Free Yale Online course

Hi, so I’m going to enrol myself into an online course provided by Yale called financial markets. It gives me two options, either to ‘purchase course’ to earn a certificate or just do the full course without a certificate.
I’m wondering whether or not I should purchase the certificate. What are the advantages of purchasing one, and what are the disadvantages of not purchasing one if there’s any?
Also what is it like to take online university courses during school time, will someone please give me an insight before I enrol myself?
Thank you

Hi @anonymous18,

It’s great to see that you’re broadening your educational horizon and taking advantage of the many online courses that are available. I’m going to take a stab in the dark and assume you’re referring to Coursera and in particular, this course:

Firstly, bare in mind, the answer to this sort of question is going to be vary person-to-person as it’s very subjective.

I’m wondering whether or not I should purchase the certificate?

Short answer: NO.

For those that don’t know – What is a verified certificate? Students who take a MOOC on Coursera have the option to obtain a certificate on successful completion of the course. The cost of this service starts at $49 per certificate and includes ID verification to validate that it was you who submitted the assignments: i.e. there was no cheating involved.

If you’re wanting the certificate for the objective of making your resume look impressive, it’s not going to hep. Let’s be honest, with a good resume, you only have 1 page (two at most!) to list all of your accolades and involvements across a life time. At best, a coursera MOOC would be listed under relevant coursework, along with the most important classes and academic successes you had in college (or in your case, high school?). It definitely does not deserve it’s own bullet point under your “Education” section.

In addition, Coursera certificates are not rare - the standards for passing and obtaining a certificate are not high. If it is something that you wish to include on your resume, a “verified certificate” is not going to stop you from doing so.

If you were asking if it’s worth it from the point of view of - “Is the education provided worth X $?”, absolutely! The knowledge is easily worth what they charge for the certification. The thing is, you can gain the knowledge in the free version of the course. At the end of the day, you’re taking this Financial Markets MOOC to develop a deeper understanding of Finance, increasing your academic flexibility and depth; not for the certificate.

Coursera and other MOOCs are ALL over my C.V., just not directly. What they offer is knowledge, which is everything. Your candidacy to a potential employer is going to increase nonetheless because you have taken the class, and are now more knowledgeable on a specific topic.

What are the advantages of purchasing one

One could argue that it’s a way of giving back with some small benefit, and that’s true. So if you have the money, it’s something I’d encourage to keep material like this out there (although, they have roughly a $500M+ valuation so I’m not sure they are in dire need haha).

There are instances, too, when having the verified certificate can potentially increase your career prospects. The emergence of specialisation programs using MOOCs holds a lot of promise where marketable job skills are concerned. These programs, such as Specializations from Coursera, X-Series from edX or Nanodegrees from Udacity, are made up of a series of MOOCs which together are designed to give you mastery in a particular subject field. What is particularly relevant about these course series is that they are mostly project-based allowing students to demonstrate the knowledge they’ve acquired in a specialization to an applied project. And this is exactly what employers are looking for – evidence that you can do the things your certificate says you can. Being able to showcase your actual work and connect it to a specialization certificate will add considerable value to your certificate.

These specialised learning pathways using MOOCs are relatively new, but with the big corporates now getting involved, it’s just a matter of time before holding a specialisation certificate becomes a recognised credential in a particular industry field. Before verified certificates become truly “worth it” however, MOOC providers have some challenges ahead with the need to look at strategies to prevent cheating in MOOCs and then to raise awareness in the corporate world of the merits and academic integrity of this form of credential.

Furthermore, adding to the advantages of getting a “verified certificate”, if you lack the motivation and are inclined to stop something soon after starting it then I highly recommend a certificate. A study from Harvard and MIT, found that students who took this option, were to have a 59% course completion rate compared to only 5% when students enrolled in MOOCs without paying for a verified certificate.

Also what is it like to take online university courses during school time, will someone please give me an insight before I enrol myself?

From experience, it’s definitely manageable. However, there are quite a few variables at play for example:

  • Some MOOC’s have a fixed time-limit from when you start the course, and others are more open and flexible.
  • MOOC’s have different commitment levels. The course you aim to take only has a commitment level of 6/12 hours a week, some require less, some require more.
  • Your current commitments - really, this is the main thing. Do you have time?

Because these courses don’t require too much weekly effort, I’d say that [dependent on your current and future schedule] you could definitely scrape together the time. The main thing it requires, is a high level of commitment and consistency.


  • Coursera actually allows you to obtain certificates for free if you really need it for whatever reason (careers, academics, etc) and demonstrated that you cannot pay for certificates due to financial hardships then they’ll provide financial aid for you. Outside of that, there’s no way.
  • MOOC = Massive Open Online Courses
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