Learn new technology skills with free Microsoft training online courses from edX, the massive open online course (MOOC) provider. Microsoft in conjunction with edX make available a large range of courses.  This article will cover some common questions about this offering and provide some resources.

What is a MOOC?

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are online, self-paced training courses that are available to everyone at no cost.  Anyone can enrol in an edX course and audit the course, this means students can access the course contents for free.  Microsoft has made available many technology courses on the edX platform.

Worth noting, edX courses can be either self-paced or instructor-paced. The difference being self-paced courses don’t follow a set schedule while instructor-paced courses do, with specific due dates for course activities. Most if not all of the Microsoft courses are self-paced.

What subjects are available?

Microsoft has published courses on subjects including the following, though availability is subject to change:

  • IoT, Big Data
  • Cybersecurity
  • Azure
  • Microsoft Office
  • IT Support
  • Excel and Power BI 
  • DevOps
  • Development including with Java, Python, JavaScript, C#
  • PowerShell
  • Office 365

Why take a Microsoft edX course?

It’s a great way to try out new subjects that are of interest, also for ongoing professional development, as well as for those entering technology/IT as a profession and picking up essential skills to start their career.

These courses are easier to fit in alongside other commitments like work, home life or other education endeavours because of their self-study and self-paced nature.

How do I know if edX is right for me?

Try the DemoX course, this is a free introduction designed to help you explore the edX learning experience.  It’s a great introduction to what edX can offer.

What’s the best way to find a course?

The Microsoft school page mentioned at the end of the article shows all courses Microsoft have run including current ones you can enrol on as well as archived courses, that are not currently available. 

From the front page of the edX home page in the ‘What do you want to learn?’, click the magnifying glass icon, to display all courses.  In the ‘Refine your search’ area, under Schools & Partners, click ‘Filter by School/Partner’, pick Microsoft and select Submit. Now finally in Availability in the ‘Refine your search’ area, select Current. 

This shows Microsoft courses you can enrol on, currently 124 courses at the time of writing. Browse this list to find a suitable course and to make it even easier, use the list option, which is one of the two icons towards the top of the results.  

What are some recommended courses?

The author can highly recommend the Microsoft Service Adoption Specialist course.  For anyone interested in Office 365, Microsoft 365 or Microsoft Teams and how to best introduce these services to maximize end-user satisfaction and productivity, this is a superb course.

For a related but more technical course, the Enabling Teamwork with Microsoft Teams is a great option and comes with hands-on labs.

For someone starting a career in IT, a very common path is IT support and the Microsoft Professional Program in IT Support is a perfect series of courses to prepare for this. 

How much time does it take to complete a course?

Each course outlines how much effort is required for completion, it’s in the format of hours per week across a set number of weeks.  Students can adjust the pace to suit their learning style. 

After enrolling on a course, the course page shows important dates, including when the course ends and the verification upgrade deadline. 

What is the verified track?

While anyone can enrol in a course and access the course contents, when a student is taking the course to further their career or job prospects, the verified track offers a number of benefits.  This includes graded assessments, verified certificates and unlimited course access.    

How does verification work?

There is a fee involved, often $99 USD for Microsoft courses, this includes an identity check, to make sure the student is who they say they are. This ID check lasts for a year but a fee is required for every course where a verified certificate is required.

Students can start for free, auditing the course and then upgrade to the verified track later. 

How do I upgrade? Can I start on the audit track and upgrade later?

What are graded assignments?

These can take the form of quizzes throughout the different parts of the course and then a final exam. The answers are assessed and the student has one opportunity to answer each question. Each course will outline it’s grade requirements to pass the course and receive the verified certificate.

What are course discussions?

Students can provide feedback, ask questions and network with other students on the same course by participating in course discussions.  This is available once enrolled on a course and its accessible on the course page. 

Participating in Course Discussions

What is the Microsoft Professional Program? 

Here is Microsoft's description but bear in mind, it’s a collection of edX courses that teach an overarching topic and requires purchasing the verified track for each course:

The Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) is a collection of courses that teach skills in several core technology tracks that help you excel in the industry's newest job roles.

These courses are created and taught by experts and feature quizzes, hands-on labs, and engaging communities. For each track you complete, you earn a certificate of completion from Microsoft proving that you mastered those skills.

For more information go to https://academy.microsoft.com.

What about Microsoft certification?

These edX courses are complementary to learning new skills and doesn’t replace Microsoft certification. Microsoft is starting to adopt new role-based criteria along with several new certifications, starting with Azure and Microsoft 365.  Here is a related article on the new Microsoft 365 training and certification options.

Where is there more information about Microsoft and edX?