Rich User Experience: Coursera

1614530_518722074912452_202519267_oThis week’s post is devoted to “Reach User Experience” – the term which determines the capability of a technology “to deliver not just the multimedia content but also GUI-style application experiences” (“Rich User Experiences” n.d.). In other words, rich user experience presupposes that services are more dynamic and interactive. Rich user experience is implemented in rich internet applications (RIAs) which offer a rich, engaging experience that improves user “satisfaction and increases productivity”  (“Rich Internet Applications” n.d.).

Coursera Platform

Coursera is a profit educational technology offering massive open online courses. It runs the nginx web server with Linux OS. The platform is based on Amazon Web Service and uses Scala to write its primary stack. As of January, 2014 there were over 22 million registered users on the website and 571 online courses. Although Coursera offers “courses online for anyone to take, for free” (“About” n.d.), the service earns from “Verified Signature” fees. Upon successful completion of the course, students on the Signature Track have the possibility to receive verified certificates appropriate for employment process. In order to receive certificate, students have to authenticate their course submissions through photos and typing pattern analysis. In 2013, American Council on Education recommended several courses from Coursera for college credit (Kolowich 2013). The success of this education platform was the result of intensive use of Web 2.0 tools in MOOCCs. The main instructions module contains brief quizzes that stop video material to check students’ comprehension of the new material. Furthermore, instructors encourage students to participate in course online forums and chat groups (Anders 2013).

Offer API to your service.

Coursera platform utilizes two APIs: 1) catalog APIs – which describe the list of courses, partners and authors of courses without the need for authentication (in order to view, not to enroll); 2) OAuth 2 APIs – enabling mobile online learning experiences and integration of third applications. Catalog API is a RESTful API utilizing JSON. One example where OAuth 2 API is used is signing up the platform via Facebook account. Despite the fact that OAuth 2 can broaden the scope of Coursera, the API has a low security level.

Design for remixability

Using catalogue APIs, Coursera has a well-developed system of cross-referencing (the term from marketing). On regular basis users are offered a courses which may fall within area of their interest on the basis of those courses that students previously viewed, were enrolled in or are currently taking.

Use existing standards

Using OAuth 2.0 required following particular standards. Also, creating a separate page with all the documentation or providing external references to it also assists in standardizing the platform.

Usability and simplicity first

Considering the fact that Coursera is designed for large masses without any target groups, it has similar parameters for all users. The initial page contains search bar, most popular courses. In case user wants to get deeper information, there are four types of links in the top right corner which also allow logging in signing up: “courses”, “specializations”, “institutions”, “about”, “log in” and “sign up”.


“About.” Coursera. N.p., n.d. Web 14 March 2015 <;

Anders, George. “Coursera Hits 4 Million Students – And Triples Its Funding.” Forbes. Forbes, 10 July 2013. Web 14 March 2015 <;

Kolowich, Steve. “American Council on Education Recommends 5 MOOCs for Credit.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. N.p. 7 Feb. 2013. Web 14 March 2015. <;

“Rich Internet Applications.” Adobe. N.p., n.d. Web 14 March 2015. <;

“Rich User Experiences.” O’Reilly. N.p., n.d. Web 14 March 2015. <;


2 thoughts on “Rich User Experience: Coursera

  1. Hey Iraeed,
    That was an informative post. I made a quick look into the website of coursera and thanks for using that as an example. Just a question if universities are accepting the credit for the courses that are studied through this website, how do you make sure that the student is writing his exam by himself?



  2. Coursera is a perfect example of rich user experience. By utilising OAuth 2 API Coursera has made it incredibly easy for every facebook user to access and use their service. This inturn works perfectly with the way they make money because the more users they have completing courses, the more money they make.

    With the GUI, I’m not sure if they were one of the first training institutes to use it however just implementing it into their service adds significantly to the user experience as well as making learning more enjoyable.

    From additional research on Coursera, they utilise data management and analysis which recommends suitable courses based on your interests and previous completed courses.


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