Coursera offers courses made by their university partners. But for the best part of 2021, they also let regular folk offer courses on their platform, as reported by Class Central. I myself created an Excel course. These special courses were called Community Guided Projects. But now, Coursera has put an end to this initiative. Here’s how it all worked and why it’s ending.
Community Guided Projects
In January 2021, Coursera invited me to create a Community Guided Project. This was a new program Coursera was testing. The previous year, they launched Guided Projects — short, interactive, browser-based learning experiences that help learners pick up a particular skill.
Community Guided Projects were similar but, as their name indicated, had a major difference: these courses could be created by anyone, not just instructors affiliated with Coursera partner institutions. And this made a big difference: by allowing virtually anyone to create a course, Coursera competed more directly with platforms that embrace this model, like Udemy.
Community Guided Projects needed to use freely available online tools — like Google Sheets, WordPress, Facebook, or LinkedIn — that could be opened directly inside a browser without needing to be downloaded. In addition, Community Guided Projects had to be free, and they couldn’t include graded assignments nor a certificate of completion.
My Excel Guided Project
Initially, Coursera only allowed a small group of people to create Community Guided Projects. Because I had completed many advanced-level courses on Coursera, they invited me to be in their first test group to create a project and share my expertise with others. Later, they opened this opportunity to everyone, so anyone could apply to create Community Guided Projects.
I created a Community Guided Project titled Problem Solving using Microsoft Excel. It taught learners Excel fundamentals, from formulas to rich visualizations to optimization methods via a hands-on approach. According to Class Central data, my project was the second most popular Community Guide Project on Coursera.
Shutting Down the Initiative
Just a couple of months into the experiment, Coursera decided to shut down Community Guided Projects. Apparently, there were some problems and they didn’t want to continue with it. They started by removing some of the Guided Projects that failed to satisfy certain criteria, such as enrollment targets. Other community guided projects continued to accept enrollments.
In October 2021, Coursera finally announced that they would remove all projects authored under the Coursera Community Project Network from their public catalog on October 15, 2021. And so they did: if you try to visit the Community Guided Project page of my Excel course, you now get an error.
Fortunately, instructors who create high quality, popular projects were invited to upgrade their projects to Coursera’s Projects Network — thus dropping the “Community” label. Luckily, I was invited too!
For instructors, the experience is quite different from Community Guided Projects. As an author for the Coursera Project Network, we would be offered a paid contract, along with onboarding support and training to create projects with the potential to reach millions of learners worldwide!