6 minute read  written by  . Published on June 12, 2017

Here at Class Central we get asked all the time whether Coursera courses are really free. I have answered this question hundreds of times before. The Coursera UI is designed to push learners towards Coursera’s paid offerings, and it confuses new learners regarding what’s free on the platform and how to sign up for it.

Hopefully this article will clear things up. If you plan to recommend Coursera to someone, maybe you can point them to this article as well. I will also try to answer some basic questions about Coursera, and update this article regularly as Coursera changes its policies.


What is Coursera?

Coursera Homepage

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. Currently it has 150 such university partners from 29 countries around the world. These partners include Stanford, Duke, Penn, Princeton, Michigan, Peking, and HEC Paris. Coursera has also started partnering with companies like IBM, Google, and PwC — such companies are also launching courses on Coursera.

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. MOOC providers across the board have stopped offering free certificates for completing their online courses.

Is Coursera Still Free?

Yes and no. There are definitely a few courses on Coursera that are paid only. Examples of these would be Writing Skills for Engineering Leaders or Google’s Computing, Storage and Security with Google Cloud Platform. At this point, I am not sure how many of these kinds of courses are out there.

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. If you search for free courses on Coursera’s website, you will see a sticky note at the top of the search results basically saying what I mentioned. However, Coursera still has a few courses for which even the graded assignments are completely free.

Coursera Free Courses

Remember to Audit

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. We will explain below — with screenshots — how to sign up for Coursera’s audit mode, but Coursera keeps tweaking their UI or testing different iterations so what’s on your screen on Coursera’s website may be different to what’s presented below.

How to Enroll in Coursera Courses for Free?

Find the Course Page

You can only sign up for free via individual course pages 

Coursera has two main products: online courses and Specializations. Specializations basically consist of a sequence of online courses designed to enable you to master a particular topic. Some Specializations have a capstone project as the last course in the sequence. Not all courses are part of Specializations, but a majority of courses that are newly launched are part of a Specialization. Some of the older courses that were around twelve weeks long have been converted into Specialization format, with the original course split into multiple courses.

As you browse/search courses on Coursera, you will notice that Specializations and courses are mixed together in results. For Specializations, you will see the number of courses in a given Specialization below its name. You will also notice that Specializations are listed higher in the rankings than regular courses.

Coursera Specalizations listed in catalog

Specializations pages do not allow you to sign up for their individual courses. If you click on the “enroll” button, you will only be given an option to pay for the Specialization.

To sign up for free, you need to find the individual course pages. Unfortunately, even though it lists the courses in the Specialization, the Specialization page doesn’t link to the individual courses. If you scroll down a bit you will see a list of courses that are part of the Specialization. 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.class-central.com/search. We will also show you results of similar courses that are not on Coursera.

Enroll on the Course Page

At this point I am assuming you are on the Coursera course page of the course you are interested in, and that you are signed in to Coursera.

Coursera has two different monetization models for users to purchase the non-free portions of the course.

The first is a straightforward model: buying certificates for individual courses. In this case, once you click on “enroll” you will see two options, one of which (“Full Course, No Certificate”) allows you to sign up for free (as shown below).

Coursera Full Course, No Certificate

Some courses might not have the “full course” option (i.e. the graded assignments are behind a paywall). In that case, the second option will show as “audit.” Select “audit” and then click on “continue” to sign up for free.

Try for Free - Coursera Enroll Button

The second monetization method is a monthly subscription-based model. By paying a monthly subscription fee (starting from $39/month), you get access to premium features for all the courses that are part of the Specalization. Your access ends once you stop paying for the subscription.

If you are signed into Coursera and on a course page for a course that is part of a Specialization, you will see the blue “enroll” button surrounded by green background. It will have the text “try for free” above it. Note: this button surrounded by green is only shown to users who are signed in to Coursera. Pricing information is not shown to learners who are not signed in.

Once you click on “enroll,” you should see a popup that prompts you to sign up for a free trial (as shown below). At the bottom right of this popup, you will see a small “audit” link. Click on that link to enroll in the course for free. You will be able to watch videos and participate in discussion forums but won’t have access to graded assignments.

Coursera how to signup for free

I hope you found this guide useful. If you found any part of the guide confusing, do let me know and I will update the guide to be clearer. Also, do comment if you find a Coursera course that doesn’t fit the patterns described above.

  • DebC

    Thank you Dhawal! Great information. It pays to read the fine print. I hadn’t noticed the “Audit” link before.

  • Krishnagopal Ashok

    Thank you so much, Dhawal! I didn’t realize that one could audit the courses being offered under a specialization. You are a true lifesaver.

  • bassem weslati

    in the 7 days try for free can i complete alla the cours dont pay any fees and get the certeficate

    • David Murphy

      Very unlikely you can compress 20 or more weeks into one week, even if they allow you full access across the whole course.

  • Anshuman

    If I do the audit of course now, complete it and later subscribe for the monthly paid option, would I get the certificate for the course I completed through auditing?

  • Em

    I tried this and the pop-up does not contain the word ‘audit’ anywhere, so I guess it’s been removed, nor can I find ‘audit’ anywhere, or any wording that indicates you can take the course for free, all I see is that they want you to enroll in the free 7 days which I don’t want. Can anyone tell me how I can get the course for free now? I’ve taken another course for free in the past but can’t seem to do it this time around. Thx

    • Mike

      You can still audit the course – Coursera has just removed the ‘audit’ link from Specializations. Search for the particular class of interest, then you’ll see the audit link on the bottom left.

      • Em

        Thank you

  • Robger

    Benefits to paying for course other than a certificate ? Need your insight. Thanks

  • Alpha

    If I audit a course, watched all the videos but just didnt have access to quizzes. Then before the course ends, I enrol for the 7 days trial, finish all the quizzes within 7 days, still before the course ends, will I get the cert for free? Please advise. Thanks!

  • moxi95

    Thanks so much…. I may be here.

  • George Martin

    Wonderful information

  • Sabihee Anwaar

    Term of ‘Audit course’ is new for me

  • John Bartman

    If l choose to pay for the course, will it keep charging me until l succeed? Is it usually 12 weeks? (Graphic design)

  • Ivan Liang

    Thank you so much. I can start my first course for free now.

  • Ajay Hazra

    Great job. Thanks for sharing the tricks

  • Reza SA

    Thanks. you save asses.

  • 『Λהםא‎』✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ ‎

    Nope, There Isn’t Any Audit For The https://www.coursera.org/specializations/jhu-data-science Course.

    • classcentral

      You can’t audit a specialization, but you can audit the individual courses. Just search the names of the courses either on Coursera or on Class Central (https://www.class-central.com/search) and visit the course page. Check “Find the Course Page” section in the above article for more details.

  • Carolina Loaiza Erazo

    Is there any possibility to study the course first and at the end pay to get the certificated?

    • Pat Bowden

      Hi Carolina, most courses give learners multiple opportunities to purchase the certificate later. Sometimes there is a deadline date that you have to purchase it by, other times you can purchase the certificate even after finishing the course. Remember to complete any assessment items after paying for your certificate.

  • Olka M

    Can you help me? If I take course only for “audit”, listening and then want to take a certificate. What should I do then? Thanks

    • Pat Bowden

      Most courses give learners multiple opportunities to purchase the certificate later. Sometimes there is a deadline date that you have to purchase it by, other times you can purchase the certificate even after finishing the course. Remember to complete any assessment items after paying for your certificate.

  • Paul

    thank you so much! this is extremely helpful.

  • Rashmi Sharma

    I want to do Ecology course. Dr Rashmi

  • Marcia Yudkin

    I actually don’t mind paying for a course, but I am unable to find how much each course costs!!!

  • Peng Wang

    Thank you, you let me know coursera more than before.

  • Soren

    This seems outdated. The only option is a 7 dais trail, even when looking for “free courses”. You have to provide payment info and need to cancel before the period ends.

  • Cindy Berry

    Can you use the certificate for to renew certification in Massachusetts. How do you.know how many hours it is worth .I don’t need college credit just a professional development certificate .

  • Trees Whitbeck

    This is very very helpful. I had to go to IE instead of chrome to get the option to sign up for free. Once signed up for free for the course I could the use chrome to go to the course.

  • Thanks! It’s amazingly helpful.

  • Shaimaa Molouk

    thank you very much for your support but please I need more help as after I clicked on audit button another window opened which is splited into two parts the right one is for unlimited and the one I choose is the free limited part
    then nothing happened there is no next or continue button and i’m still viewing this page

  • Guilherme Petito

    Amazing tutorial, thanks a lot!