Last week edX quietly published a blog post titled Furthering the edX Mission, Forging a Future Path. As a long time MOOC-taker I knew with a title like that, this wasn’t going to be good news.
In the post, which was devoid of any specifics, edX announced a new paywall test and a major policy change in a bid to achieve self-sustainability for itself, and it’s partners.
The big policy change is that edX might move away from it’s “current model of offering virtually everything for free“, which is indeed true. Outside of a few courses that are completely paid, all the courses on edX are free (though I have heard occasional grumbling about edX charging for quizzes). EdX also mentioned, however, that they are committed to keeping a part of their catalog for free.
Long-term observers of the MOOC space have seen the shrinking of free phenomenon across different MOOC providers. The policy might vary from provider to provider, but all have cut back on what was originally free in MOOCs.
The only thing edX has cut back on so far has been the free honor certificates, which was discontinued at the end of 2015. By that time, they were the only provider still offering free certificates. In fact, around the same time, Coursera announced a policy to put graded assignments behind a paywall (though an investigation by Class Central found 1150+ courses on Coursera that are still completely free).
Monetizing a course whose content is completely free simply with a paid certificate has been challenging for every MOOC provider, not just edX. I hope to explore this dilemma and the many reasons why in a future article.
As part of the policy change, the first thing that edX will test out is a”modest support fee” for certain courses. I tried to dig around the edX website for which courses and how much, but couldn’t find any instances. Students will still have the option to upgrade their verified certificate. Presumably, the support fee will be priced lower than the verified certificate.
In the next few months, I expect more tests from edX. If you come across such tests, do let us know in the comments.