1. Welcome!

Welcome to online learning with edX! At edX, we are glad to welcome new learners to the edx.org website or to the edX mobile app, as well as to all of the other websites that use the Open edX platform to deliver courses around the world. We hope that you are as excited about online learning as we are.

The purpose of this guide is to help with your transition to online learning. The guide answers common questions about topics like getting started in an online course, earning certificates, participating in course discussions, and completing some of the exercises you may see in your course.

This guide is continuously being updated and expanded, so we encourage you to let us know what was helpful, and what was not, by selecting Feedback on any page or by sending an email message to docs@edx.org.

1.1. Learning in a MOOC

A massive, open, online course (MOOC) typically uses videos and text to present course content, although you might also encounter other types of reading assignments, such as textbooks and online articles. A MOOC also includes assessments, in the form of practice questions, homework assignments, and exams. To help you share information, ask questions, and collaborate with other learners and the course team, course discussions are available.

Videos and other types of course content, assessments, and discussions are used in virtually every MOOC on the edx.org website. These course components are also used to create the courses on websites that use the Open edX online learning platform. Everyone is welcome to review examples of these components, and practice using them, by enrolling in the edX Demo course.

Depending on the course, a variety of enhanced components might also be included, from team problem-solving exercises and lab work to live demonstrations and ask me anything (AMA) sessions. Every course has a unique design, and course teams are continuously looking for new ways to engage learners and teach more effectively. Course teams typically include instructions for how to use any enhanced components right in the course.

MOOCs bring learners from all over the world together. The people who you take a course with have a wide variety of educational backgrounds and educational goals. One part of the MOOC experience that everyone shares is encountering new ways of learning. As a result, most learners occasionally have questions about what is expected, how to complete an assignment, or what a word, phrase, or abbreviation means.

If you have a question about something you encounter in an edX course, try these options for getting an answer.

  • Check the Home page. Course teams use this page to post updates about the course, which can include explanations about course content, reminders about when graded assignments are due, or announcements for upcoming events or milestones.
  • Look for an “Introduction”, “Overview”, or “Welcome” section on the Course page. Course teams often include general information about how the course works and what you can expect, and also what they expect from you, in the first section in the course.
  • Participate in the course discussions. If you encounter an unfamiliar word, phrase, or abbreviation, such as “finger exercise” or “board work”, search for it on the Discussion page, or post a question about it yourself. Other learners might be able to answer your question, or might have the same question themselves. Your comments and questions give the course team useful feedback for improving the course.
  • Investigate other resources. Within the course, a wiki, if one is available, can be a good source of information. Outside of the course, a course-specific Facebook page or Twitter feed might be available for learners to share information.

1.2. A Note about Time Zones

The dates and times that new materials are released, and when homework assignments and exams are due, are shown throughout your course.

In your account settings, you can select your local time zone so that any course dates and times are displayed in your local time.


If you do not select a time zone in your account settings, edX lists dates and times on your dashboard, in the body of the course, and on your Progress page in the time zone that your browser settings specify. Other times and dates appear in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Dates and times that use your browser time zone are in military time and are followed by a time zone indicator: for example, 17:00 Sept 16, 2018 IOT. Dates and times in UTC do not have a time zone indicator.

To convert UTC time to your local time, you can use any time zone converter that you want, including one of the following time zone converters.