Thanks to the world pandemic of COVID-19, more and more people have become aware of online learning platforms. Known as MOOCs, these massive open online courses are a great way for anyone to learn additional skills in both their personal or professional lives. Two platforms that have particularly drawn a lot of attention over the recent months are edX and Coursera.
Both edX and Coursera are worldwide programs that train students in university-level curriculum that can be used as leverage in the business world as a means of getting, or being promoted to, a high-paying job position.
Still, while both of these programs are great in their own right, at the end of the day you certainly can't be signed on to both of them at the same time, right? In this article we are going to go over edX as well as Coursera, telling you how they stack up against one another and which one is worth your time.
Before making a decision on which one is better than the other, it's vitally important that you know a little about both platforms as well as what they focus on and their ultimate goals are. First, let's start with edX.
Edx (our edX review) is an online learning platform that was founded in 2012 by scientists from both Harvard and MIT. They are partnered with over 100 different universities, each renowned in their own right. They offer both free and paid courses while being most well known for using course completion credits towards a degree at one of the partnered schools.
The edX platform is operated purely as a non-profit organization, focusing on delivering great content with a fair portion of it being free in addition to its paid options.
Coursera (our Coursera Plus review), on the other hand, is an online learning platform that was also started in 2012. This time, rather than by separate scientists, Coursera was developed by 2 Stanford professors. The platform has a partnership with over 150 different institutions. Similar to edX, many of these elite institutions include Stanford, Princeton, and Stanford, just to name a few.
Unlike edX, Coursera is privately financed and is much more focused on creating content for profit. Because of this, while initially there was a fair amount that was offered for free, more and more has been moved over into the paid courses.
Course Comparison Criteria
When deciding which of these two courses is more worthy of your time compared to the other, there has to be a set base standard for decision. Each person has their own personal and specific preferences on what they are looking for, and certainly, that should always take precedent. After all, if you are looking for a specific course or curriculum or are only willing to pay at a certain price, that greatly narrows your options.
However, no matter what, there are 5 different aspects of an online learning program that you have to consider before making your decision on which is better or more worth your time; course variety, course quality, certificate relevance, quality of support, and overall pricing.
- Course Variety: Refers to the number of different courses offered on the site. Is it highly focused on only a few different subjects or is it incredibly varied, spanning numerous different subjects?
- Course Quality: What is the quality of the course itself? Is it accessible enough for beginners while also challenging enough for those sufficiently advanced?
- Certificate Relevance: How relevant is a certificate of completion from them? Is it accredited and will it play a direct factor in acquiring your desired profession, or is it largely useful from a more indirect fashion?
- Quality of Support: Determines the overall quality of support on the platform itself. If you are struggling, what is available to you in order to understand the course information easier?
- Overall Pricing: How much does the program cost? Is it a one-time payment per course or a monthly or annual subscription to the site itself?
In terms of course variety and diversity, both are pretty comparable. Unlike other online learning platforms, both edX and Coursera offer various alternative subjects outside of the stereotypical computer programming, software development, and computer science. In fact, as both are specifically run with many different university-level courses, for many, it may actually feel like you are going through a real college curriculum despite the incredibly lowered pricing (more on that later).
Edx Course Variety
If you are looking for a solid amount of course variety, edX is quite an impressive program. Just a few of the different course subjects on the site include Architecture, Biology & Life Sciences, Communication, Design, Economics & Finance, and Literature.
Their most popular subjects include:
- Business & Management
- Computer Science
- Data Analysis & Statistics
Not only that, this is isn't including the aforementioned computer science-based classes that these platforms are often known for. As a result, students have access to various courses, including Python Programming, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain & Cybersecurity, as well as Full-Stack Development.
The downside to this, unfortunately, is that, with all of this variety, there is very little real focus placed on a specific subject. And while that may be fine for some students, for those looking for a deeper understanding in any particular subject, they may potentially find it a bit surface-level.
Similarly, while it may not be a huge drawback for English-speaking students, those that primarily use another language to speak or read will be fairly disappointed at what is offered. Outside of English, only Spanish, French, and Chinese (out of 24 languages) have over 80 courses in their native language.
Coursera Course Variety
While edX has a tremendous amount of variety, when compared to Coursera, there really isn't a comparison. Not only does Coursera offer more classes in total, but they are incredibly focused on career-driven and professional areas. These include subjects in Computer Science, Business, Information Technology, and Math & Logic just to name a few.
The courses that have the highest number of classes and are the most focused on overall are:
- Computer Science
- Data Science
- Social Sciences
In terms of languages, compared to edX's 24 different language courses, Coursera has over 40 with 15 having over 100 available classes.
What makes Coursera win out over edX ultimately is due to the fact that they not only have a larger number of classes with around the same amount of subjects as edX, but also have a very strong focus surrounding career-building subjects like Computer Science, Business, and Data Science.
All in all, while edX certainly isn't by any means lacking in variety or class options, Coursera has more options and more focus on specific options by comparison.
When determining which of the two has the higher course quality, one thing must be kept in mind. As with course variety, both platforms have an incredibly high amount of quality behind their curriculum. With both using university-level courses and subjects, regardless of the two, they are going to be at the top of the list in terms of quality.
edX Course Quality
Edx is quite impressive in its overall content. The first thing that is immediately apparent about edX are the large number of programs available on the site. On top of the ability to just take a one-off course, students on the platform can enroll in numerous curriculum options based on their intended desire of mastery on a subject:
- Global Freshman Academy
- MicroBachelors Program
- MicroMasters Program
- XSeries Program
- Professional Certificate Program
- Master's Degree
Each one of these options are meant to specialize the student in a particular subject. Some programs, like the Global Freshman Academy as an example, actually offer transferable credits to certain accepting university schools if passed. Others, like the Micro Programs, are a number of courses at the graduate level that are meant to specifically advance a prospective employee's career in their professional life.
Coursera Course Quality
Compared to edX's different programs, Coursera has what is known as Coursera Specializations. These specific courses are similarly focused on a particular area and are meant to train them for potential areas in the corporate world.
Coursera also has the Professional Certificate which goes even further, actually helping them become trained for their specific job position. It is fairly difficult and is a great option for those that wish to quickly become qualified for a certain job position without spending years in school.
While Coursera's Specialization and Professional Certificate courses were great in their own right, edX simply has more going for it. In addition to having their own version of these options, edX also has curriculum projects that can be successfully transferred to an actual university. Similarly, those that complete the Micro Programs are eligible for an accelerated Master's Degree option.
The entire point of completing a course online through one of these platforms comes largely due to the certificate of completion. This certificate, on top of acting as evidence that they have mastered the material, is the rough equivalent of earning a degree in the area.
That said, in many online learning platforms, this certificate has varying degrees of relevance or usefulness. In fact, for many MOOCs, their certificate of completion acts, at best, as a mild supplement to a person's resume while in other instances it holds no weight at all and it is only the student's particular projects that they have completed due to the class that actually give them an edge in the professional world.
Thankfully that is not the case here. Both edX, as well as Coursera both, have completion certificates that, depending on their level, can actually offer their recipient a huge advantage in acquiring a job or improving on it.
Coursera Certificate Relevance
With Coursera, the strength of a completion certificate largely depends on what level you acquire it at. Standard level courses are not officially recognized by any companies, instead of acting as impressive supplementary information on a resume or portfolio. In these instances, though it is not officially recognized, it does tell them that you are willing to learn and that you have some level of skill in your chosen area.
The Professional Certificate is quite different, however. In these instances, the certificate is actually regarded as accredited, meaning that most jobs will acknowledge its relevance, making it potentially just as distinguished and useful as an actual college or university degree.
edX Certificate Relevance
An edX certificate, on the other hand, is generally held at a much higher rate compared to a Coursera certificate. Whereas only a professional or specialized certificate from Coursera is worth getting (in terms of building up a resume) an edX certificate, if verified, holds at least the same level of relevance. To have a course certificate verified, the student must pay around $50 with a photo and ID to confirm their identity.
In addition to this, as mentioned earlier, various programs, upon completion, offer a certificate that can actually qualify the person to transfer to an outside school such as ASU. Similarly, by completing any of the particular programs, certificates from any of these curriculum options will result in a very strong certificate that can be used to legitimately help in acquiring a job position, especially with certain businesses.
In determining which of these two options is the better, it largely comes down to the number of available options. While no certificate will ever guarantee a job, both the Coursera and the edX options have the same amount of overall strength if placed side-by-side in a job interview.
The reason edX wins this category is largely due to the fact that it has a larger number of alternative methods to acquire a certification. Not only that, but there are even options to transfer to a physical university, something that virtually no other MOOC certificate offers.
Quality of Support
No matter the platform, support is a vitally important aspect, both in terms of a help center as well as quality instructors or particular help forums.
Coursera's support and help section are very functional, offering a search function for specific topics as well as the ability to check out the more popular topics such as Payments, Enrollment, Account Setup, etc. In addition, Coursera also has a live chat option which allows students to chat with a member of the support staff in order to handle a situation directly.
In regards to Coursera's instructors and their ability to support their students with aid on a particular subject, it's actually quite good. As stated earlier, because their courses are at the university-level, more often than not those that are acting as instructors and teachers are university professors, many having either a Masters or a Ph.D.
Edx actually is a near tie for Coursera in virtually everything. The help desk feature is nearly the same, with the only difference being that there is no option for a live chat with a person. Instead, a student must essentially take a ticket and wait for an email back and forth in order to answer any particular questions or issues.
And while this is hardly the end of the world, the fact that Coursera is able to sidestep this issue somewhat doesn't go unnoticed.
As far as instructors are concerned, edX is pretty much exactly the same as Coursera. Like the earlier company, they have a university-level course quality that is manned by instructors and professors that directly come from those universities.
Arguably the closest of the two, while edX was virtually a tie in every way in terms of support, Coursera's live chat option ultimately results in a more efficient method of getting an answer solved as fast as possible.
Finally, there is the question of pricing. Even if both programs are of a particularly high value if one is unjustly more expensive than another, that greatly impacts its overall quality as a result.
edX Overall Pricing
On the whole, edX has a large number of programs as well as course options. And while this is certainly great on one hand, when it comes to prices, it can be pretty confusing on exactly what costs what.
- Standard Course Options: General one-off courses that can cost anywhere between $50 and $300
- Global Freshman Academy: A great option for those looking to earn college credit and transfer to another university. These prices generally cost about $200 per credit. However, you only have to pay if you successfully pass the class
- Micro Programs: Both the MicroBachelors and the MicroMasters Programs are ways to quickly put a person on the path to getting a bachelor's or a master's degree. They can cost between $500 and $1,500 per MicroBachelor course and between $600 and $1,500 per MicroMaster course
- Professional Certificate Program: Those on the Professional Certificate Program are looking to gain specialized knowledge in a particular career path option. These classes can range between $150 and $1,000 per class
- Master's Degree: The Master's Degree program is a way to fast track getting a master's incredibly fast at a reasonable rate. These can range between $10,000 and $25,000 depending on the subject
One aspect that is great for those that may not have the funds to cover these costs is the ability to Audit a course. By doing this, a student can enjoy a fair amount of a course for free. This option does not include its learning material nor does the completion of it result in a certification. That said, this free option is available to all non-programs, allowing you to enjoy many of the benefits without spending a penny.
Coursera Overall Pricing
Coursera, like edX, is a fair bit confusing. One thing many people have commented on surrounding the platform itself is the seemingly complete overhaul of its free content. As stated earlier, while edX is a non-profit Coursera most decidedly is not. As such, instead, the platform has offered new students access to the entire library of content for free for 7 days.
After the 7 days, students must pay the standard price for the established courses.
- Standard Course Options: Individual courses are offered on the platform. These prices can vary between $29 and $99
- Coursera Specializations: A great method of specializing in a particular area. Prices here actually operate off of subscription-based pricing. In this case, a Specialization course is around $49 a month per course. As these courses may last several months, you are likely going to spend around $300 to $600 per course
- Master's Degree: A way to quickly acquire a Master's degree at a fraction of the cost. As with edX, they can range from around $10,000 and $25,000 based on the subject
While they do share a lot in common, the fact that edX offers students a chance to freely explore a course without having to initially pay is a great way to make a decision without being stressed. When contrasted with Coursera's 7-day free plan, it becomes abundantly clear how important it is to have that peace of mind prior to making a potentially very expensive decision.
Final Verdict: edX
Not without a lack of trying from Coursera, but of the two, edX is the better option of the two. As stated earlier, if there are certain aspects that you value more (a larger library or a stronger focus on certain course projects) then you should obviously get the program that matches.
However, if you are looking for the best MOOC platform overall, edX is the way to go.