experience from the comfort of your own home. It features real courses taught by real professors at top colleges and universities around the world. Best of all, you can use most of it totally for free! So if you’re ready to pursue your academic aspirations, follow along with our Coursera course as we walk you through everything from signing up to registering for courses to completing your course work and getting that feeling (or perhaps a physical symbol) of achievement! We won’t be doing your homework for you, though. Sorry.