Coursera and edX both offer certificate programs at a fraction of the cost of grad school – here are the main differences between them

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edX Micromaster and coursera MasterTrack 4x3

To mitigate common economic and geographic barriers to getting a master’s degree, established online platforms edX and Coursera have special programs like edX MicroMasters and Coursera MasterTracks, which offer graduate-level courses for a fraction of the average on-campus price tag.

Ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, they can cover up to 50% of a university master’s program’s curriculum. On top of that, you can usually apply your MicroMasters or MasterTrack credits towards select full master’s programs to reduce costs and finish your degree faster. Since both platforms count top universities among their partners, that could eventually mean lower overall tuition costs at schools like MIT, Duke, the University of Michigan, Indiana University, Georgia Tech, and more.

Below, we compared the basic details for each bite-sized graduate program below. Ultimately, the best platform will be the one that offers the program closest to your particular interests and goals. But, in terms of services, edX may edge out Coursera – its offerings are cheaper, significantly more varied, and more lenient overall.

You can find detailed FAQs on Coursera’s MasterTracks and edX’s MicroMasters here, and learn more about Coursera and edX here, including how they compare to each other as e-learning platforms.

You can browse all of edX’s MicroMasters programs here.

You can browse all of Coursera’s MasterTrack programs here.

What is an edX MicroMasters?

MicroMasters Program in Finance 4x3

An edX MicroMasters is an online graduate-level program with courses that cover 25% to 50% of a university’s master’s degree curriculum for a lower cost. 

MicroMasters are designed as a stepping stone toward credit in a full master’s degree, or to strengthen stand-alone skills to help advance your career, offering a certificate of completion to add to your LinkedIn profile or resume. On average, they take roughly six to 12 months to complete.

Plus, every MicroMasters program on edX must be eligible for credit in a full master’s degree program, so you can take the MicroMasters on its own, or potentially apply it to a full degree online afterward. 

While every master’s program offered online through edX includes a MicroMasters program, some of these MicroMasters programs can also be transferred to an on-campus master’s degree, such as the Project Management MicroMasters which is designed to count towards a master’s degree in Professional Studies at RIT. If you’re accepted into an eligible master’s program, your MicroMasters program counts towards the degree requirements.

What is a Coursera MasterTrack?

Coursera Mastertrack

A Coursera MasterTrack is a portion of an on-campus master’s program that’s been adapted online at a lower price than taking the classes in person. On average, MasterTracks range from four to eight months.

Each MasterTrack is a stackable, for-credit program with several courses. In some programs, students are allowed to earn credit toward the full master’s degree program from which the MasterTrack certificate program is based.

For instance, you may apply to the MScA degree from the University of Chicago after the online Machine Learning for Analytics MasterTrack Certificate program and, if admitted, your MasterTrack Certificate will equate to the first two classes in the program (approximately 18% of course requirements), allowing you a headstart on your degree. Sometimes, the MasterTrack may even be “cashed in” to lower the cost of the full, on-campus master’s program.

You can check out a full review of a Coursera MasterTrack program here.

How much do they cost on average?

edX MicroMasters range from $1,000 to $1,500, and you pay all at once. You can buy MicroMasters courses on an individual basis, but if you bundle all the courses in the program at once, you’ll typically save 10% overall. 

All individual courses in edX MicroMasters programs are free to try, so learners can test them out before deciding to pay to upgrade to the verified track. 

Coursera MasterTracks range between $2,000 to $5,000. Some MasterTracks offer installation payment programs — otherwise, students can choose to pay upfront and get a 5% discount. You can’t buy individual courses within a MasterTrack, and you typically can’t try out any of the courses for free before signing up. 

Do they offer financial aid?

Coursera doesn’t offer financial aid or free audit access on its MasterTrack courses.

edX offers financial aid and trial periods for its MicroMasters programs. You can find more information here, though you’ll typically enroll in the course as an audit learner and complete a financial aid application here

How does academic credit work?

university of michigan campus

edX MicroMasters

The edX MicroMasters credits you earn may be accepted by eligible on-campus or online Master’s programs to cover a portion of your master’s degree.

If you’ve successfully earned a MicroMasters program certificate, you can apply to the on-campus or online master’s programs that may accept credits from your MicroMasters program. Every MicroMasters program must be eligible for credit in a master’s degree program. To find your program’s specific details, search for “Certificate & Credit Pathways” or scroll to find this section in the FAQs at the bottom of the page. Once you’re accepted into the master’s program, you can apply your certificate toward a segment of the full master’s degree to reduce the tuition cost and potentially finish your degree sooner. 

Coursera MasterTrack

Coursera MasterTrack credits are often offered for the institution’s full master’s program, but not always. Sometimes, they may reduce the cost of the full-time program.

Once you’ve completed a university’s MasterTrack program, you can sometimes apply to the institution’s full master’s program. If admitted, your certificate will sometimes transfer and equate to a certain number of classes or credits in the program. The exact details vary by school and degree. To find your program’s specific details, search for “Accelerate Your Path to a Degree” or “Earn degree credit” on the page. 

However, some MasterTrack programs don’t offer credit exchanges. For programs like the Blockchain Applications MasterTrack Certificate from Duke, completion doesn’t give you on-campus credit. It does make you eligible to fast-track your application process and get a scholarship that covers10% of the cost of Duke University’s Master of Engineering in FinTech if you apply and are accepted to the program. 

The bottom line: Which one is better?

edX vs. Coursera 4x3

It thoroughly depends on which platform has the best program for your career or educational goals, but edX may have better overall perks. 

edX lets you audit courses for free, gives you lifetime access to its materials, and can provide financial aid for its MicroMasters, while Coursera doesn’t. edX MicroMasters are also cheaper on average than Coursera MasterTrack programs, and edX offers significantly more post-graduate program options.

That being said, it all depends on what you want to study — Coursera has no shortage of great MasterTracks, including offerings from Yale, Duke, and the University of Michigan.

Browse all edX MicroMasters here.

Browse all Coursera MasterTracks here.

A few of the most popular edX and Coursera programs: 

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12 online courses that teach design thinking – a soft skill that can help you find creative solutions and stand out in your career

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E learning Designing Your Life 4x3
  • Design thinking is a creative, human-focused process to problem-solving.
  • It’s about tapping into people’s true needs to create feasible innovations, products, and solutions.
  • Below are 12 design thinking online classes offered by schools like MIT and Stanford.

Design thinking is a concept that’s been gaining popularity over recent years. Broadly, it’s a way of taking a human-focused approach to design and problem-solving. Rather than collecting lots of conflicting data or making predictions without evidence, it encourages people to understand the true motivations of their audience, be it customers, students, or staff members. Design thinking principles can also be useful in your own life, such as figuring out which career you want or how to structure your life.

Below are 12 online design thinking classes, from schools like MIT and Stanford and companies like Microsoft and IDEO. Some are free to audit with an optional, paid certificate; others charge a fee but provide a certificate upon completion. Certificate costs range from $16.99-$599, depending on the class and platform.

Here are 12 online design thinking classes:

Design Thinking Fundamentals

Businessman reviewing project plans on office wall while working on digital tablet

Design Thinking Fundamentals (small)

School: Rochester Institute of Technology

Length: 6 weeks

Cost: Free; $299 for a certificate.  

Part of a longer edX MicroMasters program on Design Thinking, this class covers the basics of design thinking, teaching you how to use design to solve problems. It also debunks the misconception that you have to be artistic to implement design thinking and shows you how to think of it as more of a strategy. 

Stay Competitive Using Design Thinking

Design thinking

Try Stay Competitive Using Design Thinking on LinkedIn Learning here

Instructor: LinkedIn Learning and frog, a global design and strategy firm

Length: 11 hours and 38 minutes

Cost: Free with 1-month trial; $19.99 or $29.99 per month (depending on subscription) after trial ends

Comprised of short videos, this LinkedIn Learning Path is meant for graphic designers and covers the basics of design thinking as well as provides actionable steps to implementing its principles and mastering the process. You’ll get a certificate at the end of the course to add to your LinkedIn profile as well.

Designing Your Career

Man working from home

Designing Your Career (small)

School: Stanford University

Length: 5 weeks

Cost: Free; $50 for a certificate 

By one of the authors of the bestselling “Designing Your Life,” this course applies design thinking to find the right career path for you. It’s self-paced and offers different exercises to help you sort out what you actually like to do and create tangible goals around that information. 

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life

Designing Your Life Course Screenshot

Buy Designing Your Life from CreativeLive here

Instructors: Stanford lecturers Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

Length: 4 hours and 39 minutes

Cost: $29

“Designing Your Life” authors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans teach a broader course that expands on the lessons from their bestselling book — and gives students a more hands-on way to put the ideas into practice through assignments and examples. You can read a full review of the course here.

Design Thinking of Innovation

Young woman writing on sticky notes

Design Thinking for Innovation (small)

School: University of Virginia

Length: 4 weeks

Cost: Free with 7-day trial; $49 per month to keep learning after trial ends

In this course, you learn how to use creativity to solve difficult business and organizational problems and come up with bold, new ideas. You follow a model that asks four key questions to prompt design thinking and learn from real-life organizations as examples. You can also take other courses in the Leading the Modern Day Business Specialization

Learning How to Learn

Man working on home computer

Learning How to Learn (small)

School: McMaster University and UC San Diego

Length: 4 weeks 

Cost: Free; $49 for certificate

One of the most popular Coursera courses, this class teaches you techniques to break up tough subjects and concepts. By emphasizing ways to make learning design easier and more effective, this class demonstrates the importance of a human-focused approach to learning. 

Gamification: Motivation Psychology & The Art of Engagement

Man at home attending to a video conference call

Gamification: Motivation Psychology & The Art of Engagement (small)

Instructor: Rob Sutcliffe, UI designer

Length: 3 hours and 7 minutes 

Cost: $14.99 (Normally $94.99)

In 46 lectures, you cover a crucial component of design thinking: human behavior. Using psychology, you learn what motivates people to act, using this knowledge to build community and motivate staff, students, or customers. You will get a certificate upon completion of the course.

Human-Centered Design: An Introduction

Use your smart watch to swipe your card to enter the subway station

Human-Centered Design: An Introduction (small)

School: UC San Diego

Length: 4 weeks

Cost: Free with 7-day trial; $49 per month to keep learning after trial ends

This class teaches you how to create technologies that people actually like to use, and helps you conduct fieldwork to get a better sense of what people want by asking the right questions in interviews. You can also take other courses in the Interaction Design Specialization

Design Thinking for Leading and Learning

Teenage girl studying with video online lesson at hom

Design Thinking for Leading and Learning (small)

School: MIT and Microsoft

Length: 6 weeks

Cost: Free; $49 for a certificate

Geared towards classroom learning, this course shows you how to apply design thinking to a variety of K-12 school settings. The end goal is to find innovative, pragmatic solutions to educational challenges, with the hope of improving schools and school systems. 

Design Thinking for the Greater Good

Woman in a video conference with her coworkers while working from home

Design Thinking for the Greater Good: Innovation in the Social Sector (small)

School: University of Virginia 

Length: 4 weeks

Cost: Free; $59 for a certificate 

This course focuses specifically on applying design thinking to nonprofit and volunteer work, using examples from governmental, educational, and healthcare institutions to show you how to create new solutions that can help more people. 

From Ideas to Action

Chinese businessman making display in office

From Ideas to Action (small)

Instructor: IDEO U

Length: 5 weeks 

Cost: $599

IDEO is a leading design thinking firm and IDEO U offers certificate courses on the subject. This one in particular teaches you the steps from designing a plan to implementing and testing it, as well as how to learn from failure. You will get a certificate upon completing the course. This course is part of two longer certificate programs, Foundations of Design Thinking and Advanced Design Thinking.

Design Thinking in 3 Steps

young businessman sitting outdoors in the city working on laptop

Design Thinking in 3 Steps (small)

Instructor: Alan Cooper, founder of Designit Strategic Design

Length: 1 hour and 42 minutes

Cost: $189.99

This fairly-quick class focuses on the three pillars of design thinking: understanding your target audience, envisioning an innovative solution, and testing out an idea. Through 55 short lectures, you learn to thoroughly plan out your research methods and storyboard your design ideas. You’ll also get a certificate upon completion of the course.

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