To put it simply, Coursera is a platform that hosts high-end massive online courses. What makes Coursera different is that it focuses on courses coming from highly reputed universities.
Coursera started off in America and was launched by a couple of Stanford professors who had the idea of providing elite education to the public for free. Now there are hundreds of courses from Universities all over the world and likewise Coursera reaches out to students all over the world.
Coursera is a great way to tap in to free high end University resources that would otherwise be beyond most people’s budgets (definitely beyond mine!).
How does it work? You find a course and sign up then go through the videos and join in the discussions. The content is designed for online learning and has places to reflect on material and answer questions, as well as immediate feedback (very easy to do online).
No, you cannot get credit at these Universities for doing the courses, but you do get to connect with people and learn lots of great stuff.
There is discussion about charging fees and gaining credits but this opens up the whole pandoras box of how ‘open’ is ‘open’. Fees are like applying a gateway to enter the course and doesn’t that go against the initial idea of opening up education…? Check out my post on OER’s for a simple clarification of what an ‘open’ educational resource is.
This is all discussion for another time.