Coursera and edX are both among the largest and most reputable online course providers available today, but choosing between them can be confusing.
If you're trying to decide which one is right for what you want to learn, then read on.
In this article I'll do an in-depth comparison and review of Coursera vs EdX, point out key differences and help you with your choice.
What are the main differences between Coursera and edX?
Both Coursera and edX are online education providers that are backed by some of the most respected and accredited universities in the world. Both have similar offerings, including masters and degree programs, although more content is available for free through edX since it operates as a non-profit.
In this article, we'll look at Coursera and edX in detail. Including what costs are associated with them, what time commitment is required, the pros and cons of each, plus more.
Both Coursera and edX are MooC providers. So before we get into too much depth, it's important to discuss exactly what that means.
MooC is an acronym for "massive open online course". Essentially it's an educational course that has been made openly available online to the public.
Most MooCs have set start and end dates. The courses include graded assignments, video lectures, and a community area.
They're different from other online learning sites like Udemy or Skillshare since they're backed by universities and other accredited educational institutions.
Some universities that have their own MooCs include MIT, Stanford, Harvard, and Yale.
MooCs combine many of the strategies of social networks with the benefits of education. The main qualities that define a MooC are openness, massiveness, and connectivity.
Typically MooCs and all of their content get offered for free to audit, and students only need to pay if they wish to receive a certificate to confirm they've completed the course.
But both edX and Coursera also offer paid and accredited full degree and masters programs as well, so if you're looking to get a university education online they are both amongst the most popular choices for this.
Coursera was created by two Stanford professors in 2012. Today it has more than 30 million users and is the largest MooC learning platform currently available.
With over 150 partner organizations and institutions, Coursera offers a wide variety of online courses that range from computer science to music and philosophy.
A lot of Coursera's content is still available for free. Although more and more content from courses seems to be getting hidden behind a paywall over time, as they try to strike the right balance when it comes to monetizing courses.
The creation of edX sounds very similar to that of Coursera. It was also founded in 2012, but this time by joint cooperation by Harvard and MIT.
The main difference is that unlike Coursera which is backed by private investors, edX operates purely on a non-profit basis.
EdX is a bit smaller than Coursera, but not by much. It boasts more than 100 partner universities and over 14 million students.
Similar to Coursera, edX also offers a combination of free and paid courses. Students can also use courses as credit toward a master's degree at participating universities.
edX has a slightly more broad course offering, including the natural sciences and humanities, whereas Coursera tends to be centered more around topics like business and computer science.
2. Coursera vs EdX Costs
Courses on Coursera can range from being completely free to $99. Mostly it depends if you want to pay for a verified certificate to say that you've completed the course or not.
Most of the courses are free just to audit (review the course material.)
In addition to one-off courses, Coursera also offers specializations. These are groups of courses that take four to six months to complete, and cost between $40 and $80 per month.
Finally, Coursera also offers online degrees from recognized universities in computer science, business, and data science.
To complete a full degree will cost you between $15,000 and $25,000.
EdX offers all of its courses for free. Although you may need to pay as much as $300 for graded exams and assignments, plus a completion certificate.
EdX also offers 76 programs where you can gain university credit, which is called MicroMasters.
Their courses include video, transcripts, discussion forums, peer to peer learning, and even in-person meetups.
3. Subjects/Topics Taught
Coursera offers courses under the following sections:
EdX's course subjects are a bit more broad, including:
4. Course Examples
Here are a selection of courses available on each platform:
5. Who Are The Instructors?
Both Coursera and edX are about as great as you're going to get when it comes to online course instructors.
Most courses are prepared and facilitated by tenured university professors at some of the world's top institutions.
They often have masters or PhDs, as well as years of real-world experience related to their fields.
6. Accreditation & Certificates (How Do They Look On Your Resume?)
Both Coursera and edX are both among the best online course platforms if you're looking to add some extra credentials to your resume or CV.
On edX, you can earn free certificates or proof of enrollment. But you won't receive any official credentials like a diploma.
However, even a basic certificate from edX is likely considered more credible by prospective employers than one from online course platforms like Udemy or Skillshare that aren't associated with accredited universities.
The basic kind of certificate that you can earn through edX for free is called an Honor Code Certificate. All it confirms is that you completed the course.
However, you can also get a Verified Certificate which uses your photo and ID to confirm your identity.
The cost to get a Verified Certificate is normally $50 or potentially more, depending on the course.
You can also earn credit toward a university degree through some courses. Just be sure to confirm in advance that your school of choice will be willing to accept an edX credit once you've completed the course.
On Coursera, most courses are free to take, but you'll need to pay a fee to get a certificate to confirm that you've completed the course or specialization.
Certificates that you get through Coursera typically come with the backing of the specific university or academic institution that created the course.
Coursera also allows for easy upload and sharing of your completion certificates directly to LinkedIn.
Like any online course platform, there may be some question as to whether the certificates you earn will be recognized by a company hiring you or looking at promoting you in the future.
But both Coursera and edX are among the most well-known and reputable course platforms available today.
Generally full degree programs will look the best on your resume or CV. Depending on how you list the information, it might look the same as a traditional degree from a university.
Specializations are the next best option, and individual course certificates will likely look the weakest on a resume.
7. Time Commitment
On some other platforms like Udemy, Skillshare, or Lynda you can easily complete most of their courses in just a few hours, with some courses even coming in at under an hour in length.
That isn't the case for Coursera or edX.
On Coursera, it's hard to find a course that takes less than 10 hours to complete. Many are much longer than that.
When you get into specializations or degrees, the amount of time required extends to months or years.
On edX, courses are measured in terms of weeks rather than hours. For example, a course may be listed as 4 weeks in length, assuming you're able to put in 4 to 6 hours worth of effort per week. Some courses may be 10 weeks long, or even longer.
Some of these courses can be taken at your own pace, while others follow a more strict schedule with specific start and end dates.
But regardless, neither Coursera or edX should be approached like more flexible and casual online course platforms out there.
To get the most out of your education and get your courses completed in a reasonable amount of time, you'll need to treat it as what it actually is: a part-time university education.
8. Summary of The Benefits and Drawbacks For Each Platform
Coursera provides you with verified certificates when you complete most courses. These are different from the types of certificates offered by most online learning platforms because they actually verify your photo and identity when issuing them. These kinds of certificates can be used on your resume, LinkedIn profile, and anywhere else you would want to list a traditional university degree.
High quality courses
Most of the courses on Coursera are directly offered by prestigious universities like Princeton and Standford. That means you're getting access to some of the best university professors from around the world, without having to actually sit down in a classroom.
Wide selection of courses
Coursera may not be able to compete on a number of courses with sites such as Udemy that have over 50,000 user-created courses available. But what they lack in quantity they more than makeup for in quality. Coursera's selection of university quality online courses is nothing to shake a stick at. The majority of the topics that you can imagine being covered in a university setting are likely available on Coursera.
Different languages available
Coursera courses are offered in English, Spanish, French, Russian, and other languages. Some of them are fully available in your language of choice, while an even larger number have transcriptions in various languages.
You can take courses for free
For you, maybe all you care about from Coursera's courses are the skills and knowledge that you can pick up. You don't necessarily want or need certifications to put on your resume or show to your boss. In that case, you can take many of the courses that Coursera offers completely for free. If you're just wanting to learn programming in your spare time, or even if you're thinking of transitioning to an entirely new career, you can learn much of what you need online without spending a single penny.
No full courses for free
Even though Coursera offers an astounding amount of content for free, you can't get everything for free. You can certainly audit most of the courses they have available. But you might not get access to submit quizzes or get a certificate of completion unless you pay for it.
Coursera courses usually aren't on demand. You can't access the material unless the course is currently running. They have specific start and end dates, so you need to sign up and wait for the course to start. Some Coursera courses may have less demand than others, and you might end up waiting months until the course you want gets offered again.
Unlike Coursera where an increasing amount of classes are put behind a paywall, all of edX's courses are available for free. You'll only need to pay for a verified certificate if you want one, which usually only costs about $50.
EdX has courses that are affiliated with Harvard, UC Berkeley, Cornell, MIT, and many others. Think about how great it would be to have university names like that on your resume or CV! It's a great way to give your education history an impressive boost without spending thousands of dollars and years of your life on formal education.
Lots of courses
EdX offers a wider selection of online courses than Coursera does. They include topics like the humanities, music, philosophy, and other "softer" subjects that Coursera tends to overlook. However, they still offer a strong selection of business and science courses too.
Courses aren’t always available
Just like Coursera, you should expect some waiting periods for courses to start on edX. While it does offer some self-paced courses, you can still end up having to wait weeks for any courses that don't to start back up. EdX archives courses for longer periods of time, and usually has longer wait times for courses to start than Coursera. While an archived course can be watched, you can't receive a certificate from it until it becomes active again.
EdX is a bit lacking when it comes to engagement. That means you should expect both your professors and fellow students to engage less in discussion forums than you might expect on other platforms. The forums that do exist are difficult to navigate or sort.
9. Coursera and edX Alternatives
Probably the closest match you can find to both Coursera and edX is the platform Udacity.
Udacity offers nanodegree programs that are quite similar to specializations that Coursera provides.
-> see my comparison of Udacity vs Coursera for more on how they compare to one another.
While Udacity's courses aren't facilitated by an accredited university, they're becoming more and more widely accepted as a quality alternative to traditional post-secondary education.
The main downside is that the types of courses offered on Udacity are fairly narrow.
The platform focuses mostly on technology-related subjects like artificial intelligence, cloud computing, autonomous systems, and data science.
Udacity also offers a 1 on 1 mentorship program that isn't offered by either Coursera or edX.
While Coursera, edX, and Udacity are by far the largest MooC providers out there, they certainly aren't the only ones.
You might want to also look into other course providers such as Khan Academy, Open Learn, or NovoEd.
-> Still unsure or want to learn more about the different options? Check out our complete guide to the Top 10 Best Online Learning Platforms here
Frequently Asked Questions
Do edX certificates have value?
Yes, edX certificates do have value! Although these courses are free, they are a good way to show potential employers or educational institutions that you are serious and committed to developing your career and education.
For the most part, these certificates cannot be used at universities to gain academic award credit. There are some exceptions, and it's best to speak to a potential university directly to understand their take on these certificates.
Suppose the edX classes and certificates were awarded by a university or professional organization. In that case, these tend to have more value, and employers will consider these when looking at your application.
These courses can be handy ways to develop your skills and knowledge, but they don’t always have much value.
But you can turn anything into value! Speaking about your experience and how it relates to the potential job or university course can show your commitment and dedication, attributes that employers value!
How much does edX cost?
Most edX courses are free, meaning there is no cost at all! To gain the certificate though or access any exams needed to pass the course, there is a fee that you will need to pay. The fee varies depending on the course, but generally, they are quite reasonably priced.
Gaining a certificate is not always something everyone is interested in, so you can take the courses and enjoy the content without needing to pay! Some courses do cost, though.
Those designed as alternatives to university programs will feature a tuition fee.
This fee tends to be much cheaper than attending the course at a university campus, making education more accessible for everyone. Before paying, though, check that the course is credited and holds value to ensure you get the most out of your money.
Is Coursera cheaper than edX?
Coursera features a monthly cost, meaning that it can cost more than edX! Typically, most edX courses are free, and you will only need to pay a small fee for the certificate or any exams you need to sit.
The one-off payment can work out as cheaper for some users and means there is no monthly rolling cost that you need to worry about.
However, some courses on edX will need to be paid for and can work out more costly than Coursera; it all depends on the courses you want to undertake!
The courses on Coursera tend to be accredited more often than those on edX, meaning for some people, the cost is worth it.
To work out which one is best for you, consider the pricing of both and look at the courses you are interested in. it might work out as cheaper to pay the monthly costs or the one-off payment depending on your budget.
EdX and Coursera are among the top choices when it comes to MooC providers and online course platforms in general.
They both provide some of the most in-depth courses available, which are also backed up by some of the most prestigious and respected universities in the world.
There is no clear winner between these two-course providers. And for that reason, it's hard to really go wrong with either one.
It really comes down to your personal preferences and learning objectives, and which platform has the course or courses that most closely match your individual needs.
Since you may be making a month-long commitment to either platform, we recommend auditing a similar course on both platforms, Coursera vs EdX, for free to help decide which is a better fit for you.