Here’s the Deal
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While you used to be able to take courses for free and earn a statement of accomplishment, this is no longer the case. You can only audit the courses if you are not paying. Coursera makes it seem like you should also do the quizzes, but the submit button says "Upgrade to submit". See More
Courses are run on set dates, though some courses provide access to the material whether or not the course is running (however, there will be far less student activity in the forums when the course is not running). Some courses only make their material available when the course is running, so you may have to wait a long period (sometimes months) for your course to be offered. See More
Many courses offered at Coursera are from well known universities (such as Stanford and Princeton) and instructed by their professors. Often the material taught in the Coursera courses is material from the actual university course. See More