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Dear edX!

Dear edX,

I was in my 2nd year of college when you came to life. And I was ecstatic! No, not to be in college (LOL) but to have finally found my calling. Computer programming. I was browsing through all the resources I could find. Codecademy courses mainly. And right at that moment, you arrived. Your parents hail from the Harvard University and from the MIT. So of course you received my attention. Also, you had an unique selling point: free certificates. This was huge! No one else was doing it. It seemed you were actually trying to help students learn new skills and show off to the world.

I was stoked to enroll into the course developed world's top professors. The free certificates were a big motivator to complete the courses. The first course I enrolled into was developed by The Linux Foundation. I have taken several courses since then. Some were on computer programming, some were about a country's history and some provided advice on career growth and personal finance. 2 of the most challenging courses I enrolled into were CS50 by the Harvard University and Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python by the MIT. These courses were of tremendous help in getting me job ready. I learned a lot from the courses you offered. And best of all, I could show recruiters the certificates I earned after passing the final exams. But suddenly in 2015, you said that certificates will no longer be given to student who audit courses. You are only going to offer verified certificates for the hefty fee.
Screenshot from edX showing a sample verified certificate
This came as a shock to me. From the very beginning you thought free certificates would motivate students. But now you were backtracking. No matter how you justified, the decision seemed to be driven by money. Yes, I understand that it takes a lot of resources and money to build and maintain an online learning platform like edX. But you're funded by some of the richest universities in the USA!
Screenshot from an edX course page mentioning the course's expiry date
Although I was sad, the news didn't bother me that much. I thought to myself, as long as I can access the content, it would be fine... Were you eavesdropping me? Because the next thing I know, you are restricting access to the course content. Now THIS PISSED ME OFF! Why would you do that? I guess students didn't buy your verified certificates, did they? So you'll do anything to get them to spend money! Not cool edX. Not cool at all.

  • 1st rule of online success: You don't take away free features.
  • 2nd rule of rule of online success: You don't piss your customers off!

Just a month before you stopped offering free certificates, Pushbullet tried to pull off a similar tactic. And it went horribly! I guess you didn't get the news. Couldn't you come up with features people would like to pay for? Or you could have gone the other way; charge money from the start. Gregg, the founder of Code School, said in one of his videos that he charged a fee for the platform from the very beginning, even when the project was in beta. He did this so that people will have the right mindset i.e. they needed to pay for the courses. Honestly speaking, the verified certificates are very expensive for the average Indian. You did say you had a big focus on India, didn't you? Your other programs like MicroMasters, XSeries are ridiculously expensive. I wonder what's going on... Did you change your mind? Do you not want to "increase access to high-quality education for everyone, everywhere" anymore? What's next edX? Will you remove the free access all together?

I am very disappointed. I hope you know what you're doing.

Love,
Tuhin

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