Welcome to Software

    edX Review in 2020

    A bird’s-eye view

    Overview

    This edX review is one of many in a qualitative analysis comparing popular Learn to Code platforms using 6 categories, each with 5 distinct grades. This is a bird’s-eye view, rather than a comprehensive dissection of edX.

    The scope of this review is limited to edX’s Computer Science courses.

    Who is edX Great for?^

    • Beginners with a high level of interest and attention.
    • Beginners with a background in Math.
    • Anyone interested in courses from top universities and corporations.
    • Anyone who’s never studied Computer Science.
    • Anyone interested in joining an enormous and very active community of learners in Harvard’s CS50x course, one of the best and broadest introductions to Computer Science online.
    • Experienced developers interested in learning about a challenging new branch of software.

    Cost^

    2Most courses are US$40-100/month.
    Cost category and grading details

    edX claims to offer all of their courses for free, however you won’t gain access to graded assignments, peer-reviews, or certificates without payment. The payment model is a one-time payment for courses and extensions are very difficult to obtain. After taking account of the duration of courses, most courses are US$40-100/month.

    If cost is an issue, financial aid is available.

    Teacher Feedback^

    3Projects are graded by other students.
    Teacher Feedback category and grading details

    edX’s courses do not offer any feedback from a formal teacher, but some courses offer peer-reviews! The quality of each peer-review is hit-or-miss, but on the whole, they’re great. Some edX courses also provide social media groups where students can help each other in real-time.

    Range of Tools^

    3Most tools from the basket of tools are covered.
    Range of Tools category and grading details

    edX categorizes all of their software-related courses under Computer Science. These courses explore computer science concepts using programming languages. They also explore the most popular libraries and frameworks used by developers. There are even some courses that focus exclusively on exploring theoretical concepts.

    Some courses offered at Coursera are also offered at edX (like Standford Online’s Algorithms Specialization by Tim Roughgarden).

    Computer Science^

    5Many computer science specializations exist.
    Computer Science category and grading details

    edX (and Coursera) partner with some of the world’s top universities to provide courses that explore computer science deeper than any other platform. Courses here can be enough to replace a basic computer science degree in the eyes of Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, or Thought Machine.

    Real-World Projects^

    5Real-world projects are presented with a description or walkthrough as a primary objective of courses -- by screened instructors.
    Real-World Projects category and grading details

    edX’s software courses provide excellent courses with great project instructions. The courses tend to be dense, covering lots of material quickly, especially when the goal of the course is to demonstrate a theoretical concept. Unfortunately, not all courses provide an automated grader for assignments/projects (the best ones do). Some also provide peer-reviews where other students review your assignment and provide a score — this is a good thing. Sometimes after a project, you’ll be presented with a quiz which should be easy if the project was completed successfully.

    Note: Many courses can be very challenging for someone with a poor background in math.

    Beginner Environments^

    1No beginner-friendly coding environments available.
    Beginner Environments category and grading details

    edX does not offer any interactive coding environments.

    Final Words^

    edX’s courses are typically very dense, covering a lot of information quickly, so a high level of interest, attention, — and sometimes, prerequisite knowledge — is required. However, many of course projects would provide excellent showcases of a developer’s talent, especially if they extended the project on their own in some way.

    edX and Coursera score identically based on the grading system implemented here. This should be expected as many courses are provided by universities and colleges on both platforms! The only difference between them are subtle differences of the platform’s usability. For example:

    • Coursera offers flexible deadlines whereas edX is very strict on this matter (makes sense given their different price models).
    • edX allows students to connect and help each other through social media groups, while Coursera only offers discussion forums.

    Authors

    Twitter

    Sam Malayek works in London for Thought Machine, and uses this space to fill in a few gaps.