In our opinion, these are the five best, newly developed XBlocks:
Staff Graded Assignment. Students are invited to upload documents as a way to encapsulate their work on their assignments. Instructors download the files and grade them.
Mentoring. It automates the workflow of real-life mentoring within an edX course. It supports free-form answers, multiple choice and response questions, rating scales and progression tracking.
Ooyala Video Player. It places Ooyala videos into edX courses. It supports transcripts, overlays –to place raw text or HTML content at a specific moment in your video– and player tokens –to secure your video content using a token with an expiration time.
Drag and Drop. Students are required to drag and drop texts or images into different sections as specified by the assignment.
Image Explorer. It allows display tooltips of an image within the course content.
See a more complete list here. The official explanation of XBlock architecture is at this URL.
The edX Consortium has taken into consideration Stanford University‘s recommendations regarding how to properly run the Open edX community and the platform, and has committed to implement many of those ideas on the 2014-2015 road map.
Beth Porter, VP of Product at edX, has announced this week that the edX product development team will perform these tasks by the end of 2014.
1. Create public bug list and active backlog
2. Create and update public road map on a quarterly basis
3. Develop named releases and publish them on a quarterly basis
4. Publish our API and make the interfaces public [this API will provide another avenue for integration]
5. Designate full-time community manager
6. Clarify and welcome dialog about the Open edX mission
7. Define KPIs for success of Open edX (including phone home feature with opt out)
8. Sponsor Open edX conference (Nov 19, 2014)
9. Publish our XML format (edXML)
10. Launch a Platform Adopter Web site (+Developer area)
Beyond its own developments, edX Consortium makes a call for external code contributions and indicates the features that would become part of the supported Open edX platform:
1. Support site styling (subset of theming)
2. Support Open Stack
3. Support LTI 2.0
4. Support OLI courses on edX
5. Support Mozilla Open Badges integration
6. Support Shibboleth integration [no community partner]
Finally, edX acknowledges that there are “features that we don’t anticipate having the capacity or interest in developing in the near term.” These items are:
Full installation scripts and supporting documentation for non-AWS deployments
Full SIS, LMS, and other campus system integration projects
Investment in on-call or full service support engineering team for adopters and developers
The edX Consortium has announced this week a partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labor to start in September a MOOC portal in Arabic, intended for women, youth, disabled people and citizens in rural areas.
The courseware will combine originally produced content with existing courses licensed by edX university members and translated into Arabic. This portal, empowered by Open edX technology, “will deliver vocational and employability skills to historically underserved learners in the region,”explained Anant Agarwal, CEO at the edX Consortium.
The initiative follows edX’s adoption model as implemented in countries like France (fun-mooc.fr), China (XuetangX.org), Jordan (edraak.org), Mexico and Rwanda, and it comes at a time wherein the private sector is growing rapidly and business opportunities are expanding in Saudi Arabia –a country wherein the public sector accounts for two-thirds of employment and about 30 percent of young people and women are unemployed, according to the IMF.
Saudi Arabia will make a “significant investment in Open edX and edX’s services”, according to edX. It will be a multi-year collaboration that includes “a research component focused on learning through innovative technologies and R&D”.
A MOOC competitor in the region is Queen Rania Foundation’s Edraak.org, a portal launched in May 2014 as the first not-for-profit Arab platform for MOOCs. The initiative was born also as a result of a partnership with the edX Consortium.
Back then pretty much the same enthusiastic comments were officially released. “We are honored to be a part of Edraak that will open up a world of possibility for intellectually hungry Arab youth and Arab-speaking students worldwide,” said edX Consortium in May. In its latest PR release there was no mention of edraak.org’s project.
There are many ways to film and produce MOOCs and instructional videos. It seems that a fully scripted video seems to be the preferred approach by many educators. But there are other ways to gain subject-related knowledge.
Meet the University of Hong Kong, an edX Consortium university, and its latest filming experiment. They have adopted three different approaches when recording MOOCs.
Location Filming. It is the best choice for some courses such as this one in Vernacular Architecture.
Far beyond creating a nice and engaging input, there is always the possibility of creating –or at least trying to create– viral MOOC videos.
Watch above, for example, George Mason University’s Professor Donald J. Boudreaux’s five-minute video lecture on the evolution of human prosperity: killer graphics, slick animation, studio lighting, multiple takes… A professional film studio in San Francisco spent two full days filming the four lectures that compose the course “Everyday Economics”. The video has gotten over 130,000 views.
Open edX’s technology possibilities are endless; this software can become the dominant, ubiquitous solution of the educational world, specially now that we know that it is used by the 31 member universities of the edX Consortium and Google is about to launch its MOOC.org, a YouTube-style portal for courses.
However, we are still far from that. What do we need, then, to guarantee the ultimate success of Open edX?
Basically, the xConsortium who runs Open edX must involve the open-source community with further conviction.
As developers and contributors to the Open edX community, and having worked for six universities, here at IBL we think that one of the most urgent recommendations is to set up a public bug tracking. Otherwise, there is no way to know if a bug has been identified and someone is addressing and fixing it.
Another practical suggestion is to attach some documentation to the frequent –almost weekly– software updates at GitHub.
Stanford advises to move to only 2-4 stable releases per year with notes, upgraded scripts, and improved packaging and clear version numbering. And that is fine too.
Open edX is amazing, disruptive technology. It is worth the effort!
An engineer from this University, Sef Kloninger, has shared a snapshot of the features Stanford has built on its own Open edX’s instance.
So far we knew that those contributions included “real-time chat, bulk email, new installation scripts, operations tools and integration with external survey tools”, according to Stanford’s website.
The all-new features Stanford has built on Open edX are:
Chat for on-campus courses
Shopping cart / Cybersource payment for paid courses
Authoring tool improvements (e.g. view this unit in Studio, check all captions)
Basic analytics (metrics tab)
LTI 2.0 (multiple submissions)
Send anonymized user_id to external tools (e.g. Qualtrics)
Time delay between problem set attempts
Assist with new peer assessment system
Incremental cert generation
Unauthenticated, deep linking
Beyond this description, Mr. Kloninger’s talk at the University of Zurich, on June 3, focused on the process behind Stanford Open edx’s instance: servers, code management and developing features. Click here to download the slides from Mr. Kloninger’s talk.
The Stanford Open edX platform is being developed by a team of engineers as way to support research and experimentation in interactive instructional learning. This platform is being used for residential education and MOOCs.
Recently a report from Stanford University examined the use of online technology and methods for delivering education to improve course material for on-campus students, distance learners in professional education programs and lifelong learners around the world.
Instructure, the maker of the Canvas LMS and operator of the Canvas.net MOOC platform, has launched a new service called Canvas Catalog, that allows to create edX and Coursera-style public course collections online.
Canvas Catalog (pictured above) also supports customized landing pages, payment for courses, discounts and promotion codes, credentials and certificates for completion.
In other words, by building a marketplace or storefront for their course offerings, students will have a one-stop shop where they can register, enroll, pay and take courses.
The goal is to help Canvas LMS’ customers produce, host and market their own branded distance courses.
The first two organizations that will use this service are Pasco County Schools in Florida and Academic Partnership.
Even if the hype on MOOCs is decreasing, higher education institutions need to follow a strategy regarding open online courses in order to stay relevant. One possibility is to join the not-for-profit edX Consortium (or xConsortium; the creator of the Open edX software). The problem is the high price of the ticket.
EdX university partners have to invest an estimated $2 to $4 million to be part of the xConsortium. Another possibility is to negotiate a fee per course. An East Cost university was asked recently to pay around $250K per course plus 70 percent of revenue earned from it.
Stanford University –which has been successfully using its own Open edX instance since April 2013, managing 20 public MOOCs and many more courses for on-campus use– criticizes in an elaborate report the way in which the xConsortium is running the edX open-source project, while it shares its recommendations to improve governance, core technology, and community management.
“We believe making these improvements will drive adoption amongst teachers, hosting providers, researchers, IT departments, and developers. Our recommendations are informed by interviews with a dozen stakeholders,”writes Sef Kloninger, Head of Engineering at Stanford Online, in Open edX’s Google group for discussions.
Mr. Kloninger posted Stanford’s findings online, in a Google Doc and in plain HTML. This paper was authored by Nate Aune, an open-source entrepreneur.
What follows is a summary of the recommendations:
Clarify and communicate the mission of Open edX
Establish clear guidelines for contributors
Expand governance to involve community in technical and product decisions
Open up the development process: public wikis, public bug tracking
Move to 2-4 stable releases per year: release notes, upgrade scripts, improved packaging and testing
Provide more ways to extend and modify the platform without having to change the core: content interfaces and APIs
Improve the Open edX documentation
Create a more informative website targeted at platform adopters
Establish an ecosystem of commercial vendors and hosting providers
Hire a full-time Open edX community manager
Establish, measure, and communicate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Create forums to engage platform users (developers, hosting providers, researchers), e.g. user group meetings and office hours