EdX: Online Learning Platform

Product Category Research

Online learning and mass online education have become the trends of adult education in recent years. With online learning, the “product categories” are the courses that are divided by the subjects, for instance, arts, humanities, and others. For this analysis, the “Programs & Degrees” category is the focus of analysis (“edX,” n.d.). In this category, edX offers 11 MicroBachelors programs, which are designed for undergraduate students. Table 1 shows the brands and the variety of the brands at edX—Universities and their programs. Table 2 displays parent manufacturer, unit price, and brand imagery. Table 3 shows the learner segments based on price, benefits, and consumer groups served. Finally, Table 4 shows the distribution of the role of each university brand within this category.

Brand (University offering a course)ProgramsDurationNumber of Courses in this Program
WGUIntroduction to Information Technology6 months3
NYUComputer Science Fundamentals/NYU Introduction to Databases/NYU Programming & Data Structures/NYU Cybersecurity Fundamentals6 months/4 months/9 months/1 year/3/3/4/9
ASUProfessional Writing4 months2
Doane UniversityMarketing Essentials/Business and Professional Communication for Success3 months/3 months4/3
RICEElements of Data Science6 months3
SNHUBusiness Analytics Foundations/Data Management with Python and SQL6 months/8 months2/2

Table 1. The brands and varieties (created by the author)

The parent manufacturer, unit price, and brand imagery
Table 2. The parent manufacturer, unit price, and brand imagery (created by the author)
BrandType of the productBenefitsConsumer groups
WGUInformation technology (IT) course3 academic creditsUndergraduates pursuing a computer science Bachelor’s degree
NYUSeveral courses on IT and programing3 academic credits/3/6/0Undergraduates interested in IT degree
ASUWriting course0 creditsUndergraduates
Doane UniversityMarketing and communications courses3 creditsUndergraduates in marketing degree
RICEIT course0 creditsIT undergraduates
SNHUBusiness analytics and IT course6 credits/6Management and IT undergraduates

Table 3. Segments (created by the author).

BrandRole in the category
NYULeader (the largest number of courses)
Doane UniversityChallenger

Table 4. Brands distribution within this category (created by the author).


Massive open online courses (MOOCs) emerged with the widespread adoption of the Internet and the development of technologies that allow to record videos, store and show contents, and evaluate the progress of learners. A number of online learning platforms have emerged, offering courses both to individual learners and organizations, either in partnership with universities or based on the platform’s own content. Some examples include Coursera, edX, Udemy. This analysis will focus on the market of online education and examine the main competition that edX faces.

Category Size

With category size, the overall market of online education will be evaluated, including the number of learners, courses, and potential demand. edX claims that 577,803 people have used its resources for learning (“edX,” no date).

There are no statistics for the number of people who participated in the MicroBachelors program in particular (“MicroBachelors® programs,” n.d.). Approximately 500 universities globally are engaged in the development of online study programs, which accounts for the 4,200 courses available to users online (Lee & Chung, 2019). Educatico states that there are over 50 million learners that use online platforms globally (“EdX vs. Coursera,” n.d., para. 3). However, this data is based on the number of users and not individual participants, which suggests that the number of learners is smaller. According to Lee and Chung (2019), the average number of participants per course on edX’s platform is 15,341.5. Hence, there are millions of MOOCs learners globally.

Rate of Growth or Decline

A large number of people have used online learning resources even prior to the pandemic. For example, Sabanoglu (2020) argues that in the United Kingdom, 46% of people aged 16-24 use any type of learning materials found online, while 15% enrolled in online courses. Moreover, 22% of people aged from 25 to 34 years have enrolled in an online course, according to the same statistic. Hence, it is evident that a high percentage of young people who develop their careers enroll in online studies.

The report on MOOCs suggests a potential growth of 36% in the following years for MOOCs (“Global Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) market,” 2020). According to the report on MOOCs, “growing demand for economical and scalable educational platforms to offer to the requirements of learners globally is contributing to the growth of the global open online course” (“Global Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) market,” 2020, para. 1). Hence, the demand for MOOCs, the number of learners who choose online studies, and the variety of courses offered by these platforms is likely to continue growing, and precisely the demand for programs that allow obtaining a degree. Moreover, the pandemic and the restrictions regarding face to face interactions suggest that more people will enroll in online courses to pursue a degree.

Primary Competitors and Their Brands

Although MOOCs have become very popular in recent years, not many platforms were able to secure partnerships with top universities of North America, Europe, and Asia. Hence, although edX does compete with platforms such as Udemy and Masterclass, these education platforms offer courses that are less extensive and do not provide the learner with credits recognized by universities. The main competitors of edX are Coursera, Udemy, LinkedIn, Khan Academy, and local platforms (“Global Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) market,” 2020). Hence, the competition in the industry of online learning platforms is intense due to the large number of companies offering online courses.

Udemy’s brand is based on simplicity and low cost. Most courses cost $10 and include several videos from several minutes to several hours (“Udemy,” n.d.). These courses are not designed to be taken for weeks or months.

Moreover, the instructors in these courses do not have to have verified qualifications, and anyone can add their course to this platform. Udemy successfully leverages the low-cost strategy and price unification approach where every product in the category has the same price. Moreover, this platform often offers discounts to its users, and courses can be purchased for $4.99 (“Udemy,” n.d.). However, there are also courses that cost $100 or more. According to the report, Udemy’s brand is targeted towards learners seeking technical education and corporate training (“Global Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) market,” 2020). Hence, they are not edX’s direct competitors, although some courses and learning subjects overlap.

LinkedIn is a distinct competitor because this platform is primarily a social media site for working professionals, and it offers some skill improvement courses. Hence, it is able to draw customers from its network of social site visitors and does not have to engage in other types of advertisement. What differentiates LinkedIn learning from others is that they offer courses under a subscription model instead of a pay per course basis (“LinkedIn Learning,” n.d.). Hence, a consumer pays a monthly fee and gains access to all the materials available on their website, which differentiates LinkedIn’s brand from competitors.

Coursera is the only direct competitor of edX in terms of size, the volume of products it offers, and the benefits they provide to learners in the form of academic credits. Coursera also offers degree programs in partnership with universities, as well as individual courses (“Coursera,” n.d.). Similar to edX, Coursera allows learners to study for free or to select a verified certificate option, where the learners complete assignments and earn a certificate at the end. Coursera has delivered courses to over 37 million users since its establishment in 2012 (“EdX vs. Coursera,” n.d.). This institution partners with over 150 education facilities to develop its learning courses. Unlike edX, Coursera is a for-profit organization, which means that its primary orientation is on earning money and not on providing free content.

Apart from these platforms that tailor to the global audiences and offer courses in English, there are also local platforms. For example, Lee and Chund (2019) compared edX with Korean MOOC providers, which they refer to as K-MOOC. According to Lee and Chung (2020), the average course completion rate is 9%, both for global and K-MOOC. The author’s assessment of local K-MOOCs and global ones, such as edX, shows that the main difference between these platforms is the number of learners.

Khan Academy is a company that is primarily oriented at school students, and its contents are free of charge. Instead, the participants are encouraged to donate to the academy if they are willing to provide a payment (“Khan Academy,” n.d.). Due to the fact that this is a non-profit learning platform and the target audience is primary school-aged learners, there is little competition between edX and Khan Academy.

The nature of learning is changing due to the pandemic, and many universities, including those which partner with edX, expand their online learning offers. Harvard, for instance, has for a long time partnered with edX under the HarvardX brand, and some of the universities’ most popular courses were available to learners (“edX,” n.d.). It is possible that new competitors will arise shortly.

Market Shares of Manufacturers and Their Brands

The provision of MOOCs has become a valid business generating substantial profits for the learning platforms. Duffin (2020) argues that the total market of online learning is evaluated at approximately $243 billion. Specifically, for the self-paced courses where an individual is not restricted by specific timeframes, the market is worth approximately 44 billion US dollars. Coursera had 30 million users in 2018, edX accounted for only 14.4 million (Top 5 MOOC providers by the number of registered users, 2017. (Statistical table), 2017). Other platforms are local providers from China and the United Kingdom, which have less than 10 million users. According to Mordor Intelligence’s report (2020), the market is divided by two major players: Coursera and edX. Hence, other learning platforms hold a tiny percentage of the market share.

As for the distribution by the size and market share between different platforms, the following statistics are available. The market of the MOOCs will grow by at least 40%, and considering that these forecasts were made pre-pandemic, the growth is likely to be higher (“Global Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) market,” 2020). The majority of the development will be attributed to the market shares of Coursera and edX.

Channels of Distribution

Online learning platforms use a direct to consumer distribution channel—the courses are delivered upon the payment, and the learner is able to access them immediately or at a set time. The medium of distribution is edX’s own platform, where individuals select a course, pay, watch the content, and submit assignments. edX’s revenue model is based on the learner earning a verified certificate for their studies if they watch all contents and complete all assignments. According to the report on MOOCs, the leading segments in this industry are “course, component, user type, and geographical regions” (“Global Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) market,” 2020, para. 20). As one can see in Tables 1-3, edX offers a few programs under its MicroBachelors program, most focusing on computer science or related fields with an average cost of $400.

Recent Product Innovations

The most recent development in MOOC is the ability to gain a degree from an affiliated university by studying thoroughly online using edX’s platform. Hence, the MOOC platforms are the disruptors of traditional education, and they offer better accessibility and variety to learners (Al-Imarah & Shields, 2019). This is the core reason why this market will continue to grow and implement new ways of learning.

The MicroBachelors and MicroMasters programs at edX are two examples of how online education is becoming more closely linked to offline studies. In 2018, edX introduced several Master’s programs which a learner can pursue fully online (“Global Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) market,” 2020). During the same year, LinkedIn developed its platform for learning professionals and partnered with LMS providers. Coursera began its partnership with several universities to introduce new programs.

The new developments in the MOOC segment suggest that the focus of edX and its competitors is on the provision of programs that would allow an individual to gain a degree, for example, a Bachelor’s or a Masters. One concern of the MOOC studies is the low completion rate, and perhaps future developments will focus on creating a more interactive experience. Additionally, Educatioco argues that because large MOOCs companies are funded by venture capital, they are becoming more profit-oriented, and more courses become unavailable to users (“EdX vs. Coursera,” n.d.). Additionally, Coursera has been reorienting itself to target corporate users, for example, by allowing to purchase courses for companies, which is another new trend. In summary, it appears that the landscape of MOOCs is changing, with more orientation on profits rather than free contents and full-scale education programs instead of individual courses.


Overall, this paper is the marketing analysis of the “Programs & Degrees” category at the online education platform edX. The research has shown that currently, the platform offers a limited number of courses for programming and computer science. However, the market of online education is growing, and it is presently evaluated at over $200 billion. Moreover, unlike most competitors, edX partners with universities and provides verified content and credits.


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