There are many courses on Coursera that can be taken free of charge. However, beyond your own personal enlightenment and satisfaction of achievement, there is no other reward for doing so.
Coursera makes money in two primary ways: offering certificate programs and "specialization" course packages.
Many courses on Coursera give you the option to take them for free, but many also give you the option to take the course and earn a "learner's certificate". This is a document to say that you have passed a course offered by an accredited educational institution on Coursera. While this does not count as credit towards completion of a degree at that institution (except in rare circumstances), it does look good on your résumé or professional portfolio!
The usual cost to take an individual course, with the potential to earn a learner's certificate at the end, is between $49-$79 U.S. If you take a course in this way, you must verify your identity with a keyboard pattern, portrait photo, and photo I.D. each time you submit an assignment. You must also submit and pass all assignments with deadlines in the course less than 6 months (180 days) after you make your payment.
If you drop the course within two weeks of paying for it, and have not yet earned your learner's certificate, you will be entitled to a full refund.
Coursera also offers "specializations", which are groups of related courses. Usually, depending on when each course opens, you can take the courses in a specialization together or in succession. Then, you complete a final project tying all of the courses together, and then you receive a learner's certificate for all of the courses in that specialization.
The cost of each specialization differs, so be sure to click Pricing in the menu on the left when you visit a specialization (or just scroll down to that section). This will show you the total cost of the specialization, as well as the cost broken down by course. The upside to specializations is that they may offer courses that you cannot otherwise take on their own on Coursera.
That's a bit of information about Coursera's pricing plans, and how they make their money!
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