A bird’s-eye view
This Coursera review is one of many in a qualitative analysis comparing popular ‘Learn to Code’ platforms using6 categories, each with 5 distinct grades. This is a bird's-eye view, rather than a comprehensive dissection of Coursera.
The scope of this review is limited to Coursera’s Computer Science, Data Science, and Information Technology courses.
Table of Contents
Who is Coursera Great for?
- Beginners with a high level of interest and attention.
- Beginners with a background in Math.
- Anyone interested in courses from top universities and corporations.
- Anyone who’s never studied Computer Science.
- Anyone interested in a concise deep dive of machine learning by Andrew Ng (it’s the course that started Coursera).
- Experienced developers interested in learning about a challenging new branch of software.
|2||Most courses are US$40-100/month.|
|Cost category and grading details|
Dozens of Computer Science, Data Science, and IT courses exist completely free, including Coursera’s Machine Learning course by Andrew Ng. Students of these free courses even have access to automated and peer-reviewed grading systems, but certificate of completions require payment.
Their paid courses require a monthly subscription of US$30-100. This gives you access to automated, and peer-reviewed grading systems, as well as a certificate of completion. The monthly cost of courses at Coursera contrast with edX (almost identical platform) where courses are priced as a one-time fee. The benefit in Coursera’s model is that students can extend their deadlines indefinitely.
If cost is an issue, financial aid is available.
|3||Projects are graded by other students.|
|Teacher Feedback category and grading details|
Coursera’s courses do not offer any feedback from a formal teacher, but some courses offer peer-reviews! The quality of each peer-review is hit-or-miss, but on the whole, they’re great.
Range of Tools
|3||Most tools from the basket of tools are covered.|
|Range of Tools category and grading details|
Coursera’s software-related courses are categorized under Computer Science, Data Science, and Information Technology.
- Computer Science courses explore computer science concepts using programming languages. They also explore the most popular libraries and frameworks used by developers.
- Data Science courses cover only the most popular Big Data languages, libraries, and frameworks.
- Information Technology courses are very sparse, mostly created by the Big Cloud providers.
Some courses offered at edX are also offered at Coursera (like Standford Online’s Algorithms Specialization by Tim Roughgarden).
|5||Many computer science specializations exist.|
|Computer Science category and grading details|
Coursera (and edX) partner with some of the world’s top universities to provide courses that explore computer science deeper than any other platform. Courses here can be enough to replace a basic computer science degree in the eyes of Amazon, Google, Facebook, or Apple.
|5||Real-world projects are presented with a description or walkthrough as a primary objective of courses -- by screened instructors.|
|Real-World Projects category and grading details|
Coursera’s software courses provide excellent courses with great project instructions. The courses tend to be dense, covering lots of material quickly, especially when the goal of the course is to demonstrate a theoretical concept. Unfortunately, not all courses provide an automated grader for assignments/projects (the best ones do). Some also provide peer-reviews where other students review your assignment and provide a score — this is a good thing. Sometimes after a project, you’ll be presented with a quiz which should be easy if the project was completed successfully.
Note: Many course projects can be very challenging for someone with a poor background in math.
|1||No beginner-friendly coding environments available.|
|Beginner Environments category and grading details|
Coursera does not offer any interactive coding environments.
Coursera’s courses are typically very dense, covering a lot of information quickly, so a high level of interest, attention, — and sometimes, prerequisite knowledge — is required. However, many course projects would provide excellent showcases of a developer’s talent, especially if they extended the project on their own in some way.
Coursera and edX score identically based on the grading system implemented here. This should be expected as many courses are provided by universities and colleges on both platforms! The only difference between them are subtle differences of the platform’s usability. For example:
- Coursera offers flexible deadlines whereas edX is very strict on this matter (makes sense given their different price models).
- edX allows students to connect and help each other through social media groups, while Coursera only offers discussion forums.
Sam Malayek works in Vancouver for Amazon Web Services, and uses this space to fill in a few gaps. Opinions are his own.