EdX builds community of developers for its online- and blended-learning platform

Stanford, UC Berkeley and University of Queensland among those contributing to the platform released via open source license.


The following is adapted from a press release issued today by edX.

EdX, the not-for-profit online learning enterprise composed of the leading global institutions of the xConsortium, released its learning platform via open source license on June 1 and today released details of the first educational institutions and organizations that are contributing code to the platform.

In addition to the early and continuing contributions of edX founding partners, MIT and Harvard, xConsortium members such as Berkeley and University of Queensland are collaborating on the edX platform. Stanford University and technology providers 10gen and the Concord Consortium are also contributing to the platform. EdX is working closely with these organizations to provide source code, development resources and a collaborative environment to facilitate ongoing enhancements and features. 

With this week’s release of the entire platform via open source license, edX is enabling the global development community to both use and help build a next-generation learning platform.

“One of the founding principles of edX was the creation of a learning platform as an open source project. We are pleased that our development team met our commitment to release the source code ‘as is’ on June 1,” stated Rob Rubin, vice president of engineering for edX. “We are an open source initiative because we think the community can help us dramatically improve the product, and we expect that there are teams who can collaborate with us to experiment with and evolve the teaching and learning experience. We look forward to the impact that expanding the edX platform developer community will have in the future.”

Recent contributions to edX’s open source platform include:

  • Stanford University has contributed functionality such as real-time chat, bulk e-mail, new installation scripts, operations tools and integration with external survey tools to the platform. The University has also installed an instance of the edX platform at class.stanford.edu. Stanford will use the joint platform for both online course content for on-campus students and some online classes available to the public, including “How to Learn Math,” a course to help K-12 teachers and parents change the way students approach math; “Statistics in Medicine,” a course that teaches statistics by drawing on examples from contemporary health topics; and its popular "Three Books" summer reading program for incoming Stanford freshmen, incorporating short video lectures, real-time text chat and a discussion forum.
  • At UC Berkeley, Professor Pieter Abbeel’s computer science graduate student, Arjun Singh led a team that has developed fully integrated forum software that enables students to discuss assignments directly on the platform without having to move to a separate forum. Arjun has made many contributions to the platform, including helping his advisor to build CS188.1x, UC Berkeley’s introduction to Artificial Intelligence course. Professor Armando Fox at Berkeley has contributed the graders used in CS169, Software as a Service, to the platform. This is an important development, as computer scientists initially developed automated grading capabilities to address the needs of their on-campus courses. Automated graders enable professors to provide more meaningful assignments and a greater opportunity for students to learn and receive feedback.
  • The University of Queensland (UQ) has contributed an XBlock, an application programming interface (API) for integrating learning objects, supporting Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI). UQ is also developing the Shibboleth SAML-based federated identity XBlock and a discussion tool that will be piloted next month.

“This platform offers another avenue for the delivery of educational material from Stanford as well as an exciting opportunity for other universities to develop their own online coursework with minimal barriers to entry,” said John Mitchell, vice provost for online learning and professor of computer science at Stanford. “By giving universities the ability to manage their online coursework directly or through a third-party provider, using a high-quality platform, we hope to continue broadening access to new educational opportunities for students of all types around the world.”

Interested developers are able to freely access the source code of the edX learning platform as well as contributions to the platform at code.edx.org. Source code for specific projects include:

  • edX’s Learning Management System (LMS);
  • Studio, a course authoring tool;
  • XBlock, an API for integrating interactive learning objects;
  • machine grading API’s.

Currently, the areas where edX is ready for individual contributions or feedback include the edX Open Response Assessor (ORA) and grading APIs, the XBlock architecture and internationalization of the platform. EdX expects to complete integration of XBlocks into the platform over the next few months.


Topics: Collaboration, Education, teaching, academics, EdX, Massive open online courses (MOOCs), MITx, online learning, Open source, Software

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