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Coursera is a platform for MOOCs (massive open online course), online courses that are available to all interested parties free of charge. MOOCs provide people throughout the world with the opportunity to participate in university courses – regardless of their educational background and the courses provided by local universities. Charges are only made for certificates if students need them to be recognised by universities, and identity checks are required in these cases. However, certificates of attendance are free.
The special feature of Coursera is that it provides access to real courses and not just to uploaded content. Each course has a beginning and an end, chapters are unlocked weekly, there are real tests, a group of learners, teachers who regularly go online and mutual feedback is provided through marks given by fellow learners. Unlike lectures, however, students can learn at their own pace. The advantage for teachers is that they no longer have to concentrate on continuously repeating materials because this is done through videos; instead, they can focus on communication and the learning process.
Coursera does not create its own content, but publishes content online via partnership agreements with universities from around the world (as of 2016: 140 universities; 1,800 courses; 18 million students). The range of topics provided is therefore as wide as the topics covered by universities. The website is programmed in a manner that makes it easy to upload videos, tests, discussions and other materials. Since the website also makes it easy to collect and evaluate data, continuous improvement is possible. For example, if a particular question is resulting in a large number of incorrect answers, then lecturers can easily see that there is need for further clarification, and can unlock additional information on the subject.