This article is just one in our 2016 MOOC Roundup Series. Find the whole series of articles here, and discover everything MOOCs in 2016 — from the most popular classes, to overviews on developments in MOOC platforms, to looking at the MOOC-future.
By the end of 2016, edX will cross ten million registered users.
By the end of 2016, edX will cross ten million registered users.
EdX is the second largest MOOC provider in the world but, compared to Coursera’s 23 million registered users, it’s a distant second.
EdX seems to be closing the gap on Coursera. It added four million new users this year, compared to Coursera’s six million new users in 2016 (six million being the same number Coursera added in 2015).
EdX made further inroads in its push for credit by expanding its MicroMasters program, which has now been adopted by fourteen universities located in eight different countries. I will talk a bit more about MicroMasters and how it stacks against other credentials below.
Thirteen new partners joined the edX consortium, including Oxford university.
As with other providers, there are multiple ways for learners to pay for edX courses: verified certificates, professional education, credit-bearing courses, XSeries, and MicroMasters.
To learn more about edX’s 2016 in detail, keep reading.
By The Numbers
By the end of the year, edX will cross ten million learners, and those learners will account for more than 33 million course enrollments.
Four million of those learners were added just this year. EdX also received over twelve million course enrollments in 2016.
At the time of writing this post, edX is offering close to 1,300 courses, 500 of which were added in 2016.
Out of 1,300 courses, 53 are completely paid (also know as Professional Education) and 13 are credit eligible. Most of these credit eligible courses are part of ASU’s Global Freshman Academy.
According to analysis by Class Central, the average cost of an edX certificate is around $53.
EdX also offers two types of credential: XSeries and MicroMasters. Both of these consist of a series of courses, but the MicroMasters are also eligible for credit and can count towards a Masters program. Currently edX has 45 such XSeries and 20 MicroMasters programs.
Here is a list of the top ten edX courses by enrollment:
Oxford university, which had resisted offering MOOCs for a long time, finally joined edX in 2016, and it will be offering a MOOC on edX next year.
It’s been almost four-and-a-half years since edX launched as a non-profit with $60 million from Harvard and MIT. Given the number of employees it has (around 150–200), that money would not have sustained edX till now and edX would have had to rely on revenues.
Similar-sized companies in the MOOC space like Coursera and Udacity have raised $146 million and $163 million.
Possibly due to these revenue pressures, last year edX stopped offering free honor code certificates.
Unfortunately very little is known about edX’s revenue. Unlike Coursera or other MOOC providers, besides making revenue from learners, edX has another source of revenue — contracts with universities. These contracts range from being free to costing the universities millions of dollars. According to a blog post on IBL Studios, “edX has incorporated 27 edX new members[in 2015] — generating around $15 million.”
If I had to speculate, in 2016 edX will make around $20–30 million from their partners and from the sales of certificates and other credentials.
So, what are these universities paying for? This might be outdated, but below I reproduce a part of my Quora answer from September 2014:
Self Serve Model
edX will collect the first $50,000 generated by the course, or $10,000 for each recurring course. The organization and the university partner will each get 50 percent of all revenue beyond that threshold.
edX Supported Model
edX charges a base rate of $250,000 for each new course, plus $50,000 for each time a course is offered for an additional term. The university gets 70 percent of any revenue generated by the course. In this model edX offers production assistance to universities for their MOOCs.
This is what learning on edX looks like in December 2016.
The user interface for edX has basically been the same since it launched almost five years ago.
But behind the scenes, Open edX — the open source platform that powers edX — has evolved a lot, and it has been adopted by a number of institutions around the world.
EdX and MIT piloted the MicroMaster credential in Supply Chain Management last October. In September this year, the MicroMasters credential was adopted by fourteen universities located in eight different countries: India, Spain, Belgium, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Australia, the Netherlands, and the United States.
In concept, the MicroMaster credential is very similar to other MOOC-based credentials, like Coursera’s Specialization or even edX’s own XSeries Programs. All the courses that are part of a MicroMaster can be accessed for free.
But there is one big difference: the MicroMaster program grants credit that counts towards a Masters degree, if the learner who earned the credential is accepted into the on campus program. Usually a MicroMaster counts towards one semester’s worth of Masters credit from the university which is offering the MicroMaster. This can reduce the cost and time required to achieve a full Masters degree.
For example, if you complete an Artificial Intelligence MicroMaster from Columbia University, it will count towards 25% of the coursework or 7.5 of the 30 credits required for graduation from the on-campus Master of Computer Science program. Of course, for the credit to count you still have to apply to Columbia’s CS program and be accepted. The cost of this AI MicroMaster is $1,200, which is significantly less than the cost of one semester at Columbia.
According to edX’s CEO (Anant Agarwal), since Global Freshman Academy and MicroMasters, edX has invested heavily in the last year-and-a-half to develop a number of mechanisms to achieve improvements in the rigor, which includes both quality and integrity.
These mechanisms include randomized problems for exams; timed exams; peer grading for free learners and hand grading for certificate earners; virtual proctoring; timed exams that disappear after the exam is submitted; teamwork and projects through the team mechanism; a significant focus on accessibility; and so on.
For students who do not plan to apply for a Masters degree, the MicroMasters can also be one of the strongest credentials in terms of signaling in the job market.
Universities accepting their own courses for credit means they are vouching for the course’s rigor and value.
That is, by creating a tangible real world outcome, it also makes it easier for a jobseeker to communicate what the credential means to an employer, who is most probably not aware what a MicroMaster represents: one semester of workload at the credit-granting university.
The average cost of a MicroMaster is around $850, while the cost is $200 for an XSeries credential.
Dhawal is the CEO of Class Central, the most popular search engine and review site for online courses and MOOCs. He has completed over a dozen MOOCs and has written over 200 articles about the MOOC space, including contributions to TechCrunch, EdSurge, Quartz, and VentureBeat.