Coursera and edX both offer certificate programs at a fraction of the cost of grad school – here are the main differences between them

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edX Micromaster and coursera MasterTrack 4x3

To mitigate common economic and geographic barriers to getting a master’s degree, established online platforms edX and Coursera have special programs like edX MicroMasters and Coursera MasterTracks, which offer graduate-level courses for a fraction of the average on-campus price tag.

Ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, they can cover up to 50% of a university master’s program’s curriculum. On top of that, you can usually apply your MicroMasters or MasterTrack credits towards select full master’s programs to reduce costs and finish your degree faster. Since both platforms count top universities among their partners, that could eventually mean lower overall tuition costs at schools like MIT, Duke, the University of Michigan, Indiana University, Georgia Tech, and more.

Below, we compared the basic details for each bite-sized graduate program below. Ultimately, the best platform will be the one that offers the program closest to your particular interests and goals. But, in terms of services, edX may edge out Coursera – its offerings are cheaper, significantly more varied, and more lenient overall.

You can find detailed FAQs on Coursera’s MasterTracks and edX’s MicroMasters here, and learn more about Coursera and edX here, including how they compare to each other as e-learning platforms.

You can browse all of edX’s MicroMasters programs here.

You can browse all of Coursera’s MasterTrack programs here.

What is an edX MicroMasters?

MicroMasters Program in Finance 4x3

An edX MicroMasters is an online graduate-level program with courses that cover 25% to 50% of a university’s master’s degree curriculum for a lower cost. 

MicroMasters are designed as a stepping stone toward credit in a full master’s degree, or to strengthen stand-alone skills to help advance your career, offering a certificate of completion to add to your LinkedIn profile or resume. On average, they take roughly six to 12 months to complete.

Plus, every MicroMasters program on edX must be eligible for credit in a full master’s degree program, so you can take the MicroMasters on its own, or potentially apply it to a full degree online afterward. 

While every master’s program offered online through edX includes a MicroMasters program, some of these MicroMasters programs can also be transferred to an on-campus master’s degree, such as the Project Management MicroMasters which is designed to count towards a master’s degree in Professional Studies at RIT. If you’re accepted into an eligible master’s program, your MicroMasters program counts towards the degree requirements.

What is a Coursera MasterTrack?

Coursera Mastertrack

A Coursera MasterTrack is a portion of an on-campus master’s program that’s been adapted online at a lower price than taking the classes in person. On average, MasterTracks range from four to eight months.

Each MasterTrack is a stackable, for-credit program with several courses. In some programs, students are allowed to earn credit toward the full master’s degree program from which the MasterTrack certificate program is based.

For instance, you may apply to the MScA degree from the University of Chicago after the online Machine Learning for Analytics MasterTrack Certificate program and, if admitted, your MasterTrack Certificate will equate to the first two classes in the program (approximately 18% of course requirements), allowing you a headstart on your degree. Sometimes, the MasterTrack may even be “cashed in” to lower the cost of the full, on-campus master’s program.

You can check out a full review of a Coursera MasterTrack program here.

How much do they cost on average?

edX MicroMasters range from $1,000 to $1,500, and you pay all at once. You can buy MicroMasters courses on an individual basis, but if you bundle all the courses in the program at once, you’ll typically save 10% overall. 

All individual courses in edX MicroMasters programs are free to try, so learners can test them out before deciding to pay to upgrade to the verified track. 

Coursera MasterTracks range between $2,000 to $5,000. Some MasterTracks offer installation payment programs — otherwise, students can choose to pay upfront and get a 5% discount. You can’t buy individual courses within a MasterTrack, and you typically can’t try out any of the courses for free before signing up. 

Do they offer financial aid?

Coursera doesn’t offer financial aid or free audit access on its MasterTrack courses.

edX offers financial aid and trial periods for its MicroMasters programs. You can find more information here, though you’ll typically enroll in the course as an audit learner and complete a financial aid application here

How does academic credit work?

university of michigan campus

edX MicroMasters

The edX MicroMasters credits you earn may be accepted by eligible on-campus or online Master’s programs to cover a portion of your master’s degree.

If you’ve successfully earned a MicroMasters program certificate, you can apply to the on-campus or online master’s programs that may accept credits from your MicroMasters program. Every MicroMasters program must be eligible for credit in a master’s degree program. To find your program’s specific details, search for “Certificate & Credit Pathways” or scroll to find this section in the FAQs at the bottom of the page. Once you’re accepted into the master’s program, you can apply your certificate toward a segment of the full master’s degree to reduce the tuition cost and potentially finish your degree sooner. 

Coursera MasterTrack

Coursera MasterTrack credits are often offered for the institution’s full master’s program, but not always. Sometimes, they may reduce the cost of the full-time program.

Once you’ve completed a university’s MasterTrack program, you can sometimes apply to the institution’s full master’s program. If admitted, your certificate will sometimes transfer and equate to a certain number of classes or credits in the program. The exact details vary by school and degree. To find your program’s specific details, search for “Accelerate Your Path to a Degree” or “Earn degree credit” on the page. 

However, some MasterTrack programs don’t offer credit exchanges. For programs like the Blockchain Applications MasterTrack Certificate from Duke, completion doesn’t give you on-campus credit. It does make you eligible to fast-track your application process and get a scholarship that covers10% of the cost of Duke University’s Master of Engineering in FinTech if you apply and are accepted to the program. 

The bottom line: Which one is better?

edX vs. Coursera 4x3

It thoroughly depends on which platform has the best program for your career or educational goals, but edX may have better overall perks. 

edX lets you audit courses for free, gives you lifetime access to its materials, and can provide financial aid for its MicroMasters, while Coursera doesn’t. edX MicroMasters are also cheaper on average than Coursera MasterTrack programs, and edX offers significantly more post-graduate program options.

That being said, it all depends on what you want to study — Coursera has no shortage of great MasterTracks, including offerings from Yale, Duke, and the University of Michigan.

Browse all edX MicroMasters here.

Browse all Coursera MasterTracks here.

A few of the most popular edX and Coursera programs: 

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12 online courses that teach design thinking – a soft skill that can help you find creative solutions and stand out in your career

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E learning Designing Your Life 4x3
  • Design thinking is a creative, human-focused process to problem-solving.
  • It’s about tapping into people’s true needs to create feasible innovations, products, and solutions.
  • Below are 12 design thinking online classes offered by schools like MIT and Stanford.

Design thinking is a concept that’s been gaining popularity over recent years. Broadly, it’s a way of taking a human-focused approach to design and problem-solving. Rather than collecting lots of conflicting data or making predictions without evidence, it encourages people to understand the true motivations of their audience, be it customers, students, or staff members. Design thinking principles can also be useful in your own life, such as figuring out which career you want or how to structure your life.

Below are 12 online design thinking classes, from schools like MIT and Stanford and companies like Microsoft and IDEO. Some are free to audit with an optional, paid certificate; others charge a fee but provide a certificate upon completion. Certificate costs range from $16.99-$599, depending on the class and platform.

Here are 12 online design thinking classes:

Design Thinking Fundamentals

Businessman reviewing project plans on office wall while working on digital tablet

Design Thinking Fundamentals (small)

School: Rochester Institute of Technology

Length: 6 weeks

Cost: Free; $299 for a certificate.  

Part of a longer edX MicroMasters program on Design Thinking, this class covers the basics of design thinking, teaching you how to use design to solve problems. It also debunks the misconception that you have to be artistic to implement design thinking and shows you how to think of it as more of a strategy. 

Stay Competitive Using Design Thinking

Design thinking

Try Stay Competitive Using Design Thinking on LinkedIn Learning here

Instructor: LinkedIn Learning and frog, a global design and strategy firm

Length: 11 hours and 38 minutes

Cost: Free with 1-month trial; $19.99 or $29.99 per month (depending on subscription) after trial ends

Comprised of short videos, this LinkedIn Learning Path is meant for graphic designers and covers the basics of design thinking as well as provides actionable steps to implementing its principles and mastering the process. You’ll get a certificate at the end of the course to add to your LinkedIn profile as well.

Designing Your Career

Man working from home

Designing Your Career (small)

School: Stanford University

Length: 5 weeks

Cost: Free; $50 for a certificate 

By one of the authors of the bestselling “Designing Your Life,” this course applies design thinking to find the right career path for you. It’s self-paced and offers different exercises to help you sort out what you actually like to do and create tangible goals around that information. 

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life

Designing Your Life Course Screenshot

Buy Designing Your Life from CreativeLive here

Instructors: Stanford lecturers Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

Length: 4 hours and 39 minutes

Cost: $29

“Designing Your Life” authors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans teach a broader course that expands on the lessons from their bestselling book — and gives students a more hands-on way to put the ideas into practice through assignments and examples. You can read a full review of the course here.

Design Thinking of Innovation

Young woman writing on sticky notes

Design Thinking for Innovation (small)

School: University of Virginia

Length: 4 weeks

Cost: Free with 7-day trial; $49 per month to keep learning after trial ends

In this course, you learn how to use creativity to solve difficult business and organizational problems and come up with bold, new ideas. You follow a model that asks four key questions to prompt design thinking and learn from real-life organizations as examples. You can also take other courses in the Leading the Modern Day Business Specialization

Learning How to Learn

Man working on home computer

Learning How to Learn (small)

School: McMaster University and UC San Diego

Length: 4 weeks 

Cost: Free; $49 for certificate

One of the most popular Coursera courses, this class teaches you techniques to break up tough subjects and concepts. By emphasizing ways to make learning design easier and more effective, this class demonstrates the importance of a human-focused approach to learning. 

Gamification: Motivation Psychology & The Art of Engagement

Man at home attending to a video conference call

Gamification: Motivation Psychology & The Art of Engagement (small)

Instructor: Rob Sutcliffe, UI designer

Length: 3 hours and 7 minutes 

Cost: $14.99 (Normally $94.99)

In 46 lectures, you cover a crucial component of design thinking: human behavior. Using psychology, you learn what motivates people to act, using this knowledge to build community and motivate staff, students, or customers. You will get a certificate upon completion of the course.

Human-Centered Design: An Introduction

Use your smart watch to swipe your card to enter the subway station

Human-Centered Design: An Introduction (small)

School: UC San Diego

Length: 4 weeks

Cost: Free with 7-day trial; $49 per month to keep learning after trial ends

This class teaches you how to create technologies that people actually like to use, and helps you conduct fieldwork to get a better sense of what people want by asking the right questions in interviews. You can also take other courses in the Interaction Design Specialization

Design Thinking for Leading and Learning

Teenage girl studying with video online lesson at hom

Design Thinking for Leading and Learning (small)

School: MIT and Microsoft

Length: 6 weeks

Cost: Free; $49 for a certificate

Geared towards classroom learning, this course shows you how to apply design thinking to a variety of K-12 school settings. The end goal is to find innovative, pragmatic solutions to educational challenges, with the hope of improving schools and school systems. 

Design Thinking for the Greater Good

Woman in a video conference with her coworkers while working from home

Design Thinking for the Greater Good: Innovation in the Social Sector (small)

School: University of Virginia 

Length: 4 weeks

Cost: Free; $59 for a certificate 

This course focuses specifically on applying design thinking to nonprofit and volunteer work, using examples from governmental, educational, and healthcare institutions to show you how to create new solutions that can help more people. 

From Ideas to Action

Chinese businessman making display in office

From Ideas to Action (small)

Instructor: IDEO U

Length: 5 weeks 

Cost: $599

IDEO is a leading design thinking firm and IDEO U offers certificate courses on the subject. This one in particular teaches you the steps from designing a plan to implementing and testing it, as well as how to learn from failure. You will get a certificate upon completing the course. This course is part of two longer certificate programs, Foundations of Design Thinking and Advanced Design Thinking.

Design Thinking in 3 Steps

young businessman sitting outdoors in the city working on laptop

Design Thinking in 3 Steps (small)

Instructor: Alan Cooper, founder of Designit Strategic Design

Length: 1 hour and 42 minutes

Cost: $189.99

This fairly-quick class focuses on the three pillars of design thinking: understanding your target audience, envisioning an innovative solution, and testing out an idea. Through 55 short lectures, you learn to thoroughly plan out your research methods and storyboard your design ideas. You’ll also get a certificate upon completion of the course.

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Coursera soars 23% in trading debut following $4.3 billion IPO

trader nyse celebrate happy fist bump

Investors warmed up to the future prospects of Coursera and bid the stock higher in its first day of trading on Wednesday.

Shares of the online education company surged as much as 23%, hitting a high of $40.53. Coursera had priced its IPO at $33 per share, which was at the high end of its target range, giving it a valuation of $4.3 billion.

The share sale raised $519 million in proceeds for the company. Coursera’s previous funding round in July was at a $2.6 billion valuation.

Coursera saw a surge in business in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic forced students out of physical schools and into remote learning mode. The company recorded revenue of $294 million in 2020, representing a year-over-year increase of 59%.

But the company is not yet profitable, as it saw losses of $67 million last year. And it remains to be seen whether the jump in business it saw amid the pandemic is sustainable as schools begin to hold more in-person classes as the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out.

Coursera was founded in 2012 by Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng and currently counts more than 3,700 colleges and universities as customers.

Shares of Coursera trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “COUR.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

10 easy ways to quickly improve your grammar, from affordable online courses to a free Chrome plug-in

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Online grammar resources 4x3
  • Knowledge of grammar is important in the world of professional emails and job applications.
  • Online resources can help you improve your punctuation, writing style, and sentence structure.
  • The list below includes 10 online classes, books, and free apps to sharpen your grammar skills.

Whether your job prospects actively involve a lot of writing or you find English punctuation rules confusing, understanding grammar can make your sentences stand out. It’s an increasingly important skill to have, considering how much our careers usually revolve around written text – be it in cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, emails, or presentations.

While learning more about grammar can seem like a daunting endeavor, there are plenty of accessible ways to do it, whether you take a short online course, consult a reference guide, or install a free grammar-checking app.

10 affordable resources to improve your grammar:


Grammarly 4x3

Cost: Free for basic plan; $11.66 a month for Premium.

If you consider yourself more of a hands-on learner, you can download Grammarly, an AI-powered writing Chrome extension and mobile keyboard. It’s essentially like the spellcheck tool, but gives more detailed feedback so you can learn more about grammar as you go. It’s free to download, but the paid version gives more personalized guidance on style, such as avoiding excess words like “really” or “I think,” using more inclusive language, or tweaking your tone. You can read a review of the free version of Grammarly here.

Available on Grammarly.

“The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

"The Elements of Style" by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White 4x3

Length: 96 pages

Cost: $2.98 on Kindle; $7.89 paperback

This style manual is a staple of many high school and college classes and is regarded as a must-have by many writing and English instructors. It includes commonly misspelled words and expressions, making it a handy reference guide for when you get stuck on an essay or writing assignment. If you’re planning on expanding your grammar knowledge, you can’t go wrong with this classic.

Available on Amazon.

English Grammar and Style

English Grammar and Style 4x3

Length: 8 weeks

Cost: Free

Offered by the University of Queensland in Australia, this course devotes each week to one section (such as verbs or punctuation) so that you’re not overwhelmed. The class comes with video interviews from grammarians to guide you through the lessons, plus virtual quizzes and writing activities so that you can practice everything you learn right after you learn it.* 

Available on edX.

*This course is archived, but you can still access all the materials

Editing and Proofreading Made Simple

Editing and Proofreading Made Simple 4x3

Length: 39 minutes

Cost: Free with 1-month trial; $29.99 a month or $19.99 a month (annual fee) after trial ends

Not everyone has the money or time for a personal proofreader, so this speedy course is meant to help you edit your own work quickly and effectively. You go over the five keys of good editing for things like emails, presentations, and blog posts, so that you can apply these lessons to your daily professional life. This course comes with a LinkedIn certificate of completion at the end.

Available on LinkedIn Learning.

Grammar Foundations

Grammar Foundations 4x3

Length: 2 hours and 11 minutes

Cost: Free with 1-month trial; $29.99 a month or $19.99 a month (annual fee) after trial ends

This relatively short beginner course isn’t about memorizing an endless list of rules that you know you’ll eventually forget. Rather, it’s focused on quickly teaching you the most basic principles you can apply to avoid the most common mistakes. It provides you with tricks for using words that sound alike (like “affect” and “effect”) and understanding parallel sentence structure. As a bonus, you automatically receive a certificate of completion by the end of the course, which you can add to your LinkedIn profile.

Available on LinkedIn Learning.

Tricky English Grammar

Tricky English Grammar 4x3

Length: 4 weeks

Cost: Free with 7-day trial; $49 a month to keep learning after trial ends

Designed for both native and nonnative English speakers, this UC Irvine course is built around the things that can trip you up. Through a combination of lectures and practice quizzes, you learn whether to put “a” or “the” in front of certain nouns, or how to navigate confusing rules about infinitives. Completion of the course earns you a certificate to put on your resume or LinkedIn profile. The course is also part of a larger Coursera specialization in Intermediate Grammar.

Available on Coursera.

Writing and Editing: Word Choice and Word Order

Writing and Editing  Word Choice and Word Order 4x3

Length: 4 weeks

Cost: Free with 7-day trial; $39 a month to keep learning after trial ends

Beyond understanding grammar, knowledge of syntax (or the order of words) can help you make complex information easier to read. On top of covering crucial grammar rules, this engaging University of Michigan course teaches you how to simplify your sentences and consider your word choice, so that you can present your ideas in a more effective way. Completion of the course gets you a certificate to put on your resume or LinkedIn profile.

Available on Coursera.

Purdue University’s OWL (Online Writing Lab)

Purdue University's OWL (Online Writing Lab) 4x3

Cost: Free

Purdue University’s online writing lab (OWL) offers a wealth of written resources to answer all your grammar and style questions as they come up. It has specific examples as well, like explaining the difference between “that” and “which,” and provides detailed guidance on sentence mechanics, punctuation, and style. 

Available on Purdue University’s OWL.

How to Write an Essay

How to Write an Essay 4x3

Length: 5 weeks

Cost: Free; $169 for a certificate

In a little over a month, this UC Berkeley class teaches you how to structure a convincing essay, with a strong focus on grammar and style. This is great if you want to get better at longer-form writing, such as academic writing, or sharpen a personal statement for a college application. You can take this course free or pay to get a shareable certificate. 

Available on edX.

“Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English” by Patricia T. O’Conner

"Woe Is I  The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English" by Patricia T. O'Conner 4x3

Length: 320 pages

Cost: $9.99 for e-textbook

Written by a former “New York Times” book review editor, this tome is full of funny, light-hearted examples of grammatical errors, with clear (and judgment-free) instructions on how to avoid common mistakes. The tone of the book is geared toward reminding you that everyone — including bestselling authors — can find English grammar confusing. You can order as a book or e-textbook, which lets you annotate the text and create digital flashcards.

Available on Amazon.

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You can get graduate-level certifications and real college credits through Coursera’s MasterTracks program – here’s what it was like to complete

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Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

As remote lifestyles become more common, affordable online education is taking on new value – especially when providing more access to career advancement opportunities.

Many such offerings are available through sites like Coursera. Its MasterTrack programs, in particular, offer a portion of an on-campus master’s program online for cheaper prices and a more flexible time commitment than in a traditional classroom setting.

Students work at their own pace and receive access to real-world projects, live sessions, and virtual office hours. When they’ve completed the program, learners receive a certificate they can add to their resume and LinkedIn to demonstrate aptitude (and their commitment to personal growth).

What’s nice about MasterTrack is that if you like what you studied and wish to pursue a full master’s degree in the subject, most MasterTrack programs provide instructions on how students may transfer those online credits into an on-campus program in order to save time and money (rules vary by program and school). Other MasterTracks offer scholarship opportunities and fast-track applications for full master’s programs to those who complete the program online.

edX also offers MicroMasters, which are slightly different from Coursera’s MasterTrack programs. There are fewer edX options than MasterTrack courses, but they offer up to 50% of a master program’s curriculum and are eligible for financial assistance. A MasterTrack, on the other hand, typically doesn’t exceed one-quarter of a graduate degree’s curriculum. To read more about the difference between edX MicroMasters and Coursera MasterTracks, you can check out our coverage of both platforms here.

Here’s everything you should know if you’re considering enrolling in a Coursera MasterTrack, including a personal review of the University of Illinois’ Instructional Design MasterTrack program.

What you’ll find below:

  • Some common FAQs
  • A personal review of MasterClass

Coursera MasterTrack FAQs:

What is a MasterTrack certificate?

MasterTrack certificates are for those who want to develop skills for career advancement and receive a certificate from a university to back it up. It’s also a good option for those who need a flexible time commitment or want to test out a lower-cost program before enrolling in a full master’s degree.

Each MasterTrack is a stackable, for-credit program comprised of several courses completed over a few months. In some cases, MasterTracks allow students to earn credit toward the full master’s degree program from which the MasterTrack Certificate program is based, though this varies by institution.

How much does a Coursera MasterTrack cost?

MasterTrack courses cost between $2,000 and $5,000, depending on the specific program.

How is a MasterTrack billed?

Students can pay all at once, and receive a 5% discount for doing so. Otherwise, there are payment installation programs available for a handful of programs.

How does receiving credit for an online MasterTrack certificate work and can you apply it towards a full master’s program?

You receive a certificate upon completion of a MasterTrack to share on their resume and LinkedIn.

Additionally, once you’ve finished your MasterTrack program, you can apply to the institution’s full master’s program. If admitted, your certificate will sometimes transfer and equate to a certain number of classes or credits in the program. However, the exact details vary by program.

For instance, after completing the University of Chicago’s Machine Learning for Analytics MasterTrack, you can apply to the MScA degree from the school. If admitted, your MasterTrack certificate equates to the first two classes in the program (approximately 18% of course requirements), giving you a cheaper headstart on your degree.

For the Supply Chain Excellence MasterTrack, your certificate would equate to three credits (one course). For ASU’s The Big Data MasterTrack, learners are awarded 9 out of 30 credits required to complete the program.

Other programs don’t work this way, though. For instance, completing the Blockchain Applications MasterTrack from Duke isn’t exchangeable for credit. But, it makes you eligible to earn a scholarship that fast tracks your application process and covers 10% of tuition for the Duke University’s Master of Engineering in FinTech.

How closely does a MasterTrack online module for a master’s degree from a university resemble that university’s in-person curriculum?

According to Coursera, MasterTrack certificates are similar to the full program experience they’re designed from. They feature live expert instruction and feedback combined with interactive, team-based learning.

What MasterTrack programs are offered?

Coursera offers 22 MasterTracks in topics that range from Machine Learning for Analytics from the University of Chicago to Blockchain Applications from Duke University to Sustainability and Development by the University of Michigan. Most programs include 4-6 courses.

Browse the list of all MasterTracks here.

How long does it take to complete a MasterTrack program?

It varies. The range is about 4-8 months, depending on the program. However, the time commitment is flexible and self-paced, especially in comparison to an entire master’s program.

Will MasterTrack students always have access to their program materials?

Students will not have access to the course content forever. They’re given access based on the estimated time it takes to complete the program.

Do MasterTrack programs cap enrollment at a certain number?

According to Coursera’s MasterTrack team, there are enrollment caps depending on the bandwidth of each university partner, the instructors, and their faculty.

Coursera provides best practices for their partners on factors like an ideal student to faculty ratio.

If a student completes a MasterTrack program and decides to pursue a master’s degree from the university that offered it on Coursera, will they have a better chance of being accepted?

Currently, MasterTrack certificate holders do not receive preferential treatment during the application process, which is conducted independently by the university, according to Coursera.

But, it’s worth noting that a student’s success in the online program likely helps build the case that they’d continue to do well in the on-campus program.

Can you audit MasterTrack courses?

No, unfortunately. MasterTrack courses are available only to learners who have paid for the full program. You may not subscribe to a MasterTrack or pay for individual courses within a MasterTrack.

Is financial aid available for MasterTrack courses?

Financial aid or free audit access is not available for MasterTrack courses.

Note: Similar MicroMasters programs from edX can offer financial aid.

What is the refund policy?

Students have two weeks following the start of the first course to receive a refund on the payment.

A review of MasterTrack

When I decided I was interested in instructional design as a potential career pivot, I knew I probably needed additional schooling to break into the field, since many jobs ask for at least a master’s degree or equivalent experience. The main factors in my decision boiled down to money and time – since I wasn’t sure if I’d love instructional design, I wanted a program I could finish in under a year and one that I felt wasn’t a big financial risk.

The University of Illinois’ Instructional Design MasterTrack program hit all those points for me: The program was about 4-5 months long, fairly flexible, and cost $2,384. (Not included in that total was a textbook I needed to rent for the class, plus a $57 surprise fee when I paid my tuition via credit card.)

The program consisted of two courses, which I took back-to-back. Both involved live-recorded weekly Zoom classes, short video lectures, assigned readings, graded short-answer questions, and a few final projects. By the end, I completed final group projects for both courses and an individual instructional design e-portfolio that I could show to future employers.

One of my group project members described this as a “master’s class at twice the speed” which is pretty accurate. While I only took one class at a time, this MasterTrack program felt more like a bootcamp due to the amount of information I’d need to learn to be proficient in instructional design by the end. There’s an emphasis on multiple hands-on projects, so I was being challenged to create something right away and essentially practice what I would be doing as an instructional designer.

At the same time, going through the information this quickly (especially all remotely) made it hard, at times, to fully process everything, or even fully enjoy the class. Compared to some other online classes I’ve taken and loved, like edX’s rhetoric course or Coursera’s Science of Well-Being, I was less engaged with this one because it felt like the end goal was to train me to do a job rather than learn something for the pleasure of learning it. The workload could also feel like a lot if you have a full-time job or kids (or both!) and feel like you have to cram in studying and homework on weeknights and weekends.

But given that I picked this as an affordable, quick, and flexible way to advance my career by learning a new skill set, I feel like the experience the course provided definitely helped me, especially in my current role as an e-learning editor. -Julia Pugachevsky, e-learning editor

Read the original article on Business Insider

Over 2.2 million students enrolled in this free Yale class on how to be happier – here’s what it’s actually like to take

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Yale Popular Happiness Course Science of Well Being 4x3
  • Yale’s most popular class in history teaches you how to become happier using science.
  • Through Coursera, Professor Laurie Santos created a free version of the course, The Science of Well-Being. It blew up in popularity during the pandemic.
  • I enrolled and was surprised by how helpful and fun it was. It made an abstract topic feel concrete and useful in everyday life. 

The Science of Well-Being (medium)

How do we live a more meaningful? Answering this abstract life question in a tangible, actionable way can be tough.

But Yale professor Laurie Santos aimed to do just that, and in the spring of 2018, she unwittingly launched “Psychology and the Good Life,” the most popular class in Yale’s 319-year history. Eventually, one in four Yale students were reportedly enrolled, with the university even pulling fellows from the School of Public Health and its Law School to help staff it.

Santos designed the course to bust myths about what makes us happy (like the luxury Mercedes-Benz status symbol) and replace them with research-backed habits for building a happy life. In doing this, Santos gave students what many of us never stop craving: direction towards a more fulfilled life, and the reassurance that our path towards happiness won’t lead us astray. 

Yale’s campus was primed for Santos’ course. “Psychology and the Good Life” debuted in the US – home to supposedly only the 18th-happiest population in the world, according to the 2020 World Happiness Report – and at one of the nation’s most high-pressure colleges

Given its popularity, it was soon clear that this course could be relevant to those outside an Ivy League campus. To increase accessibility to the materials, Santos created a free online version of the same principles: “The Science of Well-Being.” And in 2020, the world was primed for it. During the isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, a whopping 2.2 million people enrolled in the course online.

You can take the course for $0 here, which takes an estimated 10 weeks (19 hours total) to complete. Or, keep reading for an overview of what to expect and a firsthand review of the online course. 

What to expect from the class:

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The course intentionally feels warm, casual, and inviting. It was shot in Santos’ home with a handful of students.

The format: 

  • Misconceptions about happiness
  • Why our expectations are so bad
  • How we can overcome our biases
  • Stuff that really makes us happy
  • Putting strategies into practice

Each section includes video lectures, optional readings, and “rewirement” activities to do each day to build happier habits. Research suggests that if you do these rewirements as prescribed, you should get a boost in your mood and overall well-being. After completing the five weeks above, students should commit to practicing one rewirement exercise for at least a month. 

What the course is like:

To make the class warm and inviting, the lectures are shot in Santos’ own home, with a handful of Yale students in the audience. It feels intimate, and Santos’s tone is friendly and conversational. And, because some of the most contemporary research was conceptualized and coined by Santos herself, it feels like what it is: a great, in-depth exploration of the topic with an expert.

Thankfully, for the busiest among us (who ironically may benefit the most from this course), there’s absolutely no required reading or grade penalty for a missed assignment deadline – so you don’t need to stress about suggested deadlines if you can’t meet them. All the information you need to know is summarized within the lecture. If you want to dive deeper, Santos provides links to complementary readings. 

In other words, this class is about well-being – and it aims to practice what it preaches. You can sign up here for free, or keep reading to learn about my experience.

My experience taking the class:

Screen Shot 2021 03 04 at 5.30.55 PM
Weekly “rewirement” activities help build habits that make us scientifically happier: savoring, practicing gratitude, meditating, and acts of kindness among them.

I should disclose that I enjoy online classes. In the character-strengths test that you’re invited to take at the course’s outset, “curiosity” was my most dominant trait out of the 20 possibilities.

But despite being a candidate of least resistance, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed a few weeks in the course. It felt immediately and concretely useful – most of the class legwork is completing daily “rewiring” tasks designed to build those research-backed happiness habits into your life even after the course ends.

Here’s what I liked:

  1. You can verify whether you’re actually getting happier. In the beginning, you’re invited to respond to questionnaires that measure your baseline happiness. By the end of the course, you take them again to see whether your score increased. (Hopefully, your numbers rise!) To me, a before-and-after metric lent concreteness to a typically abstract topic.
  2. There are unexpected benefits. Surprisingly, I found the baseline happiness survey helpful for an unexpected reason: I was feeling fatigued, and the questions it posed helped me locate an overlooked source of dissatisfaction – I was continually rating one part of my life much lower than the others. It became clear what was wrong, and within the first lecture, I was able to use the framework to see my life more clearly. 
  3. The online format is low-pressure. You can easily rewind and rewatch lectures without asking Santos to repeat herself. Plus, there’s no pressure to ask or answer questions!
  4. It doesn’t feel like homework. Santos’ lectures make for easy watching. Once I sat down to play a lecture, I wanted to continue. I never felt like I was forcing myself to complete a task – I was satisfying my curiosity.

The only thing to note is that, while you can take the class at your own pace, you’re encouraged to implement the rewiring techniques on a weekly schedule. Research finds that improving your well-being takes daily, intentional effort over long periods – meaning this 10-week class is a great opportunity.

In a follow-up interview that I conducted with Professor Santos to discuss happiness in quarantine, this point – the importance of building these habits every day – remained paramount. 

Should you get a certificate? What does it include?

Maybe, but most likely not. You’ll have access to all the course materials and forums for this class without paying. But, if you want a certificate of completion or graded homework assignments, you can pay $49. You can also always upgrade any time during the course or afterward, so it’s probably worth it to test it out for free before committing to payment. 

If you can’t afford the $49, apply for the course’s financial aid. Click on the “financial aid” link beneath the “enroll” button on the left. You’ll be prompted to complete an application and will be notified if you’re approved; applications take at least 15 days to be reviewed.

The Science of Well-Being (medium)

More online classes:

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The 8 best places to take classes online – whether you’re looking for free hobby classes or flexible degree programs

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Classes if you're stuck in your career 4x3
  • Learning new skills online is often far more convenient and inexpensive than pursuing a traditional degree program.
  • Online learners tend to appreciate the flexibility, affordability, and range of options provided by e-learning.
  • Below are overviews of 8 of the most popular affordable online learning options, including edX, Coursera, FutureLearn, LinkedIn Learning, Skillshare, Udemy, CreativeLive, and MasterClass.

There’s a reason people are turning to online learning en masse. Students can learn at their own pace; save money on commuting, boarding, and a host of other expenses; and dabble in bite-sized courses before committing to a longer program.

Some e-learning platforms are free, while others let you take as many courses as you want for a small payment or monthly fee. With online learning, you can pick up professional certifications, gain skills that help you get hired in a quickly changing market, and even work towards master’s degrees.

Whether you want to advance your career or to pick up new hobbies during quarantine, online courses are one of the best perks of the 21st century, and one way the internet is democratizing information – even in the form of free Ivy League courses. All you need is internet access. 

8 of the most popular affordable online learning platforms:

Best free or affordable university courses and certificate programs

harvard campus


EDX E Learning 4x3

Founded by Harvard University and MIT, edX hosts classes from some of the world’s leading universities, nonprofits, and institutions, and is currently the only leading MOOC provider that is both a nonprofit and open-source platform. 

edX has more than 100 institutional partners, including Berkeley, MIT, and Harvard, and offers courses in everything from the arts to architecture, economics, law, and more. You can also enroll in MicroMasters, master’s programs, or earn professional certificates.

How to get started: Sign up with an email address. Except for professional education courses, edX is free to enroll and audit. If you want a verified certificate, there is a fee (usually between $50-$300, depending on the course). 

Popular classes to consider:

Browse edX classes here.


Coursera New Logo E Learning  4x3

Coursera has thousands of classes taught by top instructors from some of the world’s best universities and educational institutions, including Yale, Columbia, UPenn, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, and Duke. You can even earn degrees and certifications through the site.

Topics range from public health to personal development.

Each course is like an interactive textbook with pre-recorded videos, quizzes, and projects. You can connect with thousands of other students to debate ideas, discuss course material, or get help in mastering the concepts. And, for a fee, you can also earn certificates for your work, and share your achievements with friends, colleagues, and employers.

How to get started: Sign up with an email address. On average, individual courses range from $29-$99 each for certification, though there are plenty of free courses you can audit. 

Popular classes to consider:

Browse Coursera classes here.


FutureLearn 4x3

FutureLearn, like edX and Coursera, offers thousands of free university courses and paid certificate programs from top schools, nonprofits, and brands. One way it differs from the other platforms is that it’s based in England, therefore having more offerings from UK schools and companies as well as a range of international institutions.

FutureLearn offers short courses, Microcredential programs, ExpertTracks, and online degrees.

How to get started: Sign up with an email address. You can audit many courses for free (usually for up to five weeks), pay for individual programs, or sign up for FutureLearn’s Unlimited subscription plan, which provides limitless access to hundreds of courses for $189.99 per year.

Popular courses to consider:

Browse all FutureLearn courses here.

Best subscription plans

Robin Roberts Masterclass


Masterclass E Learning 4x3

MasterClass offers online classes created for students of any skill level, taught by world-renowned instructors in each field, like Gordon Ramsay, Margaret Atwood, and Serena Williams, among others.

MasterClass has more than 75 courses, each broken up into bite-sized, high-quality videos. Each class was created by the instructor and typically includes pre-recorded content, a PDF of a class workbook, interactive assignments, and community activities. Periodically, MasterClass even has opportunities for students to submit work to certain instructors for feedback.

How to get started: If there are multiple classes you’d like to take, sign up for an All-Access Pass ($180 per year or $15 per month) to access unlimited course lessons for as long as your subscription is active.

Popular classes to consider:

Browse MasterClass classes here.

LinkedIn Learning

LinkedIn 4x3

LinkedIn Learning is a subscription-based online learning platform that lets you take over 16,000 career development courses, from coding classes to public speaking tutorials. One benefit of this platform is that it offers courses around what companies are looking for based on LinkedIn’s hiring data.

Courses are usually made up of short videos, quizzes, and occasional assignments. LinkedIn Learning members will also receive certificates of completion to add to their LinkedIn profiles at no extra charge.

How to get started: You can sign up for a free month with your LinkedIn profile. After the trial ends, the subscription costs $29.99 per month or $19.99 per month for the annual plan.

Popular courses to consider:

Browse all LinkedIn Learning courses here.


Skillshare Review 4x3

Skillshare offers more than 25,000 classes taught by creators, entrepreneurs, and professionals from around the world. Course topics span various categories such as design, illustration, business, technology, photo and film, entrepreneurship, and writing. 

Each class has short video lessons and a hands-on project for you to work on, which can be shared in class for feedback and collaboration from the community. Skillshare will also recommend classes and “lists” — essentially a curated curriculum for a topic like graphic design or branding — based on your interests.

How to get started: Get a free 14-day trial account with just an email address. You’ll have access to free classes on both web and mobile. For full access to all classes and offline viewing, a premium membership is billed $32 per month or $13.99 per month for the annual plan ($167.88 total)

With the membership, you can enroll in multiple classes at no extra charge.

Popular classes to consider:

Browse Skillshare classes here.

Best individual classes

individual classes


Udemy logo

Udemy has probably the largest selection of online courses, with more than 100,000 video courses and new additions published every month. With frequent sales (and sale prices as low as $10.99 per course), it’s often one of the most affordable options as well.

Currently, there are more than 30 million students using the service and courses are available in more than 50 languages. 

Topics range from programming bootcamps to in-depth art lessons.

How to get started: Sign up with an email address to browse courses. With an account, you can buy or gift individual courses, or enroll in one of the free courses offered through Udemy.

Popular classes to consider:

Browse Udemy classes here.


CreativeLive logo

CreativeLive is a learning platform designed specifically for creators, with more than 1,500 classes taught by over 650 industry-leading experts. Each class falls under one of five categories: photo and video; art and design; music and audio, craft and maker; or money and life. Ultimately, the classes are centered around making creativity a habit, be it for personal or professional use.

How to get started: Sign up with an email address. Classes are as low as $20, and you can buy and own them forever — just in case you need a refresher one day.

Popular classes to consider:

Browse CreativeLive classes here.

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Coursera Plus grants unlimited access to almost all of the site’s online courses for $399 a year, and can be a great option if you want multiple professional certificates

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Coursera New Logo E Learning  4x3
  • Coursera Plus is a $399 annual subscription that grants members unlimited access to over 90% of the e-learning platform’s online courses (over 3,000 classes) for a year.
  • Members can also earn unlimed professional certificates to add to their resumes or LinkedIn profiles.
  • Below is everything you need to know Coursera Plus, including how payments and refunds work.

Coursera, a popular e-learning platform with thousands of varied online courses, offers an annual subscription called Coursera Plus.

Members pay an upfront annual fee of $399 to get unlimited access to 90% of Coursera classes. For anyone looking to learn a new skill, take multiple classes per year, or earn a certificate they can add to their LinkedIn profile, it could be a good investment (and a cheaper alternative to grad school, depending on your interests).

Below is everything you need to know about how to sign up, which classes are included, and how to get a refund if it’s not for you.

What is Coursera Plus, and what’s included with the subscription?

Coursera Plus is Coursera’s unlimited annual subscription. It’s $399 for the year and gives members unlimited access to over 90% of the platform’s course catalog. You can access more than 3,000 classes taught by top instructors of prestigious universities (like Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, the University of Michigan, or UPenn) and companies (Google Cloud, Goldman Sachs, and VMware, to name a few). Specializations and professional certificates are also included for everything from data science and business to health and personal development.

Once you’re a member, a Coursera Plus badge appears on all the classes included in the subscription. You can browse a few of Coursera’s most popular courses here, or skim the list of classes included with membership.

Coursera Plus does not include degrees or MasterTrack certificates, and some professional certificates are excluded, such as those offered by Amazon Web Services and IBM.

How many certificates can you earn with Coursera Plus?

According to the company, you earn a certificate for every course, specialization, or professional certificate you complete. You can share your certificate on your LinkedIn profile, with your employer, and on your CV and resume.

Does Coursera Plus save you money?

It depends. Without a membership, you can audit Coursera courses either completely for free or only during their seven-day trial, but you won’t get access to all of a class’s features, such as graded homework and verified certificates of completion that you can add to your CV, résumé, or LinkedIn profile. To get full access, you need to pay either a one-time or monthly fee, depending on the course.

So if you plan on paying for full access to multiple courses, Coursera Plus may save you money depending on what they are and how much each individual course costs. But, if you only take one or two paid courses per year, you may be better off without it.

If you’re enrolling in a specialization, which is essentially a bundle of related courses designed to help you master a specific topic, Coursera Plus may save you money – especially if you take longer to complete your specialization than its estimated time frame (which is three months on average) or plan to enroll in multiple specializations and/or other classes in the same year. 

Most Coursera specializations charge a monthly fee for access to all the courses within the specialization until you’ve completed every one or you’ve canceled the subscription. When you pay for a specialization and finish it, you get a certificate as well as course certificates for each course you completed within it.

Comparative price breakdown: Coursera Plus subscription vs. specialization subscriptions

A Coursera Plus subscription is $399 for the year, which breaks down to $33.25 a month. On average, a specialization ranges from $49-$79 a month and takes three months to complete, according to Coursera. The average cost is $147-$237 for a specialization without Coursera Plus; you’d pay $99.75 over the same three-month time frame with Plus. 

But if you don’t plan on taking other courses and complete the specialization’s courses in three months, you may save money by doing it à la carte. If you want to take your time completing a course, enroll in multiple courses throughout the year, or choose a specialization subscription with a longer time frame (some can take up to a year to complete), you’re probably a good candidate for Coursera Plus. 

What happens to any specialization subscriptions you’re already enrolled in when you subscribe to Coursera Plus?

You need to cancel those subscriptions so you aren’t charged twice; they won’t be automatically canceled. Find step-by-step instructions for canceling an existing subscription here

According to the company, none of your progress will be impacted by canceling previous subscriptions.

Can you get a refund? 

You can receive a full refund within 14 days of your payment, but if you earned a certificate using Plus during those 14 days, it would be revoked.

To get a refund, visit your My Purchases page within 14 days of purchase and submit a refund request. The company says your refund will be processed immediately and without questions.

Can you ask your employer to reimburse your Coursera Plus fee?

If your employer offers educational reimbursements that include online-learning programs, you should be able to. You’ll receive an email receipt that you can submit to your employer for reimbursement. But you should check with your employer before purchasing to be sure. 

Sign up for Coursera Plus here for $399 per year.

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11 Johns Hopkins online courses you can take for free, including a COVID-19 contact tracing class with an automatic certificate

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Johns Hopkins classes 4x3
  • Like Harvard, MIT, and Columbia, Johns Hopkins University offers many free online courses, with free or paid certificates.
  • Johns Hopkins also has longer programs and multi-course specializations to earn certificates of completion to show future employers.
  • Below are 11 free online courses offered through Coursera and FutureLearn, in subjects ranging from public health to web programming.

Ranked as the 10th best college in the world, Johns Hopkins University is famous for its top-notch programs in research, medicine, and engineering. Whether you’re interested in science, health, or coding, there are probably many classes at JHU that could be helpful to your career growth or personal development. 

Luckily, through platforms like Coursera and FutureLearn, a good number of courses are available completely for free online, with optional certificates ($0-$79) to add to your LinkedIn or resume. 

There are also paid programs and specializations (multiple courses bundled together) offered by Johns Hopkins, such as Data Science or Foundations of Global Health, that cost a fraction of what a master’s degree would and also offer certification upon completion.

11 online Johns Hopkins courses you can take for free:

COVID-19 Contact Tracing

Woman holding a phone in the street using the contact tracing app

Length: 7 hours

Certificate cost: Free

For those interested in contact tracing jobs, this introductory course covers the science of SARS-CoV-2, how contact tracing works, the ethical implications of tracking COVID-19 cases, and some of the most common contact tracing obstacles. As part of a special promotion, the fee for the certificate is waived, meaning you will automatically receive a certificate of completion.

at John Hopkins University on Coursera (button)
Measuring and Maximizing Impact of COVID-19 Contact Tracing

Shot of a group of people wearing masks in the city with circles around them indicating Covid-19 tracing and transmission

Length: 3 hours

Certificate cost: Free

Intended for managers and developers of contact tracing programs, this course provides helpful metrics and strategies to improve contact tracing efforts through Contact Tracing Evaluation and Strategic Support Application (ConTESSA). Like the COVID-19 contact tracing course, this one also provides automatic certification.

at Johns Hopkins University on Coursera (button)
COVID-19: Effective Nursing in Times of Crisis

Nursing students wearing protective face masks attending class

Length: 2 weeks (2 hours per week)

Certificate cost: Free

This course covers the current challenges nurses are facing during the pandemic and shares tips on how to provide the best care possible to COVID-19 patients in low-resource environments and crisis settings. Like the contact tracing courses, this one also provides certification upon completion, free of charge.

at Johns Hopkins University on FutureLearn (button)
Psychological First Aid

Man having a cognitive behavioral therapy video call with mental health professional

Length: 6 hours

Certificate cost: $49

Using the RAPID model (Reflective listening, Assessment of needs, Prioritization, Intervention, and Disposition), students learn how to help those dealing with mental trauma and injuries, whether at school, work, home, church, the military, or anywhere else.

at Johns Hopkins on Coursera (button)
HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for Web Developers

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Length: 5 weeks (40 hours total)

Certificate cost: $79

Aspiring web developers and programmers go through the beginning steps of learning HTML and CSS before moving on to more advanced coding and building web applications in JavaScript.

at Johns Hopkins on Coursera (button)
Chemicals and Health

Cropped shot of a female scientist drawing up a molecule

Length: 11 hours

Certificate cost: $49

This course explores how chemicals in our environment impact our health, including how our bodies get exposed to them, what to do when they get there, how to measure them, and the bigger picture of what they mean for our collective and individual health.

at Johns Hopkins at Coursera (button)
Design and Interpretation of Clinical Trials

Student learning during isolation period

Length: 12 hours

Certificate cost: $49

Clinical trials evaluate new treatments for diseases, and how they’re constructed makes a crucial difference in their effectiveness. This course covers the basic design and mechanical principles of randomized clinical trials, as well as how they’re analyzed and reported. 

at Johns Hopkins on Coursera (button)
An Introduction to the US Food System: Perspectives from Public Health

woman working on laptop with headphones

Length: 6 weeks (24 hours total)

Certificate cost: $49

Led by staff from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, this course covers how food in the US intersects with equity, public health, and the environment. Students learn the politics and history behind how food is consumed and distributed throughout the country.

at Johns Hopkins on Coursera (button)
Reducing Gun Violence in America: Evidence for Change

learning from doctor online

Length: 6 weeks (18 hours total)

Certificate cost: $49

This course covers the scope of gun violence in the US, individual state standards for gun ownership, evidence-based gun violence reduction programs, and how public opinion differs on gun control and how to best reduce shootings in America.

at Johns Hopkins on Coursera (button)
Introduction to the Biology of Cancer

Teenage girl with face protective mask having online school class at home

Length: 8 hours

Certificate cost: $49

Meant for anyone who wishes to have a better understanding of cancer, this course goes over the molecular biology of cancer, the risks factors of major types of cancers worldwide, and how different cancers are screened and treated.

at Johns Hopkins on Coursera (button)
Foundations of Health Equity Research

Girl cooperating with her clients while working from her home office

Length: 5 weeks (15 hours total)

Certificate cost: $49

For anyone interested in health equity research, this course covers the core fundamentals, along with insights on where health inequalities occur as well as how to engage community stakeholders to push for change.

at Johns Hopkins on Coursera (button)

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