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Udemy vs edX vs Coursera: Top MOOC sites compared

What is a MOOC?

The full-form of MOOC is Massive open online course. It started as an idea in 2006 and has developed into full-blown learning sources, for many, since 2012. A phenomenon that has become more widespread than Starbucks and its worldwide reach, MOOC has captured the focused attention of 81 million students, more than 800 participating universities, and has close to ten thousand credible courses in the internet universe. There are over 9000 MOOC courses floating about with a handful enjoying the celebrity stardom. Many of these MOOCs also provide credentials like online degrees, professional certificates, and more.

Advantages of MOOCs

While an online degree is one of the advantages of the MOOCosphere, that is not all that it is good for. MIT has studied the learning effectiveness in MOOC based study vs on-campus classes. According to the study, unless students experience an interactive learning method in a classroom, university students actually learn less than MOOC students. When combined with traditional teaching, in a blended fashion, there is a higher probability to success as compared to otherwise. This has been witnessed in university courses like that of San Jose State University’s Computer Science intro course. Ever since they switched to a blended program with edX’s MOOC, their student failure rates have decreased.

Of course, it helps that an online credit can often be transferred into university credits, that the MOOC courses are almost always cheaper than traditional university courses, and that the self-paced on-demand nature make MOOCs a dependable choice in this technologically reliant age. It also provides a reasonable means of testing the waters with the course material, often with a chance of full refund upon opting out of the courses. In other words, dropping out of MOOC courses is simpler and this provides students choices without the cost of a financial, and time, investment in a course they may not find useful, later.

Beyond the glitter of online credentials, the vast resource of courses allows any curious George to log in and learn. This is a liberating change of education structure, beyond the rigidity of classroom enrollments, timelines, and curriculum. Some of these MOOCs are even dynamic enough to receive feedbacks and improve its material.

MOOCs also form a huge source of data for education researchers. Unlike the limitations of veiled offline school activities of students, MOOC student activities are transparent and reflect study patterns, course effectiveness, and student response. All of these can serve as a starting point for analyzing what needs improvements and how the various experimentations can translate into learning.

Disadvantages of MOOCs

Many of these courses may not be recognized as credentials by universities or recruiters. The fact that the courses are not interactive, like in a classroom, or that students don’t always get the opportunity to receive one-on-one help from instructors, makes them less appealing to the traditional knowledge seekers.

There is also a tremendous drop-out rate that plagues these MOOC courses. Ranging in the low single digits, the completion rates indicate a lack of loyalty, and discipline, warranted in a self-regulated teaching style.

Traditionalists also fear that MOOCs tend to devalue the merit of traditional education. If the material is available freely, credentialing may become worthless. Piracy concerns have also often scarred the image of MOOCs.



Udemy vs edX vs Coursera

Comparison of the Top MOOC sites

Among the many MOOC course providers, since their dawn in 2010/12, Coursera, edX, and Udemy are the A-listers. The table below shows the main features and differences between the three MOOCs.


Founded in 2010 by Eren Bali, OktayCaglar and GaganBiyani in Silicon Valley, Udemy (Academy of You) is different from the usual MOOCs. It doesn’t impart courses in collaboration with universities or colleges. Rather, it began by building its reputation through some seed content on its blogs, followed by invited lectures and classes by expert instructors, to the current business model. This business model relies on people with some expertise,to create a coursethat could be about iPhone use to Computer Programming, for profit. The courses are rated by the users which helps determine their credibility. Instructors are paid based on the popularity of the courses and for the same reason, courses may be free or paid, based on the quality of the instruction as determined by its users.

So, clearly, Udemy is for the people and by the people. Perhaps for that reason, Udemy doesn’t impart any courses with credentials – certifications or degrees that could be recognized by universities. However, it is an extremely useful channel to gain skills based on your demand. Businesses often use Udemy for Corporate Training on a large scale.
Some of its features are listed below:

  • Udemy app for iOS and Android
  • Number of Courses: Over 65,000
  • Number of users: 14 million and counting
  • Corporate clients include PayPal,, and more
  • Notable instructors: New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof, Dan Rather, Deepak Chopra, Dan Ariely, Elizabeth Gilbert, etc
  • Top earning instructors make over $1.6 million in course sales revenue
  • You can get a refund, within 30 days, if you are not satisfied with a course. Applicable to courses purchased on Udemy and Android app. Does not apply to third party purchases such as from an iOS app.
  • Website:



edX was founded in 2012 by MIT & Harvard University, each having contributed $30 million to kick startthe project. Unlike its peers, edX offers university level courses as a non-profit education project on an open-source platform that is freely available. The courses are channeled by some of the world’s leading universities. The classes (online) are interactive in nature, with the opportunity for students to practice their understanding. Each course has teaching assistants, students are able to discuss the course on forums, pose questions and interact with their fellow students or the teaching assistants.

edX relies on supportive contribution to maintain the non-profit education project and continue its research in learning. While you can enroll for a class just for the learning, edX provides an edX Verified Certificate for those who desire a proof of their course completion, for jobs, schools, etc. There is a reasonable minimum fee, however, most edXfunds are sourced from the above-mentioned contributions. Financial assistance, class creation, and other improvements are all drawn from those funds.

Besides the possibility of gaining credits that may be applicable in other universities (university discretion applies), there are many certificate programs.

  • MicroMasters Certificate: These are learning companions in Masters level courses, created by top universities. They are eligible for credit and keep up with the latest in the fields.
  • Professional Certificate: These are created by top universities and industry experts, and are designed to enhance your professional skills.
  • XSeries Certificate: Created by world-renowned experts and top universities, they are designed to develop a wholesome and in-depth understanding of a subject.

Here are some of the crucial edX features:

  • edX app for Apple and Android
  • Number of courses: Over 2000 created by leading universities
  • Number of users: 14 million and counting
  • Participating Universities and Institutions: Besides MIT and Harvard, certifications, courses, and other services, are contributed by nearly55 elite universities/institutions. Some of them are tabulated below.
UC Berkeley University of Texas Australian National Univ Hong Kong Polytechnic
RWTH Aachen Sorbonne Univ Univ of British Columbia Caltech
McGill Univ Kyoto Univ TechnischeUnivMunchen Univ of Oxford
IIM Bangalore UnivAutonoma de Madrid Inter-American Development Bank Educational Testing Service (ETS)



Founded in 2012 by Stanford professors Andrew Ng and DahpneKoller, it is the most popular MOOC around the world. Lasting of the order of ten weeks, the courses are designed by top university professors, and their teams. They have assignments, quizzes, and even final capstone projects, or exams in lieu of traditional university classes. Since 2014, Coursera integrated self-paced courses,with no deadlines, to counteract the traditional structures. However, to keep up with an active discussion forum and peer grading, the structure later shifted to soft-deadlines. Each Coursera session now runs almost every month, thereby allowing students the flexibility of shifting to the next session in case of interruptions. In the end, every completed course leads to a completion certificate that is directly shareable on other platforms, such as LinkedIn.

Coursera doesn’t just limit itself to courses, but has expanded into whole areas or fields of training. Here are the various Coursera learning options.

  • Courses: Taught by top instructors from top universities, these are designed to gain a new skill in 4-6 weeks, culminating in a course certificate. The cost of the courses ranges from $29-$99. You can audit courses for free, with some limitations on the course material and no certificate in the end.
  • Specializations: If you want a complete education in a field, you can opt for the longer and combined set of Coursera courses, collectively called a Specialization, for a fee ranging from $39-$79 per month for 4-6 months. In the end, you get a Specialization Certificate.
  • Online Degrees: If you are looking at a more serious commitment, you can opt for a longer, 1-3 year, study towards a University recognized Online Degree. The study ends in an accredited Masters degree and requires online admission. They are naturally more expensive and are priced at a maximum of $25,000, depending on the subject. All said and done, they are a convenient and more reasonable option of continuing education, especially for working professionals. Offered subjects include business, computer science, data science, and even

Here are some other relevant Coursera features.

  • Coursera app for Apple and Android
  • Number of courses: Over 2000, over 180 specializations, and 10 Masters Degrees
  • Number of users: 25 million and counting
  • Participating Universities and Institutions:149 university partners. A few are tabulated below.
Stanford National Univ of Singapore Northwestern Univ Indian School of Business
Caltech Univ of Tokyo Google Erasmus Rotterdam
Univ of Michigan Univ of Illinois Urbana Champaign Univ of Toronto Univ of Amsterdam
Berklee College of Music Univ of Chicago Macquarie Univ Univ of Leeds

So, you have options, and options within those options. Explore your fit, find a new skill, and enjoy the bounties of the digital world.
Good Luck!
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7 thoughts on “Udemy vs edX vs Coursera: Top MOOC sites compared”

  1. Sudharshan: That’ll depend on how you position it. If you’ve taken a bunch of courses just to add it to the CV, it won’t help much.

    But if you’ve chosen the right course, and can show how it has helped you build a specific skill which in turn has helped you in your regular job (or elsewhere), then you’ve got something credible.

  2. Sir,I am a GRE aspirant.At present I am pursuing my third year in BE.I want to do my MS in US.So,how can I get my projects get recognised?.Do I want to show my certificate of project.If I want to get certificate I have to do projects in online.Is it neccessary?.Is the projects done on our colleges are worthier?

  3. Hello sir I want to know about MBA course.what is MBA and what is the best course in MBA and tell me sir about accounting

  4. I have done e-mba information technology management from nmims in online mode. I am interested in knowing what else can I do to get better prospects in career. Plz advice.

  5. @Vikrama: What you’ve done in those projects is more important compared to whether they were part of your curriculum or you’ve taken them up outside.

    @Madhuri: Yes, a basic knowledge of maths is important. Which is why MBA exams such as GMAT, GRE have a maths section.

    @Surjeet: Here’s a 5-minute video that’ll give you an idea of MBA:

    @Adarsh: Getting a job that’ll give you practical skills is the best way to improve your prospects.


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