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edX Review 2022: Pros, Cons & Alternatives

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edX Review

edX provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity to learn programming, data science, and other computer and science disciplines from some of the best schools in the world. Harvard, Stanford, and MIT are just a few of the accredited institutions that provide their learning materials on edX. 

Instructors

3/5

Courses

5/5

Experience

4/5

Total

4/5

At-a-glance:

  • edX is one of the few online learning portals to offer materials from not just accredited but prestigious institutions.
  • While edX has limited coursework compared to the most prominent learning portals, like Coursera and Udemy, the coursework is substantially more in-depth.
  • You will need to pay for edX certifications, and you will frequently pay more than on other learning platforms.
  • However, you can take any courses free if you don’t care about getting a shareable certification.

Let’s talk about edX. Today, we’ll cover the pros and cons of edX, what you can learn on edX, and whether edX is right for you.

What is edX? Is edX Legit?

edX is a nonprofit organization founded by Harvard and MIT. It offers MOOCs (massive open online courses) and serves tens of millions of students annually. While edX reviews highlight the variable quality of instruction and classes, you can get a coding camp from Berkeley. Unfortunately, it just won’t be free.

Certification courses are free, but there’s a catch; you still need to pay for the certification itself. You can study most of these “free courses” at your own pace, and you won’t obtain any credentials unless you pay for them. Take this database course: 

An edX course in database design.

View Course

Over four weeks, you’ll learn database design and basic SQL from course materials provided by the University of Michigan. But this won’t convey any credentials. If you want a certificate, there’s an optional course upgrade of $196. 

Additionally, though the courses use the materials provided by these prestigious universities, the courses themselves aren’t necessarily run by them. At least some institutions outsource their online schools—so you may not always get the education promised by, say, Harvard.

Still, there’s a fairly wide breadth of course materials on edX. edX is host to bootcamps, professional certifications, bachelor’s degrees, and even master’s degrees—in various disciplines.

An edX course in database design.

Unlike a lot of other online learning platforms, edX has a lot of fields. edX is one of the few platforms to include business-related and liberal arts courses. Say you want a deep dive into Ethics — you’re more likely to find it on edX than on Udemy or Coursera.

A Brief History of edX

edX was founded in 2012 by Anant Agarwal, a professor at MIT, and Geoff Ralston, a former Yahoo! executive. The two had previously worked together on an educational project called "Circuitry" which provided interactive exercises and video lectures to students worldwide. After the success of "Circuitry", the pair decided to create a more comprehensive online learning platform, which eventually became edX.

Today, edX is one of the largest online learning platforms in the world. The nonprofit organization offers free and affordable courses from over 90 partner institutions, including Harvard, MIT, UC Berkeley, and Georgetown. In addition to offering courses, edX also provides MOOCs (massive open online courses), which allow anyone with an internet connection to learn on their own schedule.

Are edX Courses Free? How Much Do They Cost?

Most edX courses are free to take as though you are auditing them. You gain access to the course materials, files, and projects, but you don’t get any certificate or credential. If you need a certificate or credential, you will have to pay. In general, edX courses are a little more expensive than courses on Udemy or Coursera—at least $100 to $200 each.

Other costs vary by depth. Berkeley’s Coding Bootcamp, for example, is a $13,000+ course—more than the cost of an associate’s degree at a community college. The University of London’s online bachelor’s degree programs are usually over $20,000. So, there’s quite a range. 

While edX does have everything from bootcamps to bachelor’s degrees, its professional certifications are probably the most popular—given that they are briefer and more accessible.

Screenshot of lean Six Sigma course.

A professional certificate from edX shows your employers that you understand specific, industry-relevant skills. Some of the most popular certificates on edX include:

  • Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt: Quantitative Tools for Quality and Productivity (Technische Universitat Munchen). A six-month, self-paced course on applying Six Sigma standards to quality and productivity. Expert instruction and certification are available for $400.
  • Front-End Web Developer (W3Cx). A seven-month, self-paced course on front-end web development and basic web programming. Expert instruction through a total of five courses for $995.
  • Risk Management (The New York Institute of Finance). Learn risk management from real financial experts on Wall Street. This self-paced five-month course costs $1,895 for the entire program experience.

If you’re familiar with other platforms, you will note that edX focuses more on business and finance than many other online learning portals. Most online learning portals skew toward programming, coding bootcamps, and digital design. But that doesn’t mean that edX doesn’t have those courses—far from it. Let’s look at some of the most popular bootcamps.

Bootcamps on edX.

Bootcamps are extensive courses targeted toward hands-on learning as though you were in the industry. Bootcamps are a great way to break into a new industry or develop your career.

Here are some of the most popular bootcamps on edX:

  • Berkeley Coding Bootcamp (Berkeley). A full-stack coding bootcamp that will have you hitting the ground running. The Berkeley Coding Bootcamp is expensive at $13,000, but it will teach you everything there is to know about programming.
  • Data Analytics Bootcamp (Columbia Engineering). A 24-week course targeted at teaching the fundamentals of data analytics through real-world projects and instructor-led courses. The full-time bootcamp is over $15,000.
  • Cyber and Network Security Bootcamp (Georgia Tech). A complete cybersecurity and network security course intended to get you a job within the field. The cost of the program is $10,000, but scholarships are available. 

Note that bootcamps are generally positioned to help you get a job. A bootcamp won’t just include field-specific knowledge but also essentials for interviewing and building a portfolio. 

View Other BootcampsBachelor’s Degree screenshot.

edX has online degree programs that include live, online classes, course materials, and personalized support. Here are some courses from accredited universities providing real credentials:

  • Bachelor’s of Science in Business and Management (University of London). Learn business management and dig into corporate finance and project management. This degree is perfect for those who want to upgrade their business management career.
  • Registered Nurse to Bachelors of Nursing (Simmons University). Registered nurses can acquire a degree in nursing and accelerate their career in this online-only course. This degree is perfect for registered nurses who want to earn (and do) more. 
  • Bachelor of Social Work Degree (Simmons University). Get a degree to help you do social work at Simmons University, a four-year program with a bachelor's degree. This degree is perfect for those who want to work in private and public social work.

View All Online Master’s Degrees

These are rigorous classes, but they are also expensive. Many classes are from universities like the University of London (known for its online classes) rather than Harvard.

Is edX Accredited?

edX is not accredited, but many institutions offering courses through edX are. That being said, you should check each course’s credentials to be sure. Both the institution and program should be accredited.

Who is edX Good For? Who Should Use edX?

Because edX has a wide breadth of courses, it’s great for many audiences. 

A certification is a good choice for those who just want to upskill and improve their career. For those who want to change careers entirely or dramatically improve their career prospects, a bootcamp or a degree program might be better. 

The certifications and bootcamps provided through edX tend to be provided by better-credentialed organizations than the degree programs, which you should consider.

Are edX Courses Worth It? Will edX Help You Get a Job?

When edX first launched, many courses were there for curiosity’s sake; people wanted to know what students at MIT or Stanford were learning. But now, it’s a great method of getting a certificate or attending a bootcamp with a prestigious university. And, many employers see edX as a reputable source of education for new hires. 

The caveat is that its bootcamps and degree programs do tend to be more expensive than other, similar platforms — so you need to decide whether it’s more worth it to you to get a credential from a known university or something more affordable. An edX bootcamp might cost $13,000, whereas the same (or similar) materials elsewhere would be covered for $2,000.

Does an edX Certificate Have Value?

edX certificates probably provide the most value on the dollar. They cover specific fundamentals (such as front-end or back-end development) and are available for (usually) less than $300. For $300, you could get a nine-month course on web development… or for $50,000, you could get a 4-year degree in computer science. 

But certificates only have the value that an employer ascribes to them. edX certificates come from institutions such as MIT and Harvard, giving them additional heft.

Screenshot of edX signup page.

View All Bootcamps

How to Sign Up for and Use edX

You can sign up for edX completely free and start enrolling in free certifications and classes. But you won’t get certificates without buying them. Unlike Udemy or Coursera, edX isn’t a subscription-based system. You will have to buy the courses that you want. Once purchased, you’re free to access them and use them at your leisure.

Discounts for edX: Are There Discount Coupons?

Most edX classes are already discounted; you’ll find that they usually have a price of, say, $995 but are marked down to $850. It’s unusual to see a course that doesn’t have some form of discount. Additionally, edX does have coupons that are available throughout the year. Most coupons range from 10% to 15% off.

edX Refund and Cancellation Policies

You can cancel a course and get a refund within 14 days of starting the course. So, you can consider it a type of prepaid trial. If you find that the course isn’t working for you, isn’t what you expected, or you just don’t have the time to manage it, you can cancel it to get a refund.

Tips for Finding the Best Courses on edX

All the courses on edX are well-vetted. They are on par with the learning provided at the brick-and-mortar institutions that run them. Whereas other online marketplaces rely on star ratings and reviews, edX courses rely on the institutions' reputations.

Here are a few tips:

  • Not all universities on edX are equal. The University of London, for instance, is a well-known online university, but it’s not necessarily on par with MIT.
  • Not all edX coursework is actually managed by the university. As we noted before, some of the coursework is outsourced, so you may not get the expected learning experience.
  • You pay for the name. Take a look at the curriculum provided and compare it with the curriculum you can get through other venues, such as PluralSight. You may find that you would be overpaying significantly.

Apart from that, know your learning style. If you need instructor-led materials, then a self-paced course isn’t for you; a bootcamp would be better.

Join 350,000+ Learners Today

On an average day, edX has over 350,000 learners actively using their programs. Over 160 institutions have courses on edX, including Berkeley, Harvard, Boston University, and MIT.

Are edX Courses Really by Harvard (Berkeley, MIT, etc)?

We touch upon this multiple times in our reviews, but this is an essential question. Prestigious universities prepare these courses such as Harvard, and universities such as Harvard hire instructors to teach the courses. Not every course is provided by Harvard, Berkeley, or MIT. There are over 150 institutions, which include lesser-known institutions. However, they are all provided by high-quality institutions rather than individual instructors.

As reported in edX reviews, instructors are extremely erratic. This has led many to conclude some instructors are hired specifically for the online classes, or relegated to online classes. While active professors at these prestigious universities might teach some classes, you’ll more likely receive an adjunct or someone with not as much experience. 

edX: Pros, Cons, and edX Courses Review

Pros

Cons

  • Courses provided by some of the most prestigious universities in the world
  • A wide breadth of subjects, including liberal arts, business, and finance
  • Many ways of learning, from courses to complete degree programs
  • More expensive than other platforms
  • Instructors may not be on par with the materials

With a TrustPilot of 3.6, edX does slightly worse with reviewers than many other platforms. Most of the complaints relate to the high cost and unpredictable instructors. In addition to outsourcing the courses, course instruction is also frequently outsourced. Furthermore, while edX does boast the materials from prestigious universities, instructors from those universities don’t always present the materials.

As a platform, there are also issues with usability and convenience. Many students report bugs and a difficult-to-use UI.

edX is a great platform—but just a badge from MIT, Stanford, and Harvard doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its problems. Largely, the issue has to do with overpaying for the name of a prestigious university and not necessarily receiving instruction from that university.

Alternatives to edX

 

edX

Udemy

Coursera

PluralSight

Classes

3,500+

32,000+

5,000+

7,000+

Students

110 million

35 million

82 million

1 million

Cost

Varies

Varies

$59/month

$29/month

Udemy

If edX has a quality problem, Udemy isn’t going to fix it. Udemy is an open marketplace where anyone can teach, so they have far more lessons and instructors. They’re also much, much cheaper. Some prestigious universities offer courses on Udemy, and you can find classes by institutions like Google. But you have to be picky when you get certifications on this platform.

Coursera

Coursera is very similar to Udemy, but they have a little more quality control and a larger inventory of in-depth programs like degree programs. Moreover, Coursera has subscription packages available and is much cheaper than edX. 

PluralSight

Screenshot of PluralSight.

PluralSight is a little more expensive than either Udemy or Coursera, but there are also a lot of discounts and coupons. The courses on PluralSight tend to be extraordinarily in-depth, but for whatever reason, they aren’t as generally popular as Udemy or Coursera.

Conclusion: Is edX Worth It?

If you’re simply trying to learn skills, a free coding bootcamp might be a better choice. But if you want a credential or certification from a well-known university, edX is perfect for you. edX resides between an “official” degree and other online learning marketplaces. Specifically, edX has well-known universities to give heft to a resume.

Use edX if:

  • You want to get materials from a prestigious university.
  • You understand that the instructors may be variable in quality.
  • You’re willing to pay more for the name of a well-known university.

After reading our edX review, you might be curious about other learning platforms. Check out our other reviews!

Read Our Coursera Review

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is edX Actually Good?

edX has excellent course material, but instructors can vary in quality. Not every course is run by an instructor from that institution and a lot of courses are outsourced. Whether edX is good will depend primarily on the specific course.

2. Are edX Certificates Worth It?

edX is one of the most popular online course providers, with the unique proposition of offering courses from institutions like MIT and Harvard. But whether the certificates are worth it really depends on the employer... and they do cost more than other similar certification programs.

3. Is edX Really Harvard?

Harvard is one of the many schools that offer courses on edX, but edX is not Harvard. Instead, it’s a nonprofit learning platform that hosts online courses from various institutions. All edX courses are developed by individual professors, not the edX organization. So, the instruction may not come directly from the university.

4. Is edX Good for Resumes?

edX courses can be a great addition to your resume, especially if the courses are relevant to the job you’re applying for. At least some value candidates with real-world experience and knowledge, so edX courses can help you stand out from the crowd. But it depends on the depth of the course and the employer.

5. Is an edX Certificate Free?

No. While some courses on edX are free, most courses have a fee for the certificate. The fees depend on the course but are generally more expensive than other online certification programs.

6. Can I Get edX Financial Aid?

Yes. You can apply for financial aid for edX courses. If accepted, you'll be able to take the course for free. However, you will not receive a certificate unless you pay the fee, one way or another (through financial aid or directly). Some degree programs also have scholarships.

Jenna Inouye

Jenna Inouye

Jenna Inouye has been a full stack developer for two decades, specializing in web application design and development. For the last eight years, she has worked as a news and feature writer focusing on technology and finance, with bylines in Udemy, SVG, and The Gamer. View all posts by the Author

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