Online education is becoming more and more prominent in today’s society. Many public and private schools — K-12 and higher ed alike — have jumped at the chance to provide better education opportunities for their students. There are ample professional development and personal enrichment courses in a variety of subjects at a staggering number of providers.
While online education is no longer a new phenomenon, there are two providers that have revolutionized the online education format: Coursera and edX.
Coursera partners with 33 universities around the world to offer online courses that are open to the public — for free. These are not obscure universities either, but some of most renowned, i.e. Stanford, Princeton, Duke, CalTech, not to mention the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and the University of London in England. Coursera’s goal is to “give everyone access to the world-class education that has so far been available only to a select few”. In short, they want to empower people.
EdX is a not-for-profit entity founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), but also has partnered with Berkeley, Wellesley, Georgetown University, and the University of Texas System with the latter consisting of nine universities and six health institutions. More universities have expressed interest as well. According to its website, its purpose is to provide online courses that are “specifically for interactive study via the web”. The purpose is to not only provide these courses, but use the website to “research how students learn and how technology can transform learning”. They want edX to break down boundaries of age, class, and nationality.
Coursera leaves the decision of a certificate or statement of accomplishment for a course to the course instructors and their universities; thus, it is a class-by-class basis. EdX students who complete a course will be awarded a certificate of mastery from the university they have taken their course. The certificate was initially free, but there are plans to charge a nominal fee in the future. Although students do not receive university credit, Coursera states in their help section that “some students who are currently enrolled at other universities have been able to get credit for taking these courses at their own university”, which is entirely up to the students’ home university. EdX’s FAQ section states, much like Coursera, “each educational institution makes its own decision regarding whether to accept exX coursework for credit” and students should check with their home university’s policy. Regardless, it does not hurt to inquire. Even if college credit cannot be given, adding it to a resume under education or professional development can only go in one’s favor.
Feedback from students who have taken Coursera and edX courses have been overwhelmingly positive. Its popularity will only continue to grow as more and more people of all ages and backgrounds seize the opportunity to study with such well-known universities.