For those looking to improve in a particular skill or gain additional knowledge, taking an online course has become an increasingly popular option. Especially as technology increases in our day-to-day lives, having the option to learn from home at an affordable rate while on your own schedule has many people seriously taking a look at some of the different options out there.
Unfortunately, for many, this is where the biggest problem comes in.
Where once, there were only a very small handful of quality online institutions available, over the years more and more have come onto the scene. Platforms like Masterclass, Skillshare, and edX are just some of the few different options that have exploded in popularity around the world, with several others as well.
Two online platforms that are often compared with one another are Coursera and Udemy.
Both options are great for developing an individual's personal skills as well as improving their overall ability and potential when seeking a job or promotion. Similarly, both have a wide variety of course topics ensuring students of all types can find an area of interest to focus on.
In reality, the conversation is less about which is “better” and more a matter of which suits your personal learning style the best.
This comparison review will go over the two platforms as well as their individual history and what makes them stand out in relation to one another. The goal here is that you can confidently decide which course meshes with you enough to warrant your time, money, energy, and effort.
So, without further ado, let's get started.
Before determining which course may be best for you, it's important that we know a little about either company in terms of their history and qualifications. If you've checked out any of the other articles, you've probably come across some information on Coursera. As such, we'll briefly go over them first before talking about Udemy and its history.
Originally founded back in 2012 by 2 professors (Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller) from Stanford, Coursera is what is known as a massive open online course, also known as a MOOC. The platform has been partnered with well over 150 different learning institutions including Princeton, Stanford, and the University of Michigan just to name a few.
Coursera's courses are between 4 and 12 weeks long and will often include weekly exercises, quizzes, and even class exams as a way to ensure its students fully understand the information. In addition to its standard course library, the platform also offers several specialization courses as well as specific workforce development certificates.
First created in 2010 by Gagan Biyani, Eren Bali, and Oktay Caglar in San Francisco California, Udemy has over 40 million students and 155,000 different courses. The online learning platform, while founded here in the US, has students from all around the world in over 180 countries and in over 65 spoken languages. In fact, 2 out of 3 students are actually outside the US.
Like Coursera, Udemy offers a large number of courses with the intention of improving their overall job readiness in different technical fields. Of all the different platforms, they are most well known for their affordable rates, extensive library, and easy access for becoming an instructor.
Now that we know a bit about either platform, let's see which is the best for you and your learning style.
Because each person is different in what they are looking for, it is impossible to include in this list every single difference between the two e-learning sites. instead, the best method of going over the two is to use a set base criteria and determining which has more to offer in that regard. The goal is that, outside of individual preference, you can see how one fares against the other.
Again, each person's interest will vary in terms of how important one point is compared to another so think of this as more of a guide than a definitive verdict. If, as an example, one platform offers a course you are looking for but is potentially more expensive, while we will let you know it will ultimately be up to you to determine how those two factors weigh against one another.
In this comparison review, we will be going over 5 specific aspects between both platforms: course quality, course variety, quality of support, certificate relevance, and pricing.
- Course Quality: How high is the overall quality of the course. Is it accessible enough for beginners while also offering courses challenging enough for experts?
- Course Variety: Determining what is the number and variety of courses offered on the site. This includes both, the standard as well as specialized course options for students.
- Quality of Support: What is the overall quality of the platform's support. In terms of both instructors as well as support admin, how quickly can one seek assistance for a problem before having it effectively resolved?
- Certificate Relevance: Determining how important and how relevant a certificate is when applying for a job or looking to acquire higher education.
- Pricing: Gauging each platform and its overall price range. How expensive one is compared to the other both as a whole as well as regarding specific additional options.
Arguably the most important aspect to consider when making a decision on a course. No matter what options are included, how great the support system is, or how much it costs, if the curriculum is taught by subpar instructors, the information is outdated, or the method of teaching isn't effective, none of the other factors will matter.
Here we will go over the quality behind both MOOCs and how they are generally received by other students. We will also go over how each platform teaches its students and their overall appeal as a result.
Starting with Coursera, there are a lot of tangible benefits that come with the platform. While Udemy has a larger selection, that doesn't necessarily mean that everything that glitters is gold. Conversely, while Coursera has a smaller number of options, they are largely focused on academic-based subjects, creating a much more university-themed setting.
As mentioned earlier, Coursera works in partnership with numerous learning institutions as well as universities in order to grant top-notch quality for each course curriculum. Not only that, but the specialized programs offered on the platform are made with help from industry-leading companies while giving real-world and practical activities for the students.
In exchange for this college-level education, however, comes a college-level time commitment. This can range from several hours on the short end, to weeks on the latter end. Depending on the program or degree chosen, it may potentially extend out to 10 months or even 6 years.
The largest benefit that comes from Coursera's lessons and curriculum is due to their practical and hands-on nature. Students regularly receive assignments and projects to ensure that they know the information and can actually apply it. Completed assignments are reviewed by fellow peers as well as mentors and instructors ensuring that a student is fully proficient upon their completion of the course.
Coursera Specialization & Professional Programs
Separate from their standard course curriculum, these programs help focus a student in a specific area so that they are at the highest level of proficiency when entering the professional world. They are more extensive when compared to the standard courses and can greatly vary in the amount of time required to complete (think that 10 month – 6-year potential timeframe).
Udemy, on the other hand, takes a very different approach. As stated earlier, the platform focuses on having a very large selection of courses in a wide variety of topics. Rather than the more narrow-focused nature found in Coursera, Udemy offers classes in everything, software and IT to Photography and Music to even Personal Development. The reason for this is that, while only select courses from universities are allowed on Coursera's platform, virtually anyone can create a course on Udemy. This, as a result, means a much larger and wider selection of options.
Now, while at first glance you may consider this “free-for-all” approach to result in a marketed reduction in quality, that isn't necessarily the case. While anyone “can” upload a course onto the platform, students and users are able to rate its overall quality after completing it. And while there are certainly some unimpressive or misleading courses offered, due to the extensive rules that must be followed, as well as the real-time ratings given by actual users, that number is astonishingly low compared to the amount available.
Lifetime Course Purchase
While there aren't any specialized programs available on Udemy, the platform has one of the rare advantages of each course, upon purchase, being available for the lifetime of the student. This basically means that, unlike Coursera, where courses are available for as long as you are on the platform itself or until the end date of the class, Udemy's courses are essentially yours to keep. This is great for those that want to review a course every few months or prior to applying for a job or promotion in the targeted field.
While Udemy has some incredibly high-quality courses that are essentially yours upon purchase, the fact of the matter is that they are largely for improving in a hobby or as a side project. Coursera, on the other hand, gives its students professionally established material that is essentially the same as going to a real-world university.
No matter if you are just looking to improve in a specific hobby or actively trying to become university-trained in an area, Coursera simply is more worth your time from a quality standpoint.
In terms of a course's variety, this is only slightly different than their quality. Instead of looking at how good the course is, this area checks the number of available courses available on the site.
As you can expect, Coursera's greatest strength is also (at least in this comparison) its greatest weakness. Because of the tightly focused curriculum options and vetted university courses, the site is not nearly as expansive as it could be. While they can hardly be considered lacking in content, when compared to Udemy there is no comparison.
Udemy, while potentially questionable on its quality front, is undeniable when it comes to the number of courses offered; especially when compared to Coursera. Whereas the university-level platform has over 4,000 offered courses available, this is literally a drop in the bucket next to Udemy's 155,000.
Not only does Udemy have a larger library compared to Coursera, but it is also more versatile and diverse. Rather than only learn of academic courses, Udemy offers students courses in virtually every area you can imagine.
The fact of the matter is that not only does Udemy have more courses offered than Coursera, but those courses are of incredible quality while being incredibly affordable. Not only that, but the fact that you can keep them indefinitely means you can always reread and retread the information.
This is a definite win for Udemy.
Quality of Support
No matter what platform you use, knowing that they have an effective support system, both in terms of instructors as well as general support, is vital for having confidence in the courses offered.
Coursera is well known for having a very capable and functional support section. Not only do they have a help forum with numerous topics that can be looked up, but they also have a live chat option that allows a student or user to communicate with their staff quickly and directly.
As far as their instructors are concerned, Coursera is very impressive overall. Because they are largely pulled from universities, these instructors are skilled and seasoned professionals, oftentimes having either a Masters or Ph.D. in their field.
Udemy's support, on the other hand, isn't quite as effective. In terms of their actual support admin, it is largely relegated to a support email with communications being reported as taking an especially long time to hear back from. They do have a general support forum however it is primarily used for payment-based issues such as refunds or missing course issues.
In terms of their instructors, this is a bit better. That said, even here it is not on the same level as Coursera. Because anyone can effectively create a course on the platform, this has led to some rare instances of less than upstanding practices, namely an instructor upselling a more expensive course outside of the platform entirely. Even those instructors that are legitimate are not as effective when compared to their Coursera counterparts, simply due to the former having, more often than not, a higher pedigree.
The fact of the matter is that Coursera has an effective and functional “Help” section while also having instructors and mentors that are ready and willing to aid their students. Not only that, but as mentioned earlier, these instructors are university professors, many having either a Masters or Ph.D.
This goes to Coursera without question.
For many prospective students, while getting trained in a course is certainly great in and of itself, the main thing they are looking for is the course's certificate upon completion. Depending on the quality of the online institution, this certificate can range from being fully accredited, allowing granting them transferable credits to an actual university as well as a higher chance at being selected for a job, to not being worth the paper they were printed on.
In terms of certificate relevance, for Coursera, it is largely based on what level you received it in. While standard courses may act as little more than a supplement to your resume or portfolio, getting a Professional Certificate or an actual degree can be another story entirely. These certificates, while taking longer to receive and generally more expensive, are actually accredited and hold weight similar to that of an actual university degree.
Udemy, unfortunately, is not as impressive in what it offers. While the material on the platform can be very good, because anyone (without any real verification) can effectively create a course, it is not accredited. Not only that but because it does not have the same reputation as Coursera, even the most impressive courses, when noted on a resume, will not carry the same weight as most standard courses on Coursera.
While certainly, Udemy has many top-notch courses that have often been reported to be worth more than a university major, these instances are largely anecdotal and more the exception to the rule. For the vast majority, if you are looking to actually leverage your online education into a career, investing in Coursera is your best bet.
The pricing model for a MOOC can vary greatly depending on what it is that they offer. While many often have a subscription-based component, others will simply charge for the course in question. Depending on what you are looking to achieve will largely determine which one will be right for you.
Coursera's pricing varies largely depending on what a person is looking for. All of their payment options have a 7-day free trial while their standard options can range between $29 and $99.
These are actually the cheapest options on the platform as their specialization courses operate off of a subscription model and are around $49 a month. Because these courses can last several months before completion, students will often find themselves having invested upwards of $300 to $600 per course when all is said and done.
Finally, Coursera's Master's degrees, while not as expensive as their university counterparts, are still fairly expensive. Generally, these can range between $10,000 and $25,000 depending on the subject matter.
Udemy's pricing structure is based primarily on singular course purchases. This means that, rather than pay for the platform's use, students pay for individual courses instead. These prices can range between $20 and $200. The prices are established based on the instructors themselves and are made visible prior to signing on.
While that may seem expensive at first glance, the reality is much more forgiving. Udemy often has many great courses that are completely free. Not only that, but even its more expensive courses are often discounted quite heavily, sometimes being discounted by up to 95% off. Because these discounts are quite regular on the platform, they are worth factoring in when making a decision.
While there have been some less than flattering aspects of Udemy mentioned earlier, the fact of the matter is that there are very high-quality courses that are available on the site. When combined with the fact that you can purchase many of these courses at an incredibly low rate, it is the clear winner in this round.
Conclusion. Verdict: Coursera
While both platforms offer a ton of value for their respective users, it really is dependent on what you are looking for. All things being equal, Coursera is the best option to consider.
That said, not all things are equal. If you are someone that is not looking to specifically improve your prospects for a career or are simply looking to learn a fun hobby, Udemy is an excellent choice. If you are someone that wants to be in the prime position with the best instructors, however, Coursera is without a doubt your best bet.