Best edX courses

by Charlie Saville

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edX has a massive range of courses from the world’s top universities and institutions such as Harvard, MIT and Yale. 

But which ones are the best?

To save you time and energy searching for the right edX course, we’ve put all the information you need right here to help you answer that question. 

In this article, we’ll be going over the best edX courses overall, the best courses by category as well as tips for finding the top courses on edX. 

So let’s get started!

Best edX course overall

edX partners

Here are our top picks for the best edX courses overall. 

  1. HarvardX’s Introduction To Computer Science 
  2. MIT’s Introduction To Computer Science And Programming Using Python
  3. TOEFL’s Test Preparation: The Insider’s Guide 
  4. Shakespeare’s Life and Work (Harvard)
  5. Introduction to Biology: The Secret of Life (MIT)

These are the most popular and acclaimed courses on edX. And as you can see from their titles, they’re led by some of the most prestigious institutions in the world. 

Our top choice has over 4 million students enrolled already and is one of the most popular courses, not just on edX but across the internet. 

Similarly, the TOEFL Test Preparation will give you all you need to prepare for an English language test that has been used by millions across the world for jobs and opportunities. 

As well as being our favorite options, all of these courses have the very best of edX’s general features and can be sampled with the Free Audit option on edX. 

Learn more in our edX review.  

Best edX course by category 

Best edX course reviews

Let’s look at our rankings for the best edX courses overall. 

Each course here follows a similar type. They are put together individually and you can purchase a certificate through the Verified Track.

1. HarvardX’s Introduction To Computer Science

edX Computer Science Course

Category: Computer Science, Instructor: David J. Malan, Length: 12 weeks (6-18 hours per week), Certificate: Yes, with the Verified track option, Free: Yes, with no certification

This is one of the most popular and famous courses on the internet, led by instructors from perhaps the world’s most prestigious university. 

We’ve chosen this course as our number 1 for these reasons. It is widely considered essential viewing for anyone who wants an introduction to computer science. 

Alongside the video lessons, there is the chance to complete assessed problem sets to get a good grasp on your progress.

Here are some things that you’ll learn:

  • Algorithmic problem solving 
  • Abstraction
  • Resource management and security 
  • Software development 
  • Web development 

2. MIT’s Introduction To Computer Science And Programming Using Python

MIT computer science edX

Category: Computer Science, Instructor: John Guttag, Length: 9 weeks (14-16 hours per week), Certificate: Yes, with the Verified track option, Free: Yes, with no certification

This course is designed to be a complete introduction to computer science, although you will need to have some aptitude for mathematics and algebra. 

MIT has been a center for technological development since its founding. The instructors on this course are senior professors and lecturers from the university’s faculty, so you’re in safe hands. 

This quality level of teaching has landed this course in the second spot on our list. 

You will learn:

  • The notion of computation 
  • Python 
  • Simple algorithms 
  • Testing 
  • Debugging 
  • Introduction to algorithms complexity 
  • Data structures 

3. TOEFL’s Test Preparation: The Insider’s Guide

edX TOEFL test prep

Category: Communications (test preparation), Instructor: Cynthia Newman and Shawn Gorman, Length: 6 weeks (2-4 hours per week), Certificate: Yes, with the Verified track option, Free: Yes, with no certification

The TOEFL iBT test is one of the most highly regarded English language assessments and over 35 million across the world have used it to work abroad. 

This interactive course uses a step-by-step process to help you ace the test, including quizzes, video lessons, sample questions and discussion forums.

The fact that this course is so meticulously put together to help with such a popular assessment really makes it stand out. 

You will learn: 

  • How to navigate the four main sections of the test: reading, writing, listening and speaking 
  • How the test is scored and structured
  • Using the test for visas, employment and studying abroad 
  • How to register and find additional resources for the test

4. Shakespeare’s Life and Work

edX Shakespeare course

Category: Literature, Instructor: Stephen Greenblatt, Length: 4 weeks (5-7 hours per week), Certificate: Yes, with the Verified track option, Free: Yes, with no certification

Shakespeare is at the center of arts and literature across the world, so it makes sense that a course devoted to his life and work is our first humanities entry.

Having a good grasp of Shakespeare is essential for understanding virtually all subsequent drama and theater, and this course will provide you with just that, with instruction from a Harvard Professor of humanities. 

You will learn:

  • A foundational knowledge of Shakespeare, his work and its significance 
  • How Shakespeare has been interpreted across cultures 
  • Approaches to textual interpretation 
  • How to think about Shakespeare’s intention, historical context, and relevance to today 
  • Analyzing Shakespeare in page and performance 

5. Introduction To Biology: The Secret Of Life

edX Biology Course

Category: Biology, Instructor: Eric S. Lander, Michelle Mischke and Graham Walker, Length: 16 weeks (5-10 hours per week), Certificate: Yes, with the Verified track option, Free: Yes, with no certification

We all often wonder why humans are the way that we are. Biology can’t provide all the answers yet, but having a good understanding of the topic can provide you with a much deeper understanding of human nature. 

That’s why this course comes in at number five. You’ll be given a deep introduction to biology, provided by leading scientists from MIT. 

You will learn: 

  • The fundamentals of life 
  • Structures and functions in biology 
  • Predicting genotypes and phenotypes when given genetic data 
  • How to explain the main tenets of molecular biology 
  • How to convert DNA sequence to RNA sequence to protein sequence 
  • The processes of early life sequencing 
  • Applying modern biology to social issues 

6. Macroeconomics: The Basics

edX macroeconomics course

Category: Economics, Instructor: Arinna Butler Roxann, Length: 8 weeks (10-18 hours per week), Certificate: Yes, with the Verified track option, Free: Yes, with no certification

“The Economy” is a buzzword used in everyday media across the world. Yet what this actually means can be elusive for many people. 

Macroeconomics focuses on the performance, decision-making processes and structure of the economy as a whole. This ‘big picture’ version of economics will be taught to you by DoaneX, the online version of Doane university. 

With the economic changes that have characterized the past decades, having a strong grounding in macroeconomics is essential, and this course will provide just that. 

You will learn:

  • Basic concepts such as supply and demand 
  • Variations in different economic systems 
  • Interpreting major statistics, such as GDP, inflation, unemployment 
  • Analyzing monetary and fiscal policy 
  • How to explain macroeconomic challenges, present trends and future trends

7. Harvard’s Web Programming With Python And JavaScript 

edX javascript and python

Category: Computer Science, Instructor: David J. Malan, Length: 12 weeks (6-9 hours per week), Certificate: Yes, with the Verified track option, Free: Yes, with no certification

Our number seven spot marks a return for Harvard and another computer science course. Although the top spot went to computer science more generally, this course is a little more specific. 

Here, you’ll learn all about web programming with two of the most widely used programming languages, Python and Javascript. The popularity of these two languages means this course is essential for anyone looking to get into computer science, which is why it makes our list. 

It’s also taught by Harvard which, again, speaks for itself.  

You will learn: 

  • Python 
  • Javascript 
  • HTML and CSS 
  • SQL, models and migrations 
  • User interfaces
  • Testing, CI/CD
  • Scalability 
  • Security 

8. Linear Algebra Parts 1-4

edX Linear algebra

Category: Math, Instructor: Stephen Wang, Length: 8 weeks (6-8 hours per week), Certificate: Yes, with the Verified track option, Free: Yes, with no certification

Course number eight is our first math course. As someone who detested math in high school, having a math course on this list, especially this high, feels very strange. 

However, Stephen Wang, associate professor at Rice University, makes linear algebra interesting, insightful and enjoyable to learn?!?

Whatever your feelings about mathematics, there’s no denying its importance. So a course devoted to one of its key concepts easily finds a spot on our list. 

You will learn: 

  • The relationships between linear equations, matrices and linear transformations 
  • Vector and matrix operations 
  • The significance of basis and dimensions of a vector space 
  • The applications of inner products 
  • The applications of orthogonality 

9. The Path To Happiness: What Chinese Philosophy Teaches Us About The Good Life

edX Chinese Philosophy

Category: Philosophy, Instructor: Michael Puett, Length: 13 weeks (1-2 hours per week), Certificate: Yes, with the Verified track option, Free: Yes, with no certification

Sometimes courses about emotion, happiness and the good life are ignored by e-learning sites in favor of more practical teaching. But edX has an entire roster of courses devoted to philosophy. 

This one is our favorite for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it focuses on Chinese philosophical concepts, which many may not be familiar with. 

It’s also taught by a professor of Chinese history and anthropology at Harvard. Who better to learn about Chinese philosophy from?

You will learn:

  • How to understand and interpret ancient Chinese philosophy 
  • Connecting that understanding to your own life 
  • Tools for self-awareness and sensing the world around you 
  • The power of ritual 
  • How personal actions change the world 
  • Theories of key thinkers such as Mozi, Confucius, Laozi and others 

10. The Linux Foundation’s Introduction To Linux

Introduction to Linux edX

Category: Computer Science, Instructor: Jerry Cooperstein, Length: 14 weeks (5-7 hours per week), Certificate: Yes, with the Verified track option, Free: Yes, with no certification

This our third computer science entry devoted entirely to Linux, a widely popular open-source operating system. 

This course is unique in that it is not provided by a traditional university, but a foundation to support and promote the very operations system you’ll be learning. 

The closeness of the instructor and course provider to what you’ll be learning edges this course into the top ten. 

You will learn: 

  • Linux concepts 
  • The basics and system set-up 
  • System configuration and the graphical interface 
  • Common applications and command line operations 
  • Processes, file operations and text editors 
  • User environment and manipulating text 
  • Bash shell scripting 
  • Printing and local security principles 

11. A Hands On Introduction To Engineering Simulations

edX engineering simulations

Category: Engineering, Instructor: Rajesh Bhaskaran, Length: 6 weeks (4-6 hours per week), Certificate: Yes, with the Verified track option, Free: Yes, with no certification

Engineering is all about problem-solving and putting things into action. This course’s tagline is ‘here, you learn by doing.’ So it sounds like a pretty perfect introduction to engineering simulations, although you will need some high school-level math and physics knowledge beforehand. 

The uniqueness of practical teaching is one thing, but what makes this course extra special is that it’s provided by CornellX, the online branch of Cornell, one of America’s top Ivy League universities. 

You can’t go wrong with this combination. 

You will learn:

  • Finite-element analysis and computational fluid dynamics 
  • Using Ansys Fluent and Ansys Mechanical 
  • Mathematical models underlying simulations 
  • Using Ansys software to build simulations of real world applications 
  • Verifying systems by checking against hard calculations
  • Expert approaches to engineering analysis 

12. Dante Alighieri: Science And Poetry In The Divine Comedy

edX Dante

Category: Literature, Instructor: Raffaele Giglio, Length: 4 weeks (8-10 hours per week), Certificate: Yes, with the Verified track option, Free: Yes, with no certification

Dante’s Divine Comedy is a foundational text in renaissance literature and is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential works ever produced. 

Understanding it can provide amazing insight into art, science and the human condition. However, to the casual reader, some of this might seem inaccessible. 

However, this course draws on modern and pre-modern concepts to explore the key insights of The Divine Comedy. 

You will learn:

  • Poetry in Dante’s work 
  • Science in Dante’s work 
  • Symmetry in the structure of Dante’s work and the universe
  • Differing interpretations of The Divine Comedy 
  • The importance of numerology in The Comedy 

13. Managing Conflict and Polarization in the Workplace and Beyond

edX conflict in the workplace

Category: Social Science, Instructor: Alison Goldsworthy, Laura Osborne and Alexandra Chesterfield, Length: 6 weeks (4-6 hours per week), Certificate: Yes, with the Verified track option, Free: Yes, with no certification

Social science is one of the broader subjects edX can offer. Although the topic can be difficult to define, this works in its favor, as you can apply what you learn from a social science course to the business, domestic and general aspects of your life. 

This is particularly true of our number thirteen spot. This course is all about looking at group dynamics, finding out why groups originate and how to understand and minimize conflict within and between groups. 

But this isn’t just some run-of-the-mill business organization seminar. 

This course is led by teachers from Jesus College, Cambridge, one of the university’s older and more prestigious colleges, as well as leaders from groups like London First and The Depolarization Project. 

You will learn:

  • Why we create ingroups and outgroups 
  • How group conflict extends to other aspects of our lives 
  • What technology contributes to polarization 
  • Critically assessing complex situations and group divides 
  • Comprehend the often subconscious role you might play in polarization 
  • Become confident in handling and healing divisions 

14. Pre-University Physics

pre uni physics edX

Category: Physics, Instructor: Sander Otte, Jeroen Kalkman and Liedewij Laan, Length: 5 weeks (6-8 hours per week), Certificate: Yes, with the Verified track option, Free: Yes, with no certification

The final course on our list is all about Physics. 

Physics is often regarded as the most fundamental yet inaccessible of the sciences. This course is ideal for anyone interested in physics who already has high school-level, preliminary knowledge and is looking to bridge the gap between that and a university quality of understanding. 

Your instructors are all professors in diverse and specific disciplines related to the subject such as quantum nanoscience, imaging physics and bionanoscience. This level of expertise is guaranteed to provide you with the knowledge you’re looking for. 

You will learn: 

  • A basic understanding of physics topics 
  • How to apply physics knowledge to engineering contexts 
  • Academic approaches to physics 
  • Solving physics problems in an algebraic way 
  • Providing order-of-magnitude calculations 
  • Applying differential and integral calculus to physics problems 
  • Work with vectors at a conceptual level 

How to find the best courses on edX

edX makes it very easy for you to get the most out of the site. 

There are three main ways you can browse edX content:

  • By Course
  • By Programme 
  • By Institution 

Browsing by course is the best bet if you’re new to the site. You can choose from whatever course interests you. 

Click enroll and you’re away. 

You can also choose edX courses by browsing their massive list of partner institutions. This is a great if you’re interested in, or would like to learn from, a particularly good school e.g. the University of Cambridge.

If choosing between courses is still proving tricky, why not check out some other facts about the course? For example, you can see how many people have enrolled, so if it’s popular you know they’re probably doing something right. 

You can also check how new the course is. If it’s very recent, you can be sure all the info is updated and produced at a time when edX has the experience and has made a name for itself. 

Another option is to check out reviews. You can scour the internet for comments on places like Reddit, from people who have taken a similar course. Or you can check out sites like Learnopoly, where we give you a balanced, comprehensive account of online education courses.

How much does edX cost?

edX courses

As you can see, how much you pay for edX’s services will depend on what you’re looking for. 

If you just want to learn from the courses themselves, without the certificate or the programs, then that will cost nothing.

The Verified Track, where you receive a certificate and the opportunity for feedback on your assignments, typically costs between $50 to $300. This price is similar for edX Boot Camps. 

For more in-depth programs, like the MicroBachelors, Executive Education and Professional Education, the cost can be around the same. But it can also go up to $1,000 to $3,000 depending on the course provider and how long the course is. 

edX isn’t a subscription service, so you pay for each course individually.

How to get the best value from edX?

  • Take as many courses as possible, from a diverse range of topics 
  • Put some time into researching instructors, institutions and the course itself 
  • If the course is relevant to your work, upgrade to Verified Track to get your certification of your new skill 
  • Take your time with examinations, tests and challenges 
  • Spread your learning across as much time as you want so it accommodates your schedule 

Our methodology

In order to compile this list, I’ve spent a lot of time researching edX. 

This includes looking at courses from all of their categories and courses provided by different universities and businesses. 

I also looked at the credentials of instructors, student experiences and reviews of the course as well as looking at reviews that Learnopoly has already done on the site. 

This means that this article has all the information you will need about edX’s best courses. 

Conclusion

edX review conclusion

From this article, it should be clear that edX has an incredible range of top-quality courses. 

Our top pick is HarvardX’s Introduction To Computer Science because it is one of the most popular and acclaimed online courses out there. 

It has everything you need from an online course, with in-depth video lessons, practical examples, tests and the chance for certification upon completion. 

However, as you can see, edX offers courses in a wide variety of topics. So the best course for you will depend on what you’re looking for and what you want to learn. Either way, the platform will probably have it. 

And don’t forget, with the Free Audit track, most of these courses are available for absolutely no cost. 

So what have you got to lose?

Relevant articles: edX vs Coursera, edX vs Pluralsight

FAQ

What is the best Art and Culture course on edX?

Hollywood: History, Industry, Art

What is the best Biology course on edX?

Introduction To Biology: The Secret Of Life

What is the best Computer Science course on edX?

HarvardX’s Introduction To Computer Science

What is the best Economics course on edX?

Macroeconomics: The Basics

What is the best Engineering course on edX?

A Hands On Introduction To Engineering Simulations

What is the best Food and Nutrition course on edX?

Nutrition And Health: Food Safety

What is the best History course on edX?

Tangible Things: Discovering History Through Artworks, Artifacts, Scientific Specimens And The Stuff Around You

What is the best Humanities course on edX?

Introduction To Digital Humanities

What is the best Law course on edX?

International Law

What is the best Literature course on edX?

Shakespeare’s Life And Work

What is the best Math course on edX?

Linear Algebra Parts 1-4

What is the best Music course on edX?

Introduction To Music Theory

What is the best Philosophy course on edX?

The Path To Happiness: What Chinese Philosophy Teaches Us About The Good Life

What is the best Physics course on edX?

Pre-University Physics

What is the best Social Science course on edX?

Managing Conflict and Polarization in the Workplace and Beyond

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