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Tips on How to Take Free Online Courses on Coursera

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MOOCs and Coursera

Massive open online courses or MOOCs is an excellent resource for education worldwide. Coursera, an online learning platform, hosts thousands of courses with certificates, specializations and even degrees. To take an online course, all you need is a computer and access to the Internet. It is especially useful for those learners who don’t have direct access to higher education, or their universities don’t offer courses in advanced and diverse fields of study.

Create your profile here today if you don’t have one yet.

Refugees and students in other underprivileged parts of the world can benefit greatly from it. If you are a refugee student or just someone with a desire for learning new skills and knowledge and developing your career, Coursera is the place.

This summer, I completed three courses with certificates. Coursera charges about $49 per certificate although for specialization you have to pay extra. The specialization includes more than a course–—three to five depending on the type of specialization.

For instance, the creative writing specialization has five courses, which means you will get a certificate for each course you complete. However, you have to pay separately for each course.

You can find courses offered by professors from Harvard and Princeton to the University of Edinburgh on almost any subject you choose to take. The courses I took were hard to find at Rutgers University where I study for my Ph.D. Thus, online education is an excellent addition to classroom education.


How to enroll FREE for a course?

You may be wondering why the word “free” in the headline if you have to pay to take a course? Wait! The great news is yet to come.

Yes! The good news is you can take most courses for free. Generally, Coursera charges a fee, but it also offers financial aid. If you want to get a full waiver or agree to pay $10 (or whatever you decide) for a course, you need to apply for it.

Keep in mind that it is better to pay something like $5 or $10 per course than nothing. Even a humble contribution will make your application look more credible. Coursera has accepted all my requests —seven in total.

The application usually asks two questions:

  1. Why are you applying for Financial Aid?
  2. How will taking this course help you achieve your career goals?

You need to answer these two questions. In answer to the first question, tell them why you deserve financial assistance. Explain why you can not pay. Your reasons should be believable. Tie the need for help to your academic or professional goals.

The response to the second question should explain step by step your interest in the course and how it will help you achieve your career goals. For example, if you want to take a course on writing, show them your interest in writing and how the course will help you learn new writing skills. If you teach writing, say it will equip you with advanced capabilities to better prepare your students.

You have to answer each question in 250 words. Once you submit your application, you will get a notification on your profile. You will get the final decision in about two weeks. Keep an eye on the Updates option on the left side of the page.


How to get started on the course?

Once you receive acceptance, get started on the course. Depending on the course and your hard work and commitment to it, it should not take more than three weeks or a month from you to finish. It is ok if it takes longer than a month, but you should keep an eye on the deadline, new enrollment and any costs that may occur with it.

Each course will provide extensive guidelines on how to work through it. Make sure you read the material and complete all your assignments on time, so that other learners can give you feedback. You will get plenty of opportunities to partake in discussions and learn from other participants. The best thing with coursera certificates is that they are shareable to LinkedIn for your future employers to see.

With that, best of luck. Leave any thoughts or questions in the comments.


Aslam Kakar 



  1. It’s better than other
    I am interested

    Liked by 1 person

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