edX came to market shortly after Udacity and Coursera launched. edX may have been last, but it certainly came to the table with some impressive names in the educational space – starting with MIT and Harvard. Over 30 impressive names are on the list including UC Berkeley, Boston University, Cornell, and the University of Texas. It’s also partnering with a dozen plus institutions in Asia and across Europe.
At first blush, the edX course list reads more like a traditional University course guide – with courses having a complex numbering system like “HDS1544.1x: Early Christianity: The Letters of Paul”. The X signifies, I suppose, that it is the online version of the real Harvard course with the same name and number.
The other thing to notice is that the courses are quite specific. Whereas it might be common to see “Introduction to Statistics” on a site like Coursera, on edX the statistics courses are quite specific and probably a lot closer in course content to a real University level course. For instance, UC Berkeley has the following Introduction to Statistics courses alone:
- Stat2.1x: Introduction to Statistics: Descriptive Statistics
- Stat2.2x: Introduction to Statistics: Probability
- Stat2.3x: Introduction to Statistics: Inference
You can see, there is a marked difference even in the way the courses are offered between the platforms.
The learning platform itself is impressive. I have already said I like the Udacity website more than Coursera. Well I think I might like edX more than Udacity even. The videos are played inline (no lightboxes), you can easily see module progression along the top, and edX offers many different types of inline testing which could make quizzes more interesting. Beyond multiple choice, and simple text entry, they offer drag-and-drop, molecule editors, coding graders, protein builders and circuit design boards. I’m sure it’s more work for the professors and their assistants to prepare such a course, but one can imagine a lot of possible course types than Coursera could currently allow.
edX seems to have a lot fewer courses going on than Coursera does – currently looks like 70 courses on edX and 530 on Coursera. But as you see above, the edX ones are more specific. I believe you can go through Berkeley’s entire Math curriculum over a period of 2 years or so while one is stuck at the “Introduction to” level courses on the other platform.
Perhaps on the down side, not everyone is in the market for actual college or University level courses and that level of difficulty. Perhaps “Introduction to Finance” is the right level of course for most people, while taking many semesters of business training is a bit overkill. Don’t get me wrong – I want more advanced topics to be available. It’s just that you might not get 100,000+ students to enrol in those higher level math programs. The more difficult, and the more narrow the field, the less it will appeal to the masses.
Ultimately, I would recommend you take a look at the course list, and give their demo course a try. There are some interesting classes coming up, and so you may see some more edX course reviews on this site in the near future.