Established by MIT and Harvard, edX courses started off being modelled on university timetables, with rigid start and end dates and assessment deadlines. This model is ideal for young full-time students whose lives are arranged around their studies and who may need those strict deadlines to stay focussed. Older learners are more likely to need to fit their learning around job and family commitments, so a more flexible course format is more suitable.
Recently, we reported here on Class Central that when learners visit Coursera, the start date almost always shows as the current date. Meanwhile, edX has moved more and more of their catalogue over to self-paced delivery, with around 1800 of 2925 current edX courses listed as self-paced. Like Coursera, most of those self-paced courses now show today’s date as the start date. Unlike Coursera, these edX courses are truly self-paced, rather than a flexible self-paced delivery with the need to reset deadlines if you fall behind the recommended time frame.
Many edX courses release a new session periodically. For example Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python) was available in self-paced format in early 2019, finishing on January 29th, 2020. On December 11, a new session was released for new enrollments. This session has a closing date of Jan 29th, 2021. This system exposes an issue: if you enroll late in the session period, you need to finish before the session closes, even if you paid for a certificate. So, in this situation, the “self-paced” course is limited by the session closing date. (Coursera gives learners 180 days from the payment date to finish their course, usually with the need to reset deadlines.)
Here is an example of an edX self-paced course showing today’s date as the start date: