I recently wrote a blog post and found it incredibly difficult to decide whether to state that I am taking a course "on Coursera" as one might say if Facebook, for instance, started offering courses, or - as one would say of a University course - "at Coursera". What is the correct usage?

  • Someone else might be able to answer with references, but in my experience if you are going to a location you use "at" and if you are on the computer you say "on" – BillyNair Jul 1 '12 at 20:37
  • Using the verb "take" you have to use the particle "on", albeit - in cases like this - "at" is in common usage. – user19148 Jul 1 '12 at 20:37
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    @carlo no. You can "take a course at college" just as correctly as you can "take a course on math" – simchona Jul 1 '12 at 20:41

With Coursera might get round the problem.

  • Does this apply to all dialects? Sounds distinctly American to me, for some reason. – Okal Otieno Jul 1 '12 at 21:07
  • I think with is syntactically/semantically equivalent to at here. The only problem is that on admits of the (rather unlikely, imho) interpretation that OP is studying Coursera itself, rather than following a course offered by that website. – FumbleFingers Jul 1 '12 at 21:44
  • @okal As a British English native speaker, 'Taking a course with Coursera' sounds fine to me. 'Taking a course with my local college' would sound a little more strained, however. – Ian Jul 1 '12 at 23:41
  • Get round the problem... or exacerbate the problem! (Now there are three prepositions to choose from.) Then again, "I'm taking a course through Coursera" might work, too. – J.R. Jul 1 '12 at 23:59
  • FWIW, I woke up this morning and thought of yet another way to say this: "I'm taking a course offered by Coursera." – J.R. Jul 2 '12 at 9:10

I am not sure whether there is any one 'correct' answer. In this example, 'At' suggests to me physical presence for a certain purpose e.g. 'I was waiting at the bus stop', 'I'll meet you at the restaurant'. One would probably not say 'There was a dog at the restaurant' because dogs do not go to restaurants to eat; '...in the restaurant' would be better.

You probably want to say 'on (the website)' because of the lack of physical presence at the online college.

I fear that 'at' is dying out. Brit speakers are saying 'On the weekend' these days, following the Am Eng practice. When I was a boy, everyone said 'At the weekend'.

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    I agree with everything except the comment in the last paragraph--I'm not sure it helps answer the question. – simchona Jul 1 '12 at 20:49
  • @simchona I'm Kenyan. We speak a variant of British English, so the last comment does add value. – Okal Otieno Jul 1 '12 at 20:56
  • @okal it's a different usage of at/on, though, relating to time instead of place. It's a useful comment for a different question. – simchona Jul 1 '12 at 21:01
  • Ah! Good point. Hadn't thought of it that way. – Okal Otieno Jul 1 '12 at 21:06
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    What simchona said. Relative prevalence of on at / over / for the weekend isn't relevant. And I'm not aware that British usage is following American there anyway - most Brits I know say "at the weekend", same as ever. – FumbleFingers Jul 1 '12 at 21:50

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