Are these online courses (MOOCs) really free?

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Written by Dhawal Shah Last updated on March 02nd, 2023

The course materials (e.g. video lectures, discussions, etc.) are usually free, but certain features like graded assignments, certificates, and mentorship may be paid features. Course and/or certificate costs vary between courses and providers. Courses may be available either on a subscription basis or for individual purchase.

We have compiled various lists of free certificates and badges from many providers in our Massive List of Free Certificates and Badges and our collections of Free Certificates.

Other options are also available:

  • Audit mode: Access course materials for free, without a certificate. If you are not clear on how to sign up for Coursera courses for free, here is a guide from Class Central: A Guide on How to Sign up for Coursera Courses for Free. Other course providers may have a similar process for free access.
  • Financial aid: If you want a certificate but cannot afford the cost, some providers offer financial aid to eligible applicants. See Can I get financial aid for MOOCs?

Some courses are not free. These are indicated by a small $ symbol on Class Central.

MOOC-based degrees are also available through some MOOC providers. Although not free, these offer a number of advantages, including lower cost as compared to other online and on-campus degrees, flexibility, and pay as you go pricing.

Class Central's Help Center represents our best effort to answer the most common questions new learners face. It may not be completely accurate in every circumstance.

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