In a Nutshell: Look for a link to audit the course. We have marked it in these screenshots.
Here at Class Central we get asked all the time whether Coursera courses are really free. The Coursera user interface (UI) is designed to push learners towards Coursera’s paid offerings, and it may confuse new learners regarding what’s free on the platform and how to sign up for it.
Note: 1600+ courses are available completely free
How to Enroll in Coursera Courses for Free
- Look for a link to Audit the course on individual course pages. The Audit option is not available on Specialization, MasterTrack, or Professional Certificate Pages so you need to navigate to the single course page first.
- Some courses include assessment items (but no certificate) for free. Simply sign up for Full Course, No Certificate.
- Some courses are paid-only. Look for the green $ symbol on the Class Central page.
- If you are unable to pay and want a certificate, you can apply to Coursera for Financial aid.
Read on for more details.
What is Coursera?
Coursera is an online education provider that offers online courses, popularly known as MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses, from top universities around the world.These partners include Stanford, Duke, Penn, Princeton, Michigan, Peking, and HEC Paris. Coursera also partners with companies like IBM, Google, and PwC — these companies have also launched courses on Coursera. Currently it has 190 active partners from 48 countries around the world.
As well as individual courses and 34 online degrees, Coursera offers 900+ groups of courses known as Specializations, Professional Certificates, and MasterTracks. Some groups of courses can be used as credit towards degrees available through Coursera, but these are not free when used as university credit.
Can you get a Coursera Certificate for Free?
Certificates were free in Coursera’s early days. Unfortunately, you can’t get a free certificate for completing Coursera courses now. Many MOOC providers have stopped offering free certificates for completing their online courses.
You can, however, apply for financial aid for most courses if you can’t afford to pay for a certificate.
Is Coursera Still Free?
Yes and no. A few courses on Coursera are paid only. These are indicated on Class Central by a small green $ symbol. One example is Image Understanding with TensorFlow on GCP.
At the time of writing this article, a big majority of the courses have some element of “free” — mostly the videos are free to watch but you need to pay if you want access to graded assignments and certificates. However, Coursera still has many courses for which even the graded assignments are completely free.
You must sign up (Join for Free) with Coursera before you can see the price. Your Class Central account is not the same as an account with Coursera.
How to Audit Coursera Courses
Coursera calls having access to the free portions of a course “auditing the course.” I first came across this concept of auditing when I went to Georgia Tech, where I got my Masters in Computer Science. I got my undergrad degree in India and we didn’t have the concept of auditing there.
Here is a quick definition from a university’s FAQ: Auditing a course allows a student to take a class without the benefit of a grade or credit for a course.
So when you are trying to enroll in Coursera courses for free, look for the word Audit after you select the Enroll For Free button. Audit does not include assessment items or a certificate, but lecture videos, course readings, and discussion forums are usually available for free. Coursera keeps tweaking their UI or testing different iterations so what’s on your screen on Coursera’s website may be different from our screenshots.
To avoid providing your payment details to Coursera, you need to select the Audit link.
What if the Audit link is not visible?
First, you need to find the course page. You cannot sign up for free via Specialization pages.
Most newly launched courses are part of a Specialization or Professional Certificate. Some older courses that were around twelve weeks long have been converted into Specialization format, with the original course split into multiple courses.
Professional Certificate and Specialization pages do not allow you to sign up for a single course. If you click on the “Enroll for Free” button, you will only be given an option to subscribe to the whole Professional Certificate or Specialization.
To audit for free, you need to find the individual course pages. If you scroll down a bit you will see a list of courses that are part of the Specialization. Click on a course name to go to the single course page.
Unfortunately, even though it lists the courses in the Specialization, the Specialization page may not necessarily link to the individual courses via the course name links. In this case, to visit the course’s page, copy the course name and paste it in the search bar on Coursera. Better yet, you could search for the course on Class Central — https://www.classcentral.com/search. We will also show you results of similar courses that are not on Coursera.
When you are on the course page, select the Enroll button and look for an Audit link as shown above.
Because some courses are part of more than one Specialization or Professional Certificate, you may see a pop-up like this one. Click Next, or first select the drop-down arrow to change the program.
The next screen shows the Audit link.
If you are on an individual course page and there is no Audit link, it may be one of the few paid only courses. You can check this by going back to the Class Central information page and looking for a green $ symbol for the COST.
Full Course, No Certificate
This pop-up appears for courses with free access to graded assignments. Simply select the Full Course, No Certificate option.
What is Coursera Plus?
The pop-up may include Coursera Plus information, but you are still looking for an Audit link.
Coursera Plus is a single payment that gives you access to most courses in the catalogue for 12 months, including assessments and certificates. While not free, if you want certificates for several courses or Specializations, it may be a worthwhile investment.
I hope you found this guide useful. Please let me know if you find a Coursera course that doesn’t fit the patterns described above.