The concept and benefits of using an online MOOC can seem a bit confusing, even if you are familiar with the conventional online learning environments such as online universities and distance education courses. In this post, we’ll review one of the most popular MOOCs, edX.org, to help clear up any concerns you might have answer some of your questions, and help you decide whether edX is worth your time and effort.
MOOC is short for Massive Open Online Course. In simple terms, MOOC is a course of study that has been made available online, ideally to a large number of people. Some of the most popular companies offering online courses in this educational space include edX, Coursera, FutureLearn and Khan Academy.
Most MOOCs have specific start and end dates for each course. The scholar watches video lectures online, completes all the assignments, which are usually graded immediately most of the time, and receives them back. With the rise of technology and globalization, MOOCs have eased the access to higher education dramatically.
Most MOOCs are free of charge, and the courses they offer online are usually sourced from some of the most prestigious universities like MIT, Harvard, and Stanford. The popularity of MOOCs has steadily increased every year, and so do the number of available courses. Plus, they are continually developing new ways to increase the quality of online education.
edX is an online MOOC platform that offers both timed and self-paced classes, most of which are free. The platform was founded in the year 2012 by scientists from MIT and Harvard university, with the sole mission to offer quality education online to people across the world. edX provides hundreds of rigorous courses that span over dozens of subjects, all of which feature real classes, taught by actual professors, and offered by real universities. Besides the top-tier universities, edX has partnerships with over 90 other global institutions, such as Arizona State University, Berkeley, and much more.
As a premier MOOC provider, edX has over 650 different courses, with over 1700 staff and faculty, over 7 million learners worldwide, and over 580,000 certificates awarded. In their platform, you will be given access to a virtual classroom, which is available on your request, with access to cool learning tools, peer-to-peer social learning tools, videos, and game like labs.
In general, edX provides their learners with 5 different types of courses:
These are ideal for people who want to receive a certificate of course completion to satisfy their requirements to a school, employer, or other institution. Just as the name suggests, verified courses will require you to identify your identity. This is typically done by submitting your recent photo, and a photo of your official identification through your webcam. A you may be asked to re-verify your identity as your course progresses.
These implement a number of courses that have also been verified, and the students receive a certificate after successfully completing these courses. Xseries program have an easy enrollment, high-level classroom work, and expert instruction from top universities like MIT or Harvard and world-renowned experts.
These are ideal for students who are still in high school and are looking to get ready for college. The high school courses offer introductory classes and test preps in various subjects ranging from biology to English. Additionally, teachers are able to successfully integrate much of the content form these courses into their classroom.
Just as the name suggests, these courses are created through partnerships with different institutions to help the students earn college credits at their own pace.
Professional education courses have a special emphasis on hands-on learning scenarios, and are generally geared towards working professionals who want to learn a new skill set or improve their resume. Students under these programs will receive a personalized Professional Certificate of Achievement, and some of these courses will be eligible for continuing given education units.
EdX recently launched ‘edX for Business’ a program aimed at providing corporate clients curated solutions on various courses, discounts on verified certificates, among other enterprise level engagements.
The offering has over 1,000 different courses from more than 100 universities, and include courses in programs such as MicroMasters, and other verified and professional certificate programs. The courses are offered in more than 30 different subject areas, including computer programming, big data, machine learning, data analysis, and statistics, communication, business and management, etc.
Every course on edX has its own unique set of requirements, prerequisites, and expectations. to locate the course you want to undertake, simply visit the Courses Section on edX’s website, and click on the subject area you’re interested in. you can also use the search bar to search manually for a specific topic or term.
Once you’ve identified an appropriate course, click on it. This will take you to the homepage. There, you’ll find the institution that offers the course, the amount of effort the course requires, the start date, time range, an overview of what you will learn, the level required, the instructors, and more.
If you think you’re ready to sign up, click the green “enroll Now” button on the page (upper right-hand corner) and follow the given prompts. As you’ll see, the courses are offered free of charge.
Well, most of the non-verified courses on edX are offered completely free of charge, though you might be asked to donate what you deem fit in a number of occasions. Verified courses on the other hand start at $50, and typically come with a 2-week refund policy.
You may also qualify for financial assistance of up to 90% discounts if you need to undertake a verified course and you can prove that paying for it will cause an undue financial burden. Looking to test out an edX course without necessarily committing to it, check out one of their demo courses.
As of now, most MOOCs are less than 10 years old, but are backed by some of the top tier higher education learning institutions, and in the next several years, it’s quite easy to see the MOOCs possessing true staying power and eventually finding their niche in the coming years. However, until that happens, they all seem to occupy some fuzzy middle grounds between the valuable learning materials that can advance careers for most people, and nothing more than platforms to learn a skill or subject a person is interested in.
Many people have expressed their skepticism on the value of course certificates from MOOCs. It’s hard to imagine presenting the earned course certificates to future employers, perhaps for the same reason you wouldn’t list individual courses for an undergrad, for example, on your resume. The entirety of the program of study will definitely be more important than an individual class. This way, some form of proof for course completion will probably be worth a bit more, especially if you can aggregate the individual certificates to create something bigger.
So, if you are looking to get a programming position at a local company, you might boost your employability by completing a set of edX courses. However, in the eyes of the employer, an individual course is less likely to weigh much in your favor.
Although MOOCs are big companies, they’ve only been around from 2008, and weren’t popular until 4 years later. In spite of this relatively short timeframe, there are other MOOCs similar to edX that can satisfy your learning needs, such as Coursera, and`futurelearn.com. But how does edX compare to these?
Just like online universities, each of the MOOC comes with its own style of coursework, with different teaching staff/professors, with different teaching styles, from different universities or institutions, unique sets of requirements and fees, learning environments, etc. in short, the right MOOC for you will depend on your personal preferences and a variety of other factors.
Coursera was founded by two Stanford Computer Science professors in 2012, and now has partnerships with top tier educational institutions and universities worldwide. Each course is taught by a qualified instructor in formats that include quizzes, video lectures, assignments (graded), peer-to-peer or peer to instructor learning, and discussion forums.
Courses typically run for 4 to 6 weeks, are open to anyone, and come free of charge or cost up to $99, which is usually paid for a verified certificate. The platform also offers a series of more in-depth courses known as specializations, which take 4 to 6 months to complete and cost between $39 to $79 a month. There are also several university recognized online degrees in computer science, business, and data science. However, these require an admission, and can cost between $15 to $25,000.
FutureLearn is a UK based MOOC that offers courses on a broad range of topics, ranging from Robotics and Ocean exploration to nutrition and everything in between. They typically have in depth courses and offer students professional and/or academic credit for them. It was launched a year after edX, and seems to be the only MOOC that hasn’t made a switch, still aiming to pioneer the best social learning experiences for anyone, from anywhere.
Currently, it has over 480 unique courses, and about 225 of these were added in 2016. It’s the fourth largest MOOC by userbase, behind edX, Coursera, and Xuetang. It easily has the best-looking platform, and really attractive certificates. However, unlike edX, it lacks discussion forums, and its courses are divided into “steps”, with a comment section after each step.
Udemy provides a great platform to take new courses and to learn new skills. The good and sometimes not-so-good thing about Udemy is that anyone can create a course, meaning you don’t have to be an expert to publish a course on the platform. So, for best results, you have to be quite choosy about the courses you take. Fortunately, it’s easy to tell the good courses from the bad ones. The course rating feature ensures the good courses receive high ratings, and higher numbers of enrollments. You can use these metrics to your advantage.
Udemy generally focuses on offering professional training online, to deliver up to date and real-world skills. edX on the other hand is academically focused, offering courses from top tier universities. Udemy features a variety of instructors, who are not necessarily academic instructors. But in case you enroll into a course and you don’t like it, you have the option of asking for a refund. In comparison to edX and Coursera, the ability to get a refund for the paid materials is appealing. Plus, you can easily get creative instructors with high quality content, for a top-notch experience.
As we mentioned above, whether or not the coursework you undertake on edX will be valuable depends on your personal preferences, and other factors such as:
If you’ve made up your mind about taking an online course, it might be difficult to find a better alternative than edX, considering they are backed by two of the most prestigious learning institutions, and the fact that they offer most of their courses free of charge.