Coursera vs edX vs Udemy: Online Courses Compared

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There are many reasons to take online courses. Completing an online course can help you advance in your job, better understand current college courses, help you with job interviews and pass industry recognized certifications. Deciding on which online cour

Taking Online Courses

Online courses have made college level classes available to anyone with an internet connection. In September 2010, the Department of Education published a meta-analysis of 45 published studies that found online learning was as effective as face-to-face or classroom learning. Massive Open Online Classes (MOOC) have become popular new additions to the online and distance learning category and will help anyone learn a new subject or learn more about a familiar subject.


Coursera is an online education company that is partnered with top universities including Stanford, Tel Aviv University, Ohio State, Yale University and many more. Their online courses are free for anyone to take. Coursera was founded in 2012 by Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, both of Stanford University.

Coursera Courses

When you take an online course from Coursera, you will watch lectures given by actual professors, test your knowledge and learn concepts through interactive exercises. You will learn the course at your own pace. Their online courses are designed for you to learn the material quickly and effectively. Coursera offers online courses in many subjects including:

You can choose from over 400 online courses in 20 different categories that have been created by 62 universities.

Choosing a Coursera Course

To find an online course you would like to take, you can search by selecting the category you are interested in or search by courses that are starting soon. When you select a course category, you will then be presented with a list of online courses in that category. Once you choose a course, you will then be presented the following course details:

  • The University.
  • The professor's name and a short introduction about the course.
  • A short video by the professor explaining the course.
  • The starting date and how long the course lasts.
  • About the online course.
  • The recommended background.
  • Course syllabus.
  • The course format.
  • And a short FAQ, which is where you will find what type of certificate, if any, will be awarded at the completion of the course.

If the Coursera course details are what you were looking for, you can then sign up for that course. 

How You Will be Taught

Once you have chosen your online course, you will learn by:

  • Watching short video lectures.
  • Taking interactive quizzes.
  • Completing assignments that are peer graded.
  • Interaction with classmates and teachers.

The Power of Microeconomics: Economic Principles in the Real World / Coursera YouTube

Coursera Course Certificates

With certain Coursera online courses, you will receive a Statement of Accomplishment if you have completed all graded assignments and reached a certain overall percentage.

With other completed online courses, you will receive a Certificate of Completion from the University that gives the course.

Coursera has a new Signature Track option that allows students taking certain online courses the opportunity to earn a Verified Certificate upon completion of the course. Signature track offers the following:

  • You will link your coursework securely to your real identity using your photo ID.
  • The Verified Certificate is official recognition from participating universities for your accomplishment with a verifiable electronic certificate.
  • You will be able to show your employer, school or any other interested party the verified certificate through a secure URL.

If you choose to take a course that is a Signature Track Coursera course, you do not have to participate in the Signature Track program in order to take the course.

Coursera verified certificate


edX is a non-profit that was created by Harvard University and MIT. The edX Consortium has partnered with many colleges and universities including MIT, Harvard, IIT Bombay, Georgetown, Wellesley and many more. All online courses at edX are free for anyone to take.

edX Courses

edX lets you learn at your own pace. You will begin by browsing through the topics and courses. Once you choose a topic, you can then find the course you want to take. edX has online courses in many subjects including:

edX has discussion groups and forums for all students and teachers to join in.

Choosing an edX Course

You can search for a course by subject or by participating university. edX currently offers 62 online courses in 23 categories. When you choose a course, you will be presented with the following course details:

  • The title of the course.
  • A course introduction video.
  • The school.
  • The course code number.
  • The date the course begins.
  • An estimated effort, which gives amount of time to put into the course. For example you will see 8-10 hours per week, 7 weeks.
  • Prerequisite, if any.
  • Information about the course.
  • The course staff.
  • An FAQ.

After reading this information, you can then decide if that particular course is what you are looking for and if it is, you can register for the course.

How You Will Be Taught

Everything is included with your edX online course. Any textbooks that are needed will be available online through your browser. You will learn your edX course by:

  • Watching videos.
  • Use the virtual labs.
  • Do homework.
  • Pass exams.

edX Course Certificates

edX offers a Certificate of Master when you complete a course. You do not have to go for the certificate. You can take a course, watch the videos, use the virtual labs and take the exams for fun.

To receive the Certificate of Master, you will have to complete the entire course including:

  • Watch the videos
  • Do all of the homework assignments
  • Pass the exams as per the course syllabus


Located in San Francisco, Udemy began in 2010 and has served 1 million students since opening. Udemy is different than the above online education companies in that most of the online courses offered at Udemy are not free. Udemy is more of a catalog for creators of educational videos and teachers.

Udemy has more than 8,000 courses, mainly technology and business related. They emphasize teaching skills that will help employees advance in their jobs, which in this economy is very helpful.

Instructors on Udemy create their own videos and earn money teaching their online courses through Udemy. Course instructors who get students through the Udemy web site are able to keep 70%. All instructional videos must pass all Udemy guidelines before being offered on their website.

Udemy Courses

You can search for a course on Udemy using their search bar or clicking on one of their categories. In addition to their popular technology and business categories, their course categories also include:

Their online courses can range anywhere in price from $9 to $900 for certain certification courses. Udemy does have some online courses that are free.

Choosing a Udemy Course

Once you click on a Udemy category, a list of online courses will appear which you can sort by popularity, reviews and newest. When you pick the course you want to take, you will then see the following course information.

  • The instructors name
  • A video introduction to the course
  • Access time to the course
  • Everything the course will teach
  • A list of supplemental resources
  • Student reviews
  • Course requirements
  • Content and goals

If the course information meets your requirements, then you will register for the course.

Each Udemy course has a star rating and student comments such as these comments from the Udemy course, "Microsoft Excel 2010 Course Beginners/ Intermediate Training".

  • "This is a wonderful course. Even though I thought I was good at using Excel, I can see that there was still a lot I didn't know or at least shorter ways of doing things. Thanks. I look forward to the Advance course."
  • "This course is very easy to follow and teaches all the ins and outs of Excel. It will teach a ton of features and shortcuts to make using Excel easier. I highly recommend this course to anyone who uses the program, for personal or business use."

How You Will Be Taught

You will be taught the course with lectures and quizzes. For example, the Udemy course titled, "Social Media Management", has the following course details.

  • Intro section includes 13 lectures and 4 quizzes.
  • Hands-on Training: 6 lectures and 3 quizzes.
  • Mobile: 2 lectures and 1 quiz.
  • Case Studies: 3 lectures
  • Wrap Up: 3 lectures
  • Supplemental Resources has 10 lectures.

This course has over 37 lectures and 8.5 hours of content. The cost of this course is $99.00.

The list of lectures and quizzes for the course, "From HTML to App Store in 60 Minutes".

Udemy Certificates

When you complete Udemy online courses, you will receive a Certificate of Completion.

Udemy Certification Track Courses

Udemy has certification courses that will prepare you to take certification or licensing exams. These certification track courses will help you get industry recognized certifications such as IT, financial and business operations like Cisco, Microsoft, FRM and Six Sigma.

Comparing Online Courses

Coursera and edX are similar in that they offer free online courses, while Udemy online courses cost money. Udemy is unique in that their courses are offered by the instructors themselves. Coursera offers more free online courses and edX lists a couple of subjects that Coursera doesn’t offer. All three online courses offer good online courses that will appeal to anyone interested in learning. 


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