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edX review: is it worth it in 2020?

You must have heard about Udacity, Pluralsight, Treehouse, or even Udemy as there are many platforms to learn online today without leaving where you are.

But with several online education platforms, why should you consider edX?

Long story short, the platform delivers high-quality free courses to degrees across a wide range of academic disciplines.

But this is not enough to explain why edX has become such a notable platform.

Do you want to know more?

So, let's dive into this complete edX review to understand what exactly makes up edX and what kind of online courses could fit perfectly in your resume.

Let's dive in!

edX review: but first, what is edX?

edX (Education Extended) is a MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) provider which is one of the present modes of learning online with no geographical boundary.

edX offers students a way to explore their interests and expand their knowledge at a university level, without having to apply to or meet the requirements for attending a standard university.

It was founded as a collaboration between two of the most prestigious Ivy League schools – Harvard and MIT. Besides that, edX currently offers high-quality online courses from 120 other institutions (such as Berkeley, Columbia, and Stanford).

It's run as an open-source not-for-profit e-learning platform and delivers courses on topics ranging from data and computer science to leadership and communications.

What is edX's connection to MIT and Harvard?

Harvard University and MIT created edX in 2012, and it was considered as a transformational new partnership in online education where the two institutions collaborate and provide global learning.

The original idea was to open both universities’ classrooms to the world while enhancing on-campus learning.

Now, collaborations are done not only by Harvardx and MITx – the schools’ online course programs - but also by several other schools like Oxford, Princeton, UC Berkeley, and many more.

As seen, the collaborative creation of the platform was influenced and motivated by the educational challenges faced in the world, which edX highlighted as:

  • limited access to high-quality learning experiences;
  • skills gaps caused by rapid technological change;
  • The prohibitive cost and time commitment required to gain advanced knowledge and credentials.

As stated by edX Founder and CEO, Anant Agarwal – an MIT professor -, its mission is focused on:

  • Expanding access to high-quality education to everyone and everywhere;
  • Reimagining education both on-campus and online;
  • Improving teaching and learning outcomes through research.

At the time of its launch, the project was quite ambitious and promising. MIT and Harvard have strongly dipped into their pockets to create the platform. Their intention with edX was also to research how technology could improve education, both on campus and off-campus.

Is “Harvardx” the same as Harvard?

According to Harvard, Harvardx enables the faculty to create online learning experiences for residential and online use.

Launched alongside edX in 2012, but unlike edX which is founded by Harvard and MIT, HarvardX is solely and entirely Harvard’s. Just exactly like MITx.

Also, Harvard states that HarvardX is designed to empower the institution to improve teaching and learning on-campus, online, and beyond.

Some HarvardX courses are made available on edX, such as the popular Harvard’s CS50 (Introductory computer science) course, which has over 4 million enrollments in the course – both on HarvardX and edX.

How many students does edX have?

Since 2012, when edX opened its doors to learners around the world it has had more than 25 million students - representing every country - taking courses from over 120 top universities with 87 million+ enrollments across edX's courses.

How does edX work?

Ever considered going to Harvard? Well, you can attend courses at Harvard without being physically present there, through edX.

Like other MOOC providers, edX works as a technical platform where lecturers and professors from top universities make their course materials available, these include: videos, learning notes, quizzes and discussions to enable participants to benefit from what is taught from a classroom.

One can say that MOOCs like edX are the door of opportunity to quality education across the world.

Want a suit?

EdX’s first class in 2012, the Circuits and Electronics course which was usually offered twice a year at MIT saw an enrollment of 155,000 learners from 162 countries, with over 7,200 getting a certificate from the course as opposed to 100 students who would have been taught in classrooms at MIT, and by the end of 2019, the course had reached about 500,000 learners.

Below we point out 4 reasons why it is really advantageous to take classes on edX:

1- Content quality: Learning on edX has the quality endorsed by top universities and its professors offering courses through video teachings and learning materials. The video materials are made available for students to download and transcribed in multiple languages for universality.

2 - Peer learning: imitating the classroom, it provides students the opportunity to share knowledge and experience.

3 - Discussion forums: this delivers the community and network effect on students as they can discuss on several conversations.

4 - Active Learning: edX pairs course material with application, feedback, and reflection to ensure that the student gets the most out of the classes. “Active learning is a crucial component in developing skills and being able to do things rather than just know them or know about them,” said Ben Piscopo, edX senior learning designer.

Furthermore, edX offers not just online courses but also, Master’s degrees, MicroMasters, Professional certificates, and Xseries – a package of courses arranged into a series.

They also offer blended learning, where MIT and Harvard campus students learn in the classroom and online on edX which is believed to improve the student’s pass rate, engagement, and learning outcomes.

Just like Coursera, edX has its online learning programs for business with its edX for Business, which provides a custom e-learning and training solution for enterprises.

Since 2015, edX has also been offering learners the opportunity to earn college credits. Credit-eligible MOOCs on edX are low-risk and convenient ways to earn credit on your own schedule.

With MicroMasters offered in 2016, edX is offering MicroBachelors in 2020 since a traditional bachelor's degree is still considered relevant and valuable as a benchmark for educational achievement, especially in the job space.

Best edX review: costs, graded assignments, and access

If you've come this far in the edX review, the best is yet to come. Let's start talking about their vast course catalog ranging across categories like Engineering, Social Science, Mathematics, Arts, and etc. But first, let’s take a look at their pricing model: learning for free or at affordable prices (for verified/paid courses).

How much edX courses cost

Paid and free online courses on edX: how does it work

For most edX courses, there is no cost to take classes. It's what they call audit or free tracks. However, if you wish to obtain a verified certificate you must do paid or verified tracks.

For these, there is a fee that varies depending on the course. They range from $50 to $300.

According to its FAQ free courses only offer access to course materials for the duration of the course without graded assignments, certificates, or unlimited access – features that are only available for the paid courses.

This difference is made so that the effort into grading and providing a certificate is funded to enable the schools and instructors to take part.

When a learner enrolls in a free course, he or she has the option to apply for a certificate by paying a fee and taking course assignments, which will be graded.

edX offers financial help for learners who cannot afford the fee for a certificate but would like to have one.

Graded assignments: how do you know if you passed?

Graded assignments are one feature of edX as it imitates physical classroom learning.

On edX, learners know if they've passed by checking the scores of their graded assignments on the course "Progress" tab, which gives a chart of all graded assignments showing cumulative average and scores.

Unlimited course access: Is it worth it?

With unlimited access and downloadable video files, edX courses are worth it if compared to the cost of attending it in person at the campus of a top school which starts at $70,000. If access to hundreds of quality courses from notable institutions at a low price is good enough, then edX is definitely worth it.

Certificates of completion

Certificates of completion on edX are offered for paid courses. However, for most free courses, certificates are optional and offered at affordable prices that allow learners to upgrade their audit tracks into verified tracks.

To get a certificate of completion, edX will ask learners to undergo some verification with ID and other information which may take a while.

Are edX certificates worth it?

To answer that question, you might ask, "What do Harvard and MIT offer students"?

It is no doubt that Branding and Network are two of the most significant elements of these leading schools.

The reason there's an application rejection rate of 93% and the top 7% that get into Harvard have brains and money – especially the money to pay tuition as it costs many thousands of dollars to attend these schools.

Obtaining an edX certificate is only available to their Paid (Verified) courses as the fee paid is used to fund the course and prepare certificates after assignments are graded. The certificate is only awarded after the student has had their participation evaluated by a teacher.

So, obtaining knowledge from Harvard or MIT or Princeton makes you feel - at least partially - part of the Ivy League club – even when you aren’t as you don’t get access to their alumni network.

The courses that are offered on edX are provided by the lecturers at the leading universities, so putting a certificate of completion from edX on your resume shows that you have what it takes to complete that course like those in the classroom and no one just glances over a Harvard certificate of completion.

Can you put edX certificates on a resume?

According to edX, verified certificates given can be added to a resume.

When looking for new jobs, the individuals who have the best chances are those who can most appropriately answer one of an employers' most difficult questions: can this candidate add value to my business?

According to the edX 2020 Impact Report, students that got a certificate of completion from edX got job offers after including it in their résumé and on their LinkedIn profiles.

Courses from edX can bring differentiation to your résumé, and help you stand out from other candidates.

In addition, online courses added to your résumé provide a clear example of what you know and what you can do to help that business thrive.

The choice to take online courses - and in the case of edX, from leading universities - demonstrates personal motivation, discipline, maturity, curiosity and a strong desire to learn - all important aspects for employers.

Therefore, it is best to consider adding the certificates from edX to your résumé.

Some of the most cost-effective courses by categories

Business Analysis

  • Business Analytics Fundamentals:

    This MOOC offered by Babson College, Executive Education is tailored for decision-makers as it teaches them the principles of business analytics in effectively analyzing, articulating, and applying key analytics techniques in their work.

Entrepreneurship

  • Corporate Entrepreneurship:

    A Columbia Business School, Executive Education provides the corporate entrepreneurship course that gives executives strategies and tools for driving growth within organizations.

Arts

The University of British Columbia course taught by professors from the renowned MFA program and international best-selling authors is prepared to help struggling writers to unlock their creativity. In this course, learners are provided with writing exercises, examples from published novels, feedbacks, and discussion with fellow writers.

Communication

This MOOC from MITx helps business owners and entrepreneurs learn the techniques for business negotiations.

Engineering

With professors at TU Delft – DelftX – as instructors to this MOOC, learns can learn about the design process and latest techniques of digital manufacturing. Using the software, the Industrial Design Engineering faculty at the leading institution takes learners through 3D printing, scanning, modeling, and fabrication steps in digital manufacturing workflow and much more.

Marketing

The globally ranked Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, for marketing education offers this MOOC for learners to build the marketing skills they require to succeed in a digital economy. From startups to established enterprises, essential principles and practices are taught.

Some of the best Free Courses:

Babson College’s Business & Management free course is geared towards teaching how to analyze business opportunities by decision-makers and businesses in securing funding and financial viability. The course is free but offers a verified certificate at the price of $199.

This basic introductory course to HTML & JavaScript is a Computer Science course taught by Microsoft that offers learners the essential skills to create an interactive web application. It teaches how to use HTML5, JavaScript CSS, and CSS3. A verified certificate is also available for a fee.

With the current need for skills in data science and AI, this Microsoft free course helps students learn the first step and what it takes to become a data scientist. It entails data exploration and visualization techniques in Excel and foundational statistics being taught by senior leads at Microsoft.

CS50 is one of Harvard’s most popular courses, and this version is the introduction to the intellectual enterprises of computer science and art of programming tailored for high school students. Harvard states that high school students who enroll in the course may get the benefit of AP credits.

This social science course from UC Berkeley is the first MOOC to teach positive psychology on how to be happy and lead a meaningful life. With a world that is currently going through a lot due to a virus, almost 500,000 people have enrolled in this free course.

A Business Management course from Harvard that explores how to create successful global business innovations in health care, from analyzing to crafting business plans.

Love history? This course from prestigious Princeton University explores the complex history of capitalism from 1919 until today.

You can check a list of free online courses from the Top 10 Universities if you are interested in free courses.

Which is better, Coursera or edX?

Coursera is one of the most popular MOOCs out there, and is similar to edX. They are both giants among MOOC providers. Two Stanford University professors – Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller created Coursera with partner schools of Stanford, Penn, Michigan, and Princeton.

Both platforms partner with a significant number of leading universities, but Coursera goes beyond just schools as it "collaborates with 200+ leading universities and companies". Professionals from enterprises like IBM and Google teach classes on Coursera.

With a more extensive enrollment base of over 60 million learners and course video subtitles in over 40 languages, Coursera is a larger platform than edX.

Unlike edX, Coursera was built for profit and backed by leading investors such as Kleiner Perkins. Although it makes a profit from its paid courses, the platform still offers hundreds of free courses.

In its bid to expand its presence in the B2B environment, Coursera offers “Coursera for Business” (similar to edX for Business) as an opportunity for companies to enroll their employees for training and development programs.

Coursera for Government to prepare government workforce for the jobs of tomorrow, and Coursera for Campus that enables faculty and staff to rapidly upskill and catch up on emerging areas.

These programs all together make the platform live up to its description as providing “universal access to the world’s best education, partnering with top universities and organizations to offer courses online".

According to Coursera, free courses give learners access to video lectures, homework exercises, forum discussion while paid courses provide additional quizzes, projects, and shareable course certificates; and with fees as low as $39, one can get access to a paid course. Coursera groups its offerings as:

  • Courses – learn something new with free and paid courses
  • Specializations – to master a specific skill
  • Professional Certificates – courses tailored for a professional career and becoming job-ready.
  • MasterTrackTM Certificates – learning through portions of master’s programs
  • Online Degrees

Online Comparison: edX vs. Coursera

  • Business model: edX was built as a not-for-profit company, while Coursera was designed to be for-profit.
  • Certificates: Both of them offer verified certificates. The edX certification process is a little more detailed and takes a bit longer.
  • Costs: Coursera and edX offer audit versions of their courses free of charge. They both charge for certificates (and extra course features). Coursera offers specializations that have no audit versions.
  • Topics: While edX focuses more on humanities and natural sciences, Coursera offers numerous courses in computer science and business.
  • Course availability: edX archives old catalogs, allowing them to be watched only in audit versions. While Coursera has an ongoing offer of their audit and certified version of courses.
  • Business training: Both MOOC providers offer training for business and are considered the most important platforms of digital professional training.

Which is better, Udacity or edX?

Udacity, is a well-known and leading tech online-learning space.

Udacity is more tech-related, it offers complete training for people who want to become web developers, data scientists, and etc. It partners with tech companies to fill the gap by teaching the "critical tech skills that companies are looking for in their workforce”.

Established in 2011 – a year earlier than edX – Udacity boasts of 100,000+ Udacity graduations, 200+ industry experts’ partnership, and 100+ enterprise customers worldwide, which is a lot less than edX standing.

Udacity was created by two Stanford instructors, Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig when they offered their“ Introduction to Artificial Intelligence ” to over 160,000 students, but there are notable differences between the two platforms.

Direct Comparison: edX vs. Udacity

  • Course creation: Udacity offers courses developed by their partner experts in the tech industry while edX courses are designed by over 100 top-leading universities and colleges in the world;
  • Topics: While edX has hundreds of courses ranging from Humanities to Science, Udacity offers only technical courses – from Data science, machine learning, programming, which aims at preparing students for real-life tasks in the tech world;
  • Certificates and price: Udacity offers Nanodegrees which involve coaching and code reviews but are more expensive than edX's paid courses;
  • Course pace: Udacity offers full-time, part-time courses and boot camps all of them are self-paced. Many edX courses are instructor-paced with a fixed schedule, providing less flexibility for students (although they also offer self-paced classes).

In a review of the two platforms, edX offers a more significant base and platform for its industry courses. At the same time, Udacity is widely known and accepted in the IT skills online platform, which places the "better" platform choice on the learner's educational interest.

Online Reviews of edX

To determine how efficient and valuable it is to study on edX and if they are living up to its mission, we looked at some reviews by learners who have enrolled in courses – free or paid – on edX.

On Trustpilot, edX holds 73% excellent and 16% great ratings out of over 1,000 reviews. Of the bad reviews, the majority of the complaints have been around "Support service".

Another complaint is that free audit courses don't give the full experience, and students are not allowed to do assignments. This is because assignments are only given in paid courses. Despite this, students want the assignments for learnings-sake.

On G2, edX holds 4.5 out of 5 stars, being 62 5-star ratings and 17 4-star ratings. students have stated that the pros of edX are mainly the quality of learning content on the platform but the cons are the pricing of paid courses being expensive as they range from $50 to over $300.

Online Course Rater considers the platform as well-established with a vast catalog of courses and easy to navigate site. However some students have claimed that the website malfunctions sometimes and the discussion forums are not easily accessible.

Conclusion

Everyone has embraced the concept of online learning either through their school portals, virtual classroom sessions, or MOOCs like edX and Coursera, which have offered many free courses.

There are a variety of platforms and courses to choose from, which can make it challenging to choose just one.

However, there is one criterion that you need to consider when choosing a platform: quality. And the quality of the content provided by edX makes a huge difference when it comes to your personal growth and career opportunities.

If you’re wondering whether to enroll in a course on edX or similar platforms, it is hoped that this edX review article has given you a comparative analysis of edX and why it’s one of the best MOOC platforms out there.

To finish off this review of edX the right way, it is essential to remind you about our search tool. It is the easiest way to find courses on any online education platform.

Renan França
I am a journalist responsible for SEO and Content strategies at Classpert. I usually write about entrepreneurship, marketing, SEO, programming and e-learning platforms.