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edX

EdX provides students with a large number of study options and a broad range of available courses from various subjects. While edX tends to focus mostly on STEM education, they do also have a number of learning materials on subjects such as communication, language, and Law. In order to get a complete overview of all the subjects taught on edX, refer to the edX subjects page.

While online courses are the most popular types of learning tools used on edX, they are certainly not all that edX has in their arsenal. I would argue that their most innovative and useful learning assets are their MicroMasters programs. These programs are edX-exclusive and they are hybrids between bachelor's and master's degrees. I will cover my thoughts on these programs further up in this review of edX, though, so I will not stop for long on MicroMasters for now.

Besides online courses and MicroMasters, edX also offers online master's degrees, professional certificates and selections of related courses assembled into "Xseries" packages. Additionally, they have a platform called edX for Business which offers corporative e-learning solutions to businesses.

In addition, edX offers a unique opportunity to take part in a partnership with Arizona State University. Dubbed the Global Freshman Academy, this program allows online students to earn transferable credit from edX courses which can then be used during college studies.

As it appears, edX offers quite a wide range of services on its platform. Online courses are just one part (albeit a large part) of it. I would recommend you not to limit yourself to just online courses. There is much value to be gained from edX's other services as well.

edX Career

Next up in this review of edX, I will go into more detail on these services in order to give you a better idea of what they offer and whether they are worth using.

edX Online Courses

The most popular and widely used learning tools on edX are online courses. As mentioned above, edX is unique in that it allows users free access to all of its courses, albeit with some features such as graded assignments and certificates being behind a paywall.

With a wide range of online courses to choose from (more than 30 topics), edX has managed to cover most of the major subjects in education. Students interested in STEM subjects will find especially high value from edX, as the selection of courses available in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics topics is considerably higher than for other subjects.

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In this picture, you can see the different types of online course topics available on edX.org:

If you would like to explore these course subjects on your own, navigate to the edX Subjects page.

Pricing of edX Online Courses

edX study program

All edX students can pick a course for free and access the video materials, lectures, and discussion boards at no cost. These kinds of free learning materials are an excellent way of being taught topics by some of the world's best universities such as Harvard and MIT. Those familiar with online course platforms will realize how unique edX is in this regard - there are no other platforms out there with as wide of a choice of free online courses as edX has.

If you would like to see all of the free courses offered on edX, then navigate to the following search area on their website (or simply click here to see the free edX courses):

As of the writing of this review, a quick search like this yields more than 2600 results, all of which are high-quality courses offered for free by the world's top universities. These courses are an excellent starting point for anyone wishing to explore the possibilities of e-learning without having to make a monetary investment.

However, you might be wondering about that paywall I mentioned earlier. Let's have a look.

Paid vs. Free Online Courses on edX

Despite being a nonprofit, edX does offer a paid version for all of its online courses. This so-called "paywall" was implemented in 2018, in an effort to generate more revenue and perhaps to motivate partner universities to publish more courses. After all, universities function similarly to most businesses, in that they want to see a positive return-on-investment whenever possible. If they spend resources on developing an online course, then naturally it's in their best interest not to give it away for free.

However, you might be left wondering - if I can access all of the course materials for free on edX - then why would I ever pay for the courses?

Well, it turns out that each online course offered on edX has two different versions, or "tracks" as they are referred to as by edX. These two tracks are:

Audit Tracks (Free)

Verified Tracks (Paid)

edX program card

The course materials for both of these two tracks are identical. If you don't pay for the Verified Track, you will still get access to all the same course materials, instructors and videos as a paying student would. This means that technically all courses on edX still remain free.

However, paying for an online course on edX brings some significant advantages:

  • Certificates of completion
  • Graded assessments
  • Unlimited course access
  • Certificates of completion

All Verified Track students who graduate their course on edX get a certificate of completion from the institution which created the course. It goes without saying that a certificate from Harvard, MIT or IBM is often worth the extra spend in case you might want to feature it on your LinkedIn profile or CV.

Graded assessments

program card excel edX

In order to get your certificate of completion, you must first pass a graded assignment which tests you on the knowledge acquired throughout the online course. There is a reason why traditional universities are often centered around graded assessments. Grades can be measured objectively and they give students concrete goals to work towards. Without a graded assessment, it's difficult for a potential employer to take a completed online course seriously, as the student has no real evidence of mastering the material taught during the course. Non-paying students don't get access to graded assessments, which is a bit of a shame as the quizzes and assessments on edX courses are some of the best out there. They are detailed, easy to navigate, and they help solidify the knowledge gained throughout a course.

Unlimited course access

This is perhaps one of the biggest motivators for myself when choosing to pay for online courses on edX. That is because, in the case of the free Audit Track, you only have access to the course materials for a predetermined amount of time equivalent to the amount of average time students need to finish the course. For example, this time frame might be 3-4 weeks. After this time period ends, you will no longer have access to the materials unless you pay for the Verified Track. Having the ability to reaccess course materials months and years after taking the course ensures that you get the most value out of your learning experience. Theoretically, you could just go back to the notes you took yourself while studying, but unless you are very efficient at notetaking you will likely skip over some important details.

If you would like to read more on the differences between the free and paid versions of edX online courses, refer to this support answer from Deb Chatigny.

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edX Online Degrees

edX Online Degrees

Obtaining a fully certified and complete online degree on edX is a step above the MicroMasters programs I talked about previously. Similarly to Micromasters programs, though, online degrees on edX are offered by famous universities. This time, however, graduation results in a full-fledged Master's degree rather than a certificate of completion.

Why only a Master's degree? Well, that is because edX does not yet offer any online bachelor's degree programs on its platform. They have chosen to focus on online Master's degrees for now, with 11 options currently to choose from, and another 13 upcoming.

As of right now, the online Master's degrees offered on edX are:

  • Electrical and Computer Engineering (Purdue University)
  • Leadership: Service Innovation (University of Queensland)
  • Business Administration (Boston University)
  • Information Technology (IT) Management (Indiana University)
  • Accounting (Indiana University)
  • Cybersecurity (Georgia Tech)
  • Analytics (Georgia Tech)
  • Marketing (Curtin University)
  • Supply Chain Management (Arizona State University)
  • Computer Science (The University of Texas at Austin)
  • Data Science (The University of California, San Diego)
  • All of these master's degrees take place fully online, and anywhere from 1-4 years to complete on average.

To see the full list of available and upcoming online degrees offered on edX, click here.

Pricing of edX Online Degrees

The costs of the online master's degrees offered on edX depend on which specific program you choose. Prices for some of them start off at the higher end of $9000, while others cost $24000 or more.

These prices may seem daunting at first - these are considerable sums of money after all. However, consider the fact that regular on-campus master's degrees in the USA can cost anywhere from $30000 to $120000. That is excluding costs of travel, accommodation, textbooks, and all other expenses related to studying in a traditional university. Read my article on the advantages of e-learning if you're interested in finding out more about why I prefer e-learning over on-campus studies.

However, how does the pricing of edX's online degrees compare to other similar e-learning platforms such as Coursera? Let's dig deeper and find out.

In order to make a fair comparison, let's take two similar online degrees from universities based in the US. Both Coursera and edX offer fully online master's degrees in Data Science, so let's use that as our example in order to make a direct comparison.

Coursera offers a Data Science degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (#31 in World University Rankings for Computer Science). The program takes 1-3 years to complete, consists of a total of 32 credit hours and costs $21440.

edX offers a similar Data Science degree from the University of California, San Diego (#46 in World University Rankings for Computer Science). The program takes 1-3 years to complete, consists of a total of 40 credit hours and costs $15000.

So, which is a better deal? On one hand, Coursera's degree offered by the University of Illinois has scored better in Computer Science rankings. However, it's also important to note that edX's Data Science course offered by UCSD has 8 more credit hours, and a ~$6000 lower price tag. Taking this into consideration, I would say that based on numbers alone, edX offers better value for the money.

However, what's much more important than pure numbers and rankings are your individual interests and study paths. Both of these two examples may be data science degrees, but they do have subtle differences in their curriculums. Make sure to take the time to read the actual curriculum of the degrees you are interested in. I would recommend you to make a choice mainly based on that.