3 minute read  written by  . Published on November 8, 2017

Late last year Cousera made a switch to a subscription model for some Specializations, which was eventually rolled out to all Specializations. Under this model, users paid a monthly fee ranging between $39–89 — depending on the Specialization — to have access to graded assignments and earn certificates.


For the past few months, Coursera has been testing a newer pricing model. Under this model, learners get access to the whole catalog (instead of just one Specialization) for a price of $49/month.

So for a single price, learners get access to the whole Coursera catalog.

What does that actually mean?

For the most part, Coursera courses are “free to audit,” which means you can watch the videos but won’t be able to access graded assignments or earn certificates. But if you pay the $49/month price, you will get access to the graded assignments and be able to earn a certificate for all these courses.

Effectively speaking, Coursera is drastically slashing their prices with this newest model. Previously, if you were to subscribe to every Specialization in Coursera, it would cost you a few thousand dollars per month. Now you can get that access for $49/month. Of course, nobody would subscribe to all Specializations; but from a student perspective, having access to the entire catalog is better than having access to just a few courses that are part of a single Specialization. This also increases learners’ flexibility to earn certificates from individual courses belonging to different Specializations.

In the old model, if you wanted to access a particular course, you needed to sign up for a subscription to the whole Specialization. Then you had to remember to cancel it as soon as you earned a certificate. For lifelong learners, this new system will remove the headache of managing multiple subscriptions. Overall I think this is more learner-friendly than the current model (graded assignments not being behind a paywall is the most learner-friendly model, though).

From Coursera’s perspective, the hope is this change lowers the entry barrier (i.e. increases conversions) for learners to upgrade to a paid subscription, and to then continue the subscription for a longer period. This would offset the revenue lost in this “price reduction.” A single subscription model also makes it simpler for Coursera to get corporations to buy these subscriptions for their employees. Previously, Coursera was selling access to specific Specializations to its corporate partners. Now they are offering the entire catalog for $400/employee/year.

But one challenging aspect of this model is how to attribute revenue to a university, or even an instructor. Universities and Coursera share revenue, and then universities might share their chunk of the revenue with MOOC instructors. Attribution wasn’t a problem in the previous model, because students paid for a specific Specialization. But under the single subscription model, it might be a challenge to figure this out.

Spotify, for instance, shares revenue with its artists. The revenue share is based on the number of times a song is played. But there might not be such a simple answer for Coursera. Students can do some or all of the following in a MOOC: watch videos, access graded assignments, or earn a certificate. The distribution of these student activities might vary wildly across different courses, making it difficult to come up with a single model for revenue attribution. Under a single model, some universities and instructors might see their revenue drop while others might see their revenue go up.

Coursera is still testing out the single subscription model, and has been for the last few months. It hasn’t been rolled out to all learners. More details on how Coursera’s subscription works can be found in their FAQ.

  • George Patsoulis

    This seems to be available only for enterprises