EdX is a non-profit website that offers over 300 massive online open courses (MOOCs), providing access to a world-class education to anyone with an internet connection at little or no cost. Initially started as a joint venture between MIT and Harvard, edX has expanded to include partnerships with top universities around the globe including Caltech, Dartmouth, Columbia, University of Queensland, and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. EdX is now embarking on courses for teenagers by offering high school-level options, including Advanced Placement (AP) courses.
The AP program was developed by the College Board, the same organization behind the SAT. The 34 AP courses that are offered at schools are desirable because they provide a more challenging curriculum to exceptional high school students, on par with the information found in introductory-level college classes.
Even better, satisfactory completion of a standardized AP exam can even translate into college credit for those 100-level courses. This allows college freshman to begin their first semester with certain prerequisites out of the way. Not only does this save time, but it saves a great deal of money as tuition costs continue to climb.
While the AP program has been expanding over the last decade, these advanced courses are still unavailable in about 40% of high schools. While a student does not need to be enrolled in an AP class at his or her school to take the exam, the classes are designed to prep students for the very specific manner in which they will be tested. The edX courses are structured to give that same level of preparation.
EdX is currently offering AP STEM courses in Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Physics, Algebra, Geometry, Calculus, and Environmental Science. These courses are taught by instructors from top institutions including Boston University, MIT, Georgetown, and Rice University.
All of the edX AP courses and related materials will be offered free of charge, however, this does not include the AP exam fee. Students seeking an identification-verified Certificate of Achievement for work performed in the course will have to pay an additional fee that varies by course. Choice in earning a certificate or not does not influence the amount of materials made available or affect one’s chances of passing the AP exam.
It is important to note that in order to gain the college credit for an AP class, the exam must be taken at a site approved by the College Board—completion of the tests in the edX class alone won’t cut it. Exams are offered in May for a fee of $91, though financial aid is available for those who demonstrate a need. Though this might sound steep for a test, earning the college credit offers significant savings. Even at a community college, a three credit course could easily run over $250 and require $100 in textbooks.
Individual institutions have their own policies for how they accept AP credit, so students should check with the admissions department of their desired schools to learn how AP credit will work for them.