edX Review – Is It Worth It

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Simon Mclellan

Writer, developer.

If you have ever thought about joining a university-level course online, you’ve probably heard of edX at least once or twice. If this is your first time coming across the company’s name, edX is an online learning-based platform that holds various university-level courses to improve one’s skills to help benefit them in their personal and professional lives.

The company was founded in 2012 by Harvard and MIT scientists in order to make learning easier and more accessible no matter where you were in the world. In just over a year, they were able to bring in over a million users, with over 30 million more joining since then.

In this review, we’ll be going over edX as well as whether it is worth investing your time, money, and energy into.

Is edX Legit?

First, before we get into anything pertaining to edX, we have to determine one key question. Is edX even legit? After all, while it may claim it can do a ton of different things, if they are only just that then it doesn’t really matter?

Fortunately, edX is an entirely credible and legitimate program. As stated earlier, it was founded by scientists from both Harvard as well as MIT and currently has well over 30 million users. The courses are taught by many top-ranked companies and university leaders throughout the world, including Boston University, UC Berkeley, or the founding university teachings.

What Features Does it Provide?

In terms of the course’s features and benefits, edX is quite impressive, having many more than the vast majority of other online platforms available to the public.

Course Distinctions

Edx offers a number of different programs based on the person and what they are specifically looking to get out of the platform.

Global Freshman Academy

Meant for first-year university students, this program offers all individuals, of any background, the opportunity to take the same level courses as those from Arizona State University. You are able to start taking the course immediately, without worrying about an acceptance essay or application. Not only that, but you are also granted built-in tuition protection. This means you only have to pay for the class once you’ve achieved a passing grade. The credits are real and can be applied and transferred at ASU or any other accepting university.

MicroMasters Program

The MicroMasters programs are a number of graduate-level courses meant and designed specifically to advance a person’s career in their corporate lives. These courses not only provide a specific focus on the profession of choice but are also recognized by numerous company employers due to their relevance. In addition, if accepted, students can pursue an accelerated and considerably more affordable Master’s Degree option.

Companies such as:

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  • Walmart
  • IBM
  • Bloomberg
  • Fidelity Investments
  • Ford
  • Marketforce
  • Equifax
  • BYTE
  • Foley Hoag LLP
  • And many, many others


XSeries Program

The XSeries Program offers to help students get a much deeper and richer understanding of a particular subject. Here, they will learn high-level, challenging courses from expert instructors in order to gain a comprehensive understanding and a stronger commander over the information. Students that wish to enroll in the XSeries program will have to choose one of the verified certificate track options in the program’s library. These can range from courses surrounding Star Trek and its influence on culture and technology to the fundamentals of neuroscience.

Professional Certificates

A great option for those looking to get an online Master’s Degree, the Professional Certificates Program is a series of courses aimed at specifically training a person to meet the demands of the job market today. They are designed by top industry leaders and will help allow the students to fully stand out and succeed in the business world.

One-off Courses

One-off courses, as the name implies, are a series of disconnected options that anyone can take to gain a broader understanding of any particular subject or topic. The courses are entirely self-contained and can be completed at the student’s leisure, allowing them to take as much, or as little, time as they need to complete it.

Specified Learning Topics

Edx, more so than many of the other online learning platforms, focuses specifically on higher education, maths and sciences, and courses for the job market. As such, their pool of course options is much more refined and tailored to those looking to specialize in things for the professional world, meaning there won’t be a lot of extracurricular courses available such as filmmaking or baking, as an example.

The reason this is important is that, because the focus is very narrow, any course taken by a student is going to give them the most benefit. When compared to other online platforms like Udemy (our Udemy Review article) or Skillshare (our Skillshare review article), both with a much broader and more inclusive range of courses, edX has the highest and most well-respected instructors available, giving you the most value as a consequence.

Learn at Your Own Pace

Specifically noted in the “one-off” course options, many classes in edX are entirely self-paced, without any deadlines or term limits forcing you to learn at an accelerated speed. With few exceptions, the vast majority of courses allow you to move as quickly or as methodical as you want without worrying about losing any of your course credits.

14-Day Refund Policy

If, after 14 days of purchasing a verified course, you don’t wish to continue, edX will give you a complete “no questions asked” refund of your money. This means that there is very little risk involved with using edX, as, even if you realize a course may not be what you wanted or that it is unenjoyable, you can simply request a refund within the 14 days period without any issues.

Free Course Options

If you don’t have enough to cover the costs, or are unsure if edX is worth investing in, they have a free “unverified” option for many of the classes. This method won’t get you into the more specialized options on the site, nor will you receive a certificate at the end of the course. That said, this is a great option for those that want to get their foot in the door but aren’t able or willing to spend the price for a course just yet.

How Much Does it Cost?

For edX, pricing and overall cost range largely based on the type of course selected. Unverified Courses are entirely free but do not result in any type of certification or credit acquisition. Verified Courses range greatly depending on the class or the program. Prices generally start at around $50 per class and can reach as high as $300 per class depending on the course in question.

Similarly, certain programs also factor in the pricing as well as when you’d have to pay. Those enrolled in the Global Freshman Academy, as an example, while still required to pay for their course, are only charged at the end of the course if they have passed. This means that those that fail while losing out on the course credits are not charged any money as well.

Course Program Costs

While these numbers are only an approximate, some being more or less expensive based on numerous factors, what you will notice is that they are all incredibly affordable, especially when compared to their real-world counterparts.

Global Freshman Academy

Meant for individuals looking to earn college credit in order to transfer to another institution. The prices are generally around $200 per credit.

MicroBachelors Program

The next step past the Global Freshman Academy. The MicroBachelors Programs are designed for students with little or no college experience. They are usually between $500 and $1,500 per course.

MicroMasters Program

MicroMasters is a way to fast-track your career by helping you on your way to getting a Master’s degree. This program generally costs between $600 and $1,500 total per course.

Professional Certificate Program

The Professional Certificate Program is a more specialized course that is meant for those looking to gain specialized skills for a specific career path. It can cost between $150 and $1,000 per class.

Master’s Degree

Finally, the Master’s Degree program is a fully accredited option for those looking to get their Master’s. It comes from some of the world’s foremost universities and can range between $10,000 and $25,000 for the program.

Enrolling Process

When signed in, the process for enrolling is fairly straightforward and pretty easy. The top search bar can be used to find your exact course. In addition, there are a number of different sub-categories to help you refine and pinpoint exactly what you are looking for in a course. They include:

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  • Subject
  • Partner
  • Program
  • Level
  • Availability
  • Language


As stated earlier, there are two options for many courses on edX, Verified and Unverified.

When enrolling via the Unverified method, also known as Auditing a class, you can join a class at any time with no prerequisite knowledge from an earlier class or course. In exchange, there are no course credits, meaning the course is largely for your own knowledge and curiosity rather than gaining an advantage in the business world.

Conversely, when enrolling in a verified course, while it may grant you an actual college credit, will cost some money on your end. Similarly, the more advanced verified courses do follow a more traditional semester-long setup where you will have to complete the course during that time.

Finding Your Ideal edX Course

While edX does have an easy-to-use search bar, there are still a considerable number of options (well over 3,000) available to choose from on the platform. As such, it is important to find which classes will be good for you specifically. Here are some tips as well as a few popular course examples to consider before fully subscribing to any class in particular.

Use the Search Function

As stated earlier, the search function in edX is incredibly easy to use and very detailed and it’s going to be the starting point for finding what you are interested in no matter what. Whenever you make a selection, the search engine will add a tag to the top of the page in an effort to more personalize your following choices. You can remove them at any time so there’s no need to worry about feeling pigeonholed.

While using the search engine will certainly not be the sole point of finding your perfect course, it is an excellent first step and should be used as the basis before properly narrowing down your choices.

Review the Course Syllabus

After you’ve found a few courses you are interested in, it’s time to peel away some that may only have a mild interest rather than a strong drive. By going over the course’s weekly topics, you’ll have a general overview of what it entails as a whole as well as what will be specifically touched upon.

Audit the Course

Now that you’ve filtered through and found a course you are interested in, as well as one that has a course syllabus that you are willing to engage in, now it’s time to get a sample of the information.

Remember the two options for engaging in a course? The Verified Course (specifically known as the Verified Track) is the paid option with certification while the Unverified Course (specifically known as Auditing the Course) is the free option without certification.

Well, after you have made a decision to learn about a course, it is important to spend a bit of time with the Audit the Course option. This won’t give you all of the learning materials at the course’s end nor will it earn you a verified certificate. That said, it will act as an excellent way to determine whether the course is actually what you are looking for.

After you have spent some time checking it out for free, if you are solidly interested in it, go ahead and check it out. If you are still on the fence, however, continue on to the other steps.

Check out the Class Testimonials and its Instructors

This step can be done following one option or the other or both can be performed around the same time. The point is to see just what other people have to say who actually have spent their money on the course and how it compares to the free version.

To find the course testimonials (known as Learner Testimonials), you’ll need to click on the “About the Course” section. There, you’ll find first-hand remarks on the course itself and what the experience was like for others. Be aware, however, that there may not be a particularly large pool of testimonials for one reason or another. If they are particularly negative, that is certainly worth taking into consideration. Otherwise, base them on on how everything else you’ve witnessed while taking the free version.

You may also “Meet” the instructor, offering you even more insight on the course and whether it is right for you. In the course description, you’ll find a section called “Meet your Instructor” which will go over their prior experience as well as give a small blurb about them. It also may offer their social links so that you have a more thorough understanding on who they are and whether you think they’d be able to adequately help you in the course.

Make a Decision

While there are certainly other ways to really make a decision, these 5 will ensure you can find what you’re looking for, check it out, and get started as soon as possible without wasting a large amount of time. Not only will you be able to find a great course that’s perfect for you doing this method, but you’ll be able to make your decision in as little as 24-48 hours.

Does it Provide Certification?

In answering this point, it largely depends on which option you choose as well as what level of importance you are expecting. The Unverified Free option does not come with any level of certification, meaning that, while free, the course is largely just for acquiring general knowledge or as something of a sample for the paid options.

When opting for the Verified Track option, this does grant certification at all levels. That said, there are two different types of certification based on which track you are following.

Verified Certificates

Verified Certificates are given upon the completion of a singular course or class. Upon passing the course with the base required grade, you will be given the certificate. You are also required to verify your identity on the site before the course’s deadline.

Program Certificates

Program Certificates are only given upon the completion of a specific program and its numerous individual courses. In other words, if a program had three individual courses, it is required that one pass each course and get its verified certificate before becoming eligible for the Program Certificate.

How Important Is an edX Certificate?

When determining whether an edX certificate is worth getting, a few things are worth taking into consideration. If you are looking at it as the only thing you’ll ever need in order to get a job, you’re going to be disappointed. Jobs and companies have always valued real work effort over a degree or credit certification. If you are only bringing a certification, even a highly acclaimed edX certification, and a certification alone, you aren’t as guaranteed a spot as you’d think.

So, does this mean that they aren’t all that worth it after all? Hardly.

While they aren’t the sole thing to guarantee you a position in a company, they are highly respected in both the academic as well as the business field. Their affiliation with top Universities and companies definitely holds its weight and will act as a tremendous supplement to any of your other accolades or accomplishments.

In addition, in the academic world, an edX certificate is much more definitive in its use. Many programs offer transferable credits to major universities, giving you a significant advantage if looking to transfer to a certified school.

All-in-all, an edX certificate is very important, both for opening the door for most companies as well as putting you in a favorable position if you plan to transfer over to a more prominent University. Still, don’t expect it to be the only thing required in order to get a job. It may help, but if you have no other experience, it may not be the guarantee you were expecting.

What Audience will Benefit from edX the Most?

The good news is that virtually everyone will greatly benefit from edX. If you are someone that is looking to improve your business or academic standing, enrolling in edX is an easy, affordable, and incredibly accessible option that anyone can take advantage of.

Those who may get the most out of edX, however, are likely individuals that are seeking to quickly get a Master’s Degree or become more specialized in their particular business or professional venture.

Because edX is highly acclaimed and widely recognized, various high-ranking universities and businesses respect credits acquired through the platform, with many being transferable to an actual university. As such, while everyone will greatly benefit from either Auditing or Verifying a few courses, those that are actively planning to use this as a means of springboarding into a higher paying job or getting a higher-level degree will have the most to gain from seriously reviewing the site.