Review: Is Coursera’s Machine Learning Specialization Worth It?

Seeking to enhance your AI credentials with Coursera’s Machine Learning Specialization, but unsure of its value? In this machine learning specialization coursera review, we dissect the curriculum, scrutinize the instruction quality, and assess the practical benefits without sugarcoating, helping you gauge if it’s the right resource to advance your machine learning expertise.

Key Takeaways

  • The Machine Learning Specialization by DeepLearning.AI and Stanford Online, instructed by AI expert Andrew Ng, provides a comprehensive online curriculum covering fundamental to advanced machine learning topics with a mix of theory, quizzes, and hands-on projects.

  • Designed for intermediate learners but accessible to beginners with a programming background, the specialization emphasizes practical skills using tools like TensorFlow for neural networks and Octave/Mathlab, leading to a real-world application of learned concepts via projects and Kaggle competitions.

  • While the course can challenge students in mathematical areas and time commitment, successful completion offers a recognized certificate and equips learners with applicable AI skills, although students should consider individual learning goals and alternatives like Google’s AI course, Columbia’s edX course, and other Coursera and Udemy programs for tailored learning experiences.

Setting the Scene for Machine Learning Mastery

Illustration of a person studying machine learning concepts

The New Machine Learning Specialization is an online program developed by DeepLearning.AI and Stanford Online. It offers a comprehensive curriculum on machine learning. The purpose of the program is to impart the fundamentals of machine learning for building AI applications. The course is known for its broad introduction to machine learning, encapsulating vital topics like:

The foundational online program created also fosters a robust foundation in best practices within the AI and machine learning fields.

The specialization boasts a prestigious instructor, Andrew Ng, a renowned figure in AI research and development. His impeccable track record includes a previous version of this course rated 4.9 out of 5 by over 4.8 million learners. However, an impressive resume doesn’t always translate to effective teaching. Is it realistic to expect this course to elevate you from foundational knowledge to advanced applications, as it purports? It’s time to examine these claims.

Who Stands to Gain?

The Machine Learning Specialization by DeepLearning.AI and Stanford Online is classified as intermediate, but it doesn’t require prior experience in machine learning. That’s good news for beginners. However, it does require a background in computer programming, specifically Python, to handle the course assignments. Those lacking coding experience might find this a hindrance.

Despite being an immersion into machine learning algorithms, the course is described as accessible and not overly difficult, aiming to introduce learners to the field. This assertion is promising, particularly for newcomers. But does it withstand the test of reality? And how does it accommodate those with some preceding knowledge of machine learning? It’s time to investigate.

Navigating the Enrollment Process

Enrolling in this specialization is a straightforward process. It begins with registering for a Coursera account and then navigating to the specialization’s course page. Once there, students have the option to enroll in the full specialization or select individual courses within it. They can either audit the courses for free or purchase the specialization for certificate eligibility.

Before diving in, learners are recommended to install Python and become familiar with its basic syntax, as it will be used in programming assignments. Upon enrollment, students can immediately start learning if the session is open, and they have access to all course materials. They can also set flexible personal deadlines to manage their study time. Such flexibility could be advantageous for busy professionals seeking to enhance their skills.

A Closer Look at Course Structure

Photo of a person using a computer to learn machine learning

Taking a closer look at the course structure, the Machine Learning Specialization consists of a series of 4 courses designed to provide in-depth knowledge of machine learning. The course includes a Supervised Machine Learning course featuring a mix of video lectures, practice quizzes, optional labs, and programming assignments.

The course modules cover a broad range of topics such as:

  • Gradient descent

  • Logistic regression for binary classification tasks, utilizing a logistic regression model

  • Multiple linear regression

  • Neural networks

  • Decision trees

  • Deep reinforcement learning model

Each topic is complemented with quizzes and assignments, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the field and solidifying one’s background knowledge. This broad coverage ensures a thorough grasp of the subject matter.

The question remains: how efficiently are these concepts conveyed, and what tools are employed to aid learning? It’s time to explore that.

Tools of the Trade

When it comes to the tools used in the course, the Machine Learning Specialization utilizes popular machine learning libraries such as TensorFlow for implementing neural network models, including supervised machine learning models. TensorFlow is a popular open-source library for machine learning and neural networks and is an excellent choice for practical learning.

However, the course also uses Octave/Mathlab for learning machine learning concepts. This choice might be a point of contention for some students. While Octave/Mathlab is simple and powerful, some students express disappointment due to the lack of training in more widely-used languages such as Python and R within the course.

The Support System

Upon finishing the Machine Learning Specialization, students are guided towards further learning by utilizing real-world data sets from platforms such as Kaggle. This real-world application of the learned concepts can be an invaluable learning experience.

In addition, graduates often enhance their skills post-completion by sharing their projects on repositories like GitHub, which contributes to career development. Such proactive engagement with the machine learning community can unlock new opportunities and bolster one’s professional stature, showcasing the skills you’ll gain.

Putting Theory into Practice

Illustration of hands-on programming in machine learning

The Machine Learning Specialization is recognized for its practical approach towards learning. Its assignments facilitate a deeper understanding of the mathematical models behind machine learning. Students engage with hands-on programming assignments, such as implementing Numpy vectorization and Scikit Learn, in Octave or Matlab, tailored to make learning machine learning concepts more approachable.

The capstone projects in the specialization illustrate how students can apply what they have learned to solve complex, real-world problems. Some examples of these projects include:

  • Penning an unsupervised learning algorithm to govern the Lunar Lander employing Deep Q-Learning

  • Developing a recommendation system for a streaming service

  • Creating a machine learning model to predict stock prices

These exhaustive projects enable students to attain an advanced comprehension of the machine learning field and its applications.

Success Stories and Testimonials

Participants of the Machine Learning Specialization receive a certificate upon completion, which can be shared and promoted on professional platforms like LinkedIn. This certificate can serve as a testament to the skills gained during the course.

Our original machine learning course has been effective for individuals with a minimal programming background, enabling them to gain confidence and continue their machine learning journey. Even seasoned professionals have drawn practical insights from the course, learning to refine their machine learning models by emphasizing data quality and troubleshooting methodologies. With a focus on natural language processing, the course offers valuable skills for a wide range of applications.

The use of Octave/Mathlab, despite its limitations, is valued by students for its effectiveness in teaching the mathematical foundations of machine learning concepts.

Challenges Encountered

Despite its many benefits, the Machine Learning Specialization is not without its challenges. The most challenging parts of the course, reported by students, are the mathematical concepts from calculus, statistics, and probability, especially for those who haven’t practiced math recently. However, students can proceed with the course without needing deep understanding of mathematical theory.

The course demands a dedication of 5-7 hours each week, which could pose a potential hurdle for students juggling busy routines. Nevertheless, this time investment is fundamental to thoroughly grasp the course material. Another concern is cheating, with answer repositories available online. However, students are encouraged to solve problems independently to gain the full benefit of the course.

Is It Worth Your Time and Money?

While the Machine Learning Specialization offers a structured learning journey for beginners, it might primarily serve as a refresher for seasoned professionals. Students are expected to invest approximately 2 months at a pace of 10 hours per week to complete the specialization. This is a similar time commitment to the Machine Learning course by Andrew Ng, which is highly regarded in the industry.

Upon completing the specialization, learners receive individual course certificates as well as a final specialization certificate. These certificates can augment your professional portfolio and potentially unlock new career avenues. However, how does this course stack up against other alternatives available in the market?

Alternatives at a Glance

The Google AI Machine Learning Crash Course is a free alternative offering a practical approach with interactive Jupyter notebooks. On the other hand, Columbia’s Machine Learning course on edX costs $300 for a certificate and requires strong mathematical knowledge. The Machine Learning with Python course by IBM on Coursera provides foundational ML algorithm insights at $39/month.

Each of these alternatives has its unique focuses and accessibility, which might not be suitable for all audiences compared to the Machine Learning Specialization’s broad approach. Some alternatives to consider are:

  • Advanced Machine Learning Specialization by Coursera (currently unavailable due to the Russian-Ukraine War)

  • Deep Learning Specialization by Coursera

  • Applied Data Science with Python Specialization by Coursera

  • Data Science and Machine Learning Bootcamp with R by Udemy

These alternatives offer different perspectives and approaches to machine learning, including unsupervised learning techniques, and data science education.


Having delved into the Machine Learning Specialization, it’s clear that the course offers a comprehensive introduction to machine learning. From its structured learning path and practical assignments to its broad coverage of topics and supportive learning environment, the course provides a solid foundation for newcomers to the field.

However, it’s not without its challenges. The mathematical concepts can be daunting for those who haven’t practiced math recently, and the time commitment required may be a hurdle for busy professionals. Despite these challenges, the course’s focus on practical applications, its approachable learning tools, and the opportunity to earn a recognized certificate make it a worthy investment for those seeking to jump-start their journey in machine learning.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Coursera machine learning specialization certificate worth it?

Yes, the Coursera machine learning specialization certificate is worth it, especially for those new to the topic and with limited math or computer science background.

What is the best course for machine learning in Coursera?

The best course for machine learning in Coursera is “Advanced Learning Algorithms: Deep Learning.AI,” as it is one of the most popular and highly recommended options for advanced machine learning.

How much does Coursera machine learning specialization cost?

The Coursera machine learning specialization costs $49 per month and includes access to all course materials, graded assignments, and a certificate upon completion. There is also a 7-day free trial available to explore the course content.

Is Stanford machine learning course worth it?

Yes, the Stanford machine learning course on Coursera is worth it as it’s taught by an expert in deep learning, Andrew Ng, and covers beginner-level techniques for various career tracks.

Do I need prior machine learning knowledge to take this course?

No, prior machine learning knowledge is not required for the course. However, a background in computer programming, particularly Python, is essential for handling the course assignments.

Scroll to Top