edX offers free classes and affordable professional certificates from Harvard and other top universities around the world — here's how it works

edX offers free classes and affordable professional certificates from Harvard and other top universities around the world — here's how it works

September 8, 2020

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  • edX is a non-profit founded by MIT and Harvard that offers free and affordable online classes.
  • The site has partnered with more than 90 of the world's leading universities, non-profits, and NGOs to offer courses from programming in java to the science of happiness for free.
  • You can also pay a fee to receive a certificate of completion from each course, or choose to complete a Professional Certificate or MicroMasters Certificate.

Online learning has made education more accessible than ever, but few platforms make getting a quality education easier or more affordable than the non-profit edX. 

edX is a massive open online course (MOOC) provider founded by MIT and Harvard in 2012. By partnering with more than 90 of the world's leading universities, non-profits, NGOs, and corporations, it's able to offer free, high-quality courses across a large range of subjects.  

edX's mission is to: 

  • Increase access to high-quality education for everyone, everywhere
  • Enhance teaching and learning on campus and online
  • Advance teaching and learning through research

While you can learn anything from programming in java to the science of happiness for free, you can also pay a fee (ranging from $40 to $160) to receive a certificate of completion from each course. Other special programs include the Professional Certificate and MicroMasters Certificate, which are designed to provide specialized training and career advancement opportunities. 

If you're interested in learning more about edX and how it works, keep reading. 

Ivy Leagues, top international universities, small liberal arts colleges, and music and performing arts schools are all represented in edX's impressive roster of institutions.

Here are just a handful of names you'll recognize: 

  • MIT
  • Harvard
  • Caltech 
  • Cornell
  • Wellesley
  • Julliard
  • Imperial College London
  • The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
  • University of Oxford
  • Tsinghua University
  • University of Edinburgh 

See a full list of schools and organizations here. You can click on each school to learn more about it and see which edX courses it offers. 

Itching to start learning? Visit the Courses page to browse more than 1,800 classes in a variety of disciplines.

On the courses page, you can filter by subject, proficiency level (e.g. intermediate), whether it's self-paced, credit eligibility, and even language.

edX offers the most courses in computer science, business and management, engineering, social sciences, and humanities, so definitely consider the platform if you're interested in these subjects. 

These are some top courses from the site: 

  • Introduction to Computer Science (Harvard)
  • Analyzing and Visualizing Data with Excel (Microsoft)
  • Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python (MIT)
  • The Science of Everyday Thinking (University of Queensland)
  • Introduction to Java Programming (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology)
  • Introduction to Linux (The Linux Foundation)
  • Introduction to Project Management (University of Adelaide)
  • The Science of Happiness (UC Berkeley)

Other cool courses we found include: 

  • The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture (Smithsonian)
  • The Science of Parenting (UC San Diego)
  • Ecodesign for Cities and Suburbs (University of British Columbia) 

Once you choose to enroll in a course, you have the option to pursue a verified certificate or audit the course for free.

The verified certificate, signed by the instructor and bearing the institution's logo, gives you the ability to highlight your new skills and knowledge on your resume or LinkedIn profile, plus gives you some extra incentive to finish the course. The certificate fee, which can cost $40 to $160 depending on the course, also helps support edX as a non-profit. 

If you choose to audit the course for free, you still get complete access to all the course materials, activities, tests, and forums. 

Each course is organized well, with clear communication of expectations, the class schedule, materials like videos, assignments, and discussion opportunities.

Many courses are self-paced, which provides great flexibility for your busy life. At the same time, everything is structured enough so you won't feel lost or out of control with all this independence and flexibility. 

Outside of individual courses, edX also offers a variety of programs, like the MicroMasters Certificate, which provides an accelerated, less expensive path to a Master's degree.

These programs are a series of graduate-level courses that dive deep into specific career fields. The credits you earn from passing these courses go toward a MicroMasters Certificate, which can count toward an on-campus degree. 

The certificate doesn't guarantee admission to a full Master's program; instead, if you apply and are accepted into the on-campus or online program that is associated with your MicroMasters program, the MicroMasters credential will count toward the degree, reducing your requirements and financial burden. 

Pursuing this certificate is significantly less expensive than a full Master's program, so if you find that cost is a prohibitive factor in your goal of getting a Master's, you should check out the MicroMasters programs on edX.

Another way you can get ahead and stand out is with the Professional Certificate.

The Professional Certificate programs are designed to help you build your professional skills so you can succeed in the most in-demand jobs and industries today. Learning doesn't stop once you leave school, and as different industries continue to evolve, it's important to stay on top of the shifting responsibilities and skillsets that are expected of employees. 

Whether you're a high school student looking to get ready for college, a professional who wants to advance your career, or just a lifelong learner passionate about different subjects, edX offers the education to help you achieve your goals.

Start taking online courses at edX here.

Start a MicroMasters Certificate program here.

Start a Professional Certificate program here.

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