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EdX vs. Coursera: Which MOOC Platform Is Better?

More than 100 million learners worldwide use their online courses for digital learning. We have taken a close look at the two leading MOOC providers.

EdX vs. Coursera: Which MOOC Platform Is Better?
Pictures: zuhshenje, kreatikar/pixabay

MOOCs (massive open online courses) promise free and flexible access to education. 

With more than 100 million users, Coursera and edX are the giants among the MOOC platforms. 

Who exactly are these providers? And which one is better?

(Jump directly to our directory with 8,000+ online courses.)

Coursera: Private Platform with More Than 100 Million Learners

Coursera was founded in 2012 by two Stanford professors. With more than 100 million users it is the largest MOOC platform worldwide. 

In cooperation with universities and companies, Coursera offers a broad spectrum of online courses which ranges from computer science to personal development. One of their most popular courses is "Learning How To Learn".

More than 150 partner institutions, among them elite universities like Yale, Stanford and Princeton, provide high calibre courses. 

Coursera is a listed on the stock exchange, so the course provider has a clear profit orientation.


Two trends follow from that: 

  • More and more course content gets hidden behind a paywall. 
  • Coursera is expanding its offers for corporate customers. With company accounts it can win many customers at one go. 

In spite of this, a lot of content is still available free of charge. And individual learners find thousands of free video courses for self-study.

(Read a more detailed profile of Coursera.)


EdX: Socially Minded Harvard Spin-Off 

Like Coursera, edX was founded in 2012 by the elite universities MIT and Harvard. 

But in contrast to Coursera, edX was started on a purely non-profit basis. One of their top courses is Harvard's "Introduction to Computer Science". 

More than 100 renowned partner universities are offering courses for about 50 million edX learners, among them are the universities of Oxford, Zurich and London. 

EdX operates similarly to Coursera. There are free and paid course series. In addition, learners can use the credits of some courses towards a master’s degree at one of the cooperating partner universities (MicroMaster).

(Read a more detailed profile of edX.)

EdX vs. Coursera: Which MOOC Platform Is Better?

EdX vs. Coursera in Direct Comparison

What are the most significant differences between Coursera and edX? 

  • Topics: Both platforms offer a diverse range of subjects. However, Coursera focuses more on professional training, for example computer science and business degrees. EdX offers numerous courses in the humanities and the natural sciences.
  • Costs: Both portals offer audit versions free of charge. Only the certificate track requires payment. Coursera increasingly focuses on paid course series (Specializations). These course series are not always available for free (see also: "How to Find Free Online Courses").
  • Certificates: Both, Coursera and edX, offer certificates. This requires a verification process which includes an electronic ID control. Sometimes, edX takes longer to complete this process. Also, the wide range of course formats and certificate options can be quite confusing for new users (see also: "Are the certificates worth it?").
  • Availability: Coursera repeats its courses quite regularly, so there is virtually no waiting time between the starting dates of the courses. EdX, on the other hand, "archives" its courses over lengthy periods. Archived courses can still be watched, but no certificates can be taken anymore.
  • Website navigation: Both websites are quite user-friendly. Some customers have reported that the page navigation of edX appears more cumbersome.
  • Offers for businesses: Both platforms have special offers for businesses. In fact, edX and Coursera have become the most important providers of digital professional training ("The most important E-Learning Providers for Companies").

 (Also check out these User Experiences for Coursera and Edx and our full list of free online lectures.)


EdX-founder Professor Agarwal (MIT) about his vision for open and accessible education:="player-unavailable">


Coursera and EdX are the two frontrunners among online course providers. In both cases, the courses go into much depth and are created by some of the most renowned universities in the world.

Which of the two is the best provider cannot finally be decided. Every judgement depends on your personal learning objectives and on the attended course.

We therefore recommend that you test the courses that you are interested in simultaneously on Coursera and on edX using the free version. Also consider user reviews for orientation or check out other course providers such as Udemy.

There is one point of criticism relevant for both providers: Coursera and edX leave you pretty much on your own. An individual 1:1-coaching which is offered for example by Udacity is not yet available from these providers.


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