Skip to Content

Best EdX ESL Courses Guide

Best EdX ESL Courses Guide
Latest posts by Erin Jamieson (see all)

One of my best experiences teaching has been in a developmental English course. International students and students who grew up speaking different dialects were eager to learn- and improved tremendously over the semester.

I also know people who have gone to teach ESL students- and likewise have seen opportunities open up to those students. There are many ways to improve English grammar and writing skills, and now, they are more affordable than ever.

edX makes learning English easy. They have zero requirements to sign up, and many of their English as a second language courses are free. From test preparation for college admissions to intermediate and advanced grammar and even some interesting courses in business, here’s the best of what edX has to offer.

I’ll guide you through the best courses for different needs- and what you need to know before enrolling. 

Bottom Line Up Front Summary: Whether you’re trying to sharpen your English skills for business or studying for a test, like TOEFL, edX offers free and affordable courses to help you learn at your own pace online. If you’re motivated, already have a foundation in basic English skills, and have a packed schedule, these courses could help. The best course for you depends entirely on your goals and current knowledge. 

If I had to recommend one of these courses for someone not studying for a specific exam, it would have to be Upper Intermediate English Business. Even if you have no intention to go into a business profession, this free course has a lot to offer.

The main focus of this course is to broaden your vocabulary and improve your grammar. As a bonus, you’ll get insights about the job market and resources for grammar if you forget. 

My Top Picks

  1. TOEFL Test Preparation Course: Best For Prospective Students 
  2. IELTS Test Preparation Course: Best For Prospectives in Job Market
  3. English Communication Skills: Best Comprehensive Course
  4. Upper-Intermediate English Business: Best Free Business Course 
  5. Upper-Intermediate English (Certificate): Best Certificate Sequence
  6. Academic English: Best For Current High School/ College Students

What You Need to Know About edX ESL Courses

EdX ESL Courses

While the term ESL is also used to describe ESL careers, here, it’s referring to courses intended for most international students. edX courses include both free and paid options. Nearly everything is online and self-paced, which is great if you need flexibility and can learn mostly on your own. 

What these courses can’t guarantee is a job or acceptance into a college or university. It’s best to see these courses as convenient ways to learn and improve your English skills. If you have those expectations, you’ll have a better experience with edX. 

How I Selected the Best ESL Courses from edX

With that in mind, I had a task ahead of me: sorting through all the ESL courses from edX to find the best options. I wanted my choices to show courses designed for a specific purpose and a type of student. Luckily, there are several that fall into this category. 

Types of Courses 

I wanted to include affordable ESL courses. By bypassing the most expensive courses, I’m showing you courses that are still helpful but offer a solid overall value. Most of my recommendations include free courses (with an option to upgrade for additional support).

I did slip in just a few recommendations where I think your money will be well-spent. Since everyone has different schedules, I included both standalone courses and course sequences. 

For College Admissions

A few of these ESL courses are especially helpful for students who want to enter college. Test preparation courses are among the best ESL courses edX has for students. While they are not as immersive as some test prep course platforms, they are quite affordable (even free) in comparison- so these courses are a great value for tight budgets. 

For Professionals 

Business and marketing are the two main career fields that these edX courses target. To find the best, I examined the hard and soft skills learned. I also selected courses that align with everyday challenges and in-demand careers. 

Holistic Training 

The final category of ESL courses that I’m including is holistic training. These courses are intended for any non-native speaker. I settled on just one option, looking for a course that provides a solid foundation for future studying. Rather than looking for something niche, I wanted to find a course sequence that offered nuanced and comprehensive materials for grammar and syntax. 

Overall Quality

Finally, I considered the overall value of the course. That meant looking at the instructors, course curriculum, schedule, content covered, and fees. I wanted to select ESL courses with the best experience possible for students of all kinds. 

Top ESL Courses to Take from edX

Here are my top selections for the best ESL courses you can take from edX today. These courses are all intended for different students. I’ll guide you through what to expect, who each course is best for, and other important things you need to know before signing up. 

TOEFL Test Preparation Course

TOEFL Test Preparation Course

There are many TOEFL preparation courses online, and if you need something with personalized attention, I recommend looking into a dedicated test prep platform. That said, if you’re on a budget and have limited time, I do like the value of the TOEFL prep course on edX. 

While it’s not as personalized as some TOEFL courses, edX goes above and beyond for the price point. You’ll get quizzes, sample questions, and a good amount of test practice. I love that the course even includes collaborative discussion boards.

And one invaluable area is learning about the test. This edX course takes you through the TOEFL test structure, scoring, and tools you need to know about to do your best on test day. 

Who It’s For / Why It’s Important

TOEFL is widely used for graduate and undergraduate international students. Some international professionals may also take it to increase their chances of employment in the United States. Always check with your intended school or prospective job to see if this is the right exam for you. (Learn About TOEFL Here). edX is offering a free to low-cost, quick prep service than can also be used as a supplement with deeper studying if you need it.  

Duration & Schedule

6 weeks, assuming 2 to 4 hours per week; self-paced

How to Enroll

Enroll Here; Free with an Upgraded Option


  • Discussion Forums
  • Practice Quizzes, Answers 
  • Succinct Guide to TOEFL


  • Not as Personalized as Some Options
  • TOEFL isn’t Needed For Everyone 

IELTS Test Preparation Course

IELTS Test Preparation Course edx esl

Just like the TOEFL prep course from edX, this IELTS course is a great value and a good idea if you’re on a time or price budget. But, you’ll need to plan a little more than the edX TOEFL course, as this covers a little more.

In preparation for the IELTS, you’ll be able to study over 80 hours of content. And, like any good preparation course for IELTS, you’ll practice writing, reading, speaking, and listening- all critical skills for the exam. You’ll be taught by instructors from the University of Queensland, all of whom have experience working within testing centers and around test materials.

What stands out to me is less the sheer amount of content but more that it’s supplemented with test-taking strategies, so you learn how to successfully navigate IELTS. It also includes materials in multimedia formats- which is important to practice those four critical skills. 

Who It’s For / Why It’s Important

While TOEFL is more student-oriented, IELTS preparation courses are intended for immigrants who wish to work in an English-speaking country- and a separate exam for students. This preparation course is highly flexible and provides materials to help you master each section. Learn If You Need IELTS

Duration & Schedule

8 weeks, assuming 5 to 10 hours per week; self-paced

How to Enroll

Free, with Option to Upgrade; Enroll Here


  • Over 80 Hours of Content
  • Multimedia Modes
  • Teaches All 4 Main Sections


  • Doesn’t Distinguish Between Academic vs. General 
  • Not as Personalized as Some Prep

English Communication Skills

English Communication Skills

This ESL edX course is a great next step for beginners. The fee may seem a little high, but keep in mind that you have 8 months’ worth of content (depending on your pace) and provides a pretty comprehensive study of English communication skills. 

In a series of three connected courses, you’ll learn the basics: from introducing yourself to discussing jobs, family, places, and holding conversations with others. Conversational skills, reading and writing proficiency, and academic English are all included. It’s a solid foundation for anyone who wants to live in an English-speaking community. All 6 instructors are from Tsinghua University. 

Who It’s For / Why It’s Important

Anyone who needs a well-rounded course in speaking and writing in English; a good follow-up to a beginner’s course. Being able to communicate in English effectively can open up travel and living opportunities, as well as some jobs. 

Duration & Schedule

8 months, assuming 2 to 4 hours a week; self-paced

How to Enroll

Around $500 (2022) for Full Program; Enroll Here


  • Teaches Conversational English
  • Teaches Academic English
  • Well-Rounded Course Sequence 


  • Longer Time Commitment
  • Cost

Upper-Intermediate English Business 

Upper-Intermediate English Business 

If you’ve already taken beginner’s courses and are pretty confident in your English skills, this intermediate to advanced course might be helpful. Intended for business professionals or those interested in entering a business field, this edX course is intended to expand your vocabulary. 

Reading comprehension, grammar lessons, video lessons, and speaking practice are all included. But what makes this edX course out is how those materials are applied.

You’ll learn about everything from risk management to running a business and related topics- all while improving your English language skills. If you’re stuck, you’ll also have access to Cambridge University’s First Certificate in English examination materials. 

Who It’s For / Why It’s Important

Anyone who’s taken introductory ESL courses and is interested in entering a business-related profession; this edX course helps enhance your skills and give you more confidence in a career field 

Duration & Schedule

4 weeks, assuming 3 to 5 hours per week; self-paced

How to Enroll

Free with Optional Upgrade; Enroll Here


  • Applied to Business Contexts
  • Includes Grammar Lessons
  • Expands Knowledge of Vocabulary 


  • More Cursory Look at Business
  • No Interactive Forums 

Upper-Intermediate English (Certificate)

Upper-Intermediate English (Certificate)

From preparing for interviews to practicing speaking skills, this intermediate sequence of courses from edX is a smart choice for anyone looking to continue their education without a heavy price tag. Though it’s not free, this sequence of intermediate courses has a lot to offer. 

In a series of 3 courses, you’ll learn about communicating professionally. While my previous touch focused on the basics of business communication, this course includes topics such as business and industry, business and modern life; business and globalization, and business and technology.

I love that you’re learning soft skills and even some hard skills. Everything you learn is meant to improve English skills but also teaches about the business side of English. 

You’ll practice speaking, grammar, and interviewing techniques and learn a lot in the process. 

Who It’s For / Why It’s Important

For anyone who’s taken beginner and intermediate English courses and is ready to try the job market; this edX course takes you through specialized situations and includes real-world applications. 

Duration & Schedule

4 months, assuming 3 to 5 hours per week; self-paced

How to Enroll

About $200 (2022) For Full Program; Enroll Here


  • Learn How to Succeed in Interviews
  • Practical Applications
  • Cohesive and Well-Rounded


  • Not Beginner-Friendly 
  • No Free Option

Academic English

Academic English

My final pick for the best ESL edX courses is this stand-alone, free course. Focusing on academic English, this course is intended for any future or current students who want to prepare or sharpen their skills. 

In a slowly-paced 10-week course, you’ll learn how to write and plan for an argumentative essay, how to write with clarity, and how to use conventions. Grammar, tone, formatting, research, review, and finding reputable sources are the main topics covered. You’ll be led by a professor at the University of Queensland.

In a course like this, the upgraded option may make sense. With the upgraded version, you’ll have your assignments graded and receive feedback. 

Who It’s For / Why It’s Important

This course covers many topics tackled in an introductory composition course but with ESL learners in mind. It’s best for high school students and college students who need extra practice. 

Duration & Schedule

10 weeks, assuming 2 to 3 hours per week; self-paced

How to Enroll

Free with Optional Upgrade; Enroll Here


  • Useful for College, High School
  • Teaches Research Skills
  • Teaches Important Revision Skills 


  • Limited Focus (Argumentative Essays)
  • Free Version Doesn’t Include Feedback 

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Are edX courses legitimate?

Answer: edX courses are safe and secure to take- but it’s also important to realize what they’re best for. edX courses are intended to develop your skills, experience, and knowledge. If you’re looking at their micro master’s courses, it’s possible you can earn graduate credit.

For the most part, however, edX courses are the best ways to practice, expand your knowledge, and explore different subjects. If you complete an edX course, you can place it under a skills or training section on a resume. And a huge plus is that most of their courses are designed by professors (and professionals) from accredited institutions. 

Question: Can I study ESL online?

Answer: You can study ESL online- depending on your learning style and expectations. ESL courses and certifications are available online from platforms such as edX as well as language-focused platforms.

Some even offer personalized feedback or immersive chat conversations. The other plus side is learning online is usually both cheaper and more flexible. That said, you’ll need to be organized and self-motivated. 

Question: Can I teach ESL without a degree?

Answer: You can teach ESL without a specific degree- with caveats. It depends on who you are teaching, at what level, and where. Most positions will require a Bachelor’s degree in some form, but they may be less picky about a specific degree.

Some countries abroad are even more flexible, offering ESL jobs (especially in South America) without a Bachelor’s. However, a 4-year degree and training with increase opportunities and pay. 

Question: Is ESL a good career?

Answer: ESL can be a rewarding career- but you have to love teaching. ESL careers are in high demand- even within business settings- and while they don’t pay a ton, they carry an average salary in the $50K range, with opportunities for advancement.

The best part of going into ESL is helping others, impacting lives, and seeing that progress as you work. It can be a challenging job and does take patience, but work-life balance is usually better than in many careers. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re trying to shore up your English skills or even preparing for a test like TOEFL or IELTS, edX offers ESL courses designed to help non-native speakers advance their education and career. With any luck, you’ll find a course that will enhance your skills and prepare you for the next step on your journey. 

Final Recommendations 

Not sure which ESL course from edX is right for you? Assuming you’re not studying for a specific test and already have taken a beginner’s English course, the best option would be Upper Intermediate English-Business.

Even those with no intention of going into business will find value in this free online English course. It’s the best stepping stone after a beginner’s course, with support for grammar and vocabulary. The business context makes it more interesting, but the main benefit is that you’re improving and expanding your English language skills. 

Read also: