How do edX courses work?

Written by Dhawal Shah Last updated on July 11th, 2019

Looking for a listing of EdX courses?

EdX is an online education provider that offers online courses, popularly known as “MOOCs” or Massive Open Online Courses, from top universities around the world. Currently, edX boasts a catalog of 1800 online courses created by these partner institutions.

EdX courses consists of pre-recorded video lectures that you can watch on a weekly schedule or when it's convenient for you. They also have readings, student discussion forums, homework/assignments, and online quizzes or exams. There is an example course titled DemoX, which is designed to show new students how to take a course on

Generally speaking, edX courses are free to audit (i.e. watch videos and join discussions) for a limited period, but if you want unlimited access and earn a course Certificate, you will need to pay. EdX is the only leading MOOC provider that is both non-profit and open-source.

EdX also offers a number of micro-credentials like MicroMasters, Xseries, Professional Certificate, and Professional Education. Here is a brief summary of each edX micro-credential:


The MicroMasters program grants credit that counts towards a Masters degree, if the learner who earned the credential is accepted into the on-campus program. MicroMasters contains a series of masters level courses.

List of MicroMasters with their prices


XSeries was the first ever credential launched by edX, but it doesn’t seem to be something edX is investing in as much. The number of XSeries Certificate programs went down in 2017 from 45 to 32. XSeries consists of sequence of courses that help you gain a deep understanding of a particular subject.

Professional Certificate

Professional Certificates are similar to the MicroMasters and Xseries. As compared to MicroMasters, they do not offer a path to credit. As compared to Xseries, they are supposedly more employer friendly. Here is how edX describes them:

Professional Certificates develop the proficiency and expertise that employers are looking for with specialized training and professional education

List of edX Professional Certificate with their pricing.

Professional Education

Professional Education are essentially paid courses.

If you want a certificate but cannot afford the full cost, edX offers partial financial aid to needy applicants. Here is more information from edX:

3 How to sign up for edX courses?

  1. Find interesting courses by browsing Class Central’s catalog of edX’s online courses.
  2. When you find a course that interests you, click on its name to go to Class Central's description, then scroll down and click the green "Go to class" button on the right to go to the course page on edX.
  3. If this is your first edX course, you will need to register with your email address, username and password. 
  4. On edX’s page click on the green “Enroll Now” button and for most courses it will provide you with different enrollment options: Pursue a Verified Certificate (+ price) or Audit This Course (free)

If you want to look at the course before purchasing the certificate, choose Audit This Course. The course is the same and you will have plenty of opportunities to purchase the certificate later.

The exception is some Professional Education courses that are paid only. Clicking on Enroll Now will allow you to enter your credit card or PayPal details. You can find which courses are free and which are paid-only by looking at the price in the course information on the right of the page. Paid-only courses will display a price in US Dollars, free will say Free Online Course and will list a price for the optional certificate.

Class Central's Help Center represents our best effort to answer the most common questions new learners face. It may not be completely accurate in every circumstance.

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