Microsoft will contribute to Open edX’s new “Cypress” release by adding Office 365 authentication functionality into edX’s single sing-on system as well as a new XBlock, the “File Storage” XBlock, which allows to insert or embed files from One Drive and other providers.

[Disclosure: IBL worked under contract with Microsoft in this development].

This year Microsoft announced a new set of edX courses, along with the Office Mix XBlock.

Read More: Open edX + Microsoft Office 365: Better Together

EdX has introduced to the Open edX codebase the ability for instructors to write feedback that it associated with each answer option for both correct and incorrect answers. This feedback is presented to the learner when the answer is submitted.

The code is present on the master branch of edx-platform, and will be included in the codebase of the upcoming Cypress release.

This hinting and feedback feature allows professors to construct richer, interactive activities that allow students to engage directly with concepts and receive immediate formative feedback in ways that are difficult or impractical in traditional classroom instruction.

  • It is possible for learners who are having difficulties with a problem to request help in the form of one or more hints.
  • For some problems, a single hint may be sufficient.
  • In more difficult problems, several levels of hints can be provided.
  • This kind of help is especially important in free-form questions such as text input or numerical input. In these types of questions, learners are not able to guess at the answer and may struggle to find the path to the problem solution.

This feature has been contributed by the Open Learning Initiative (OLI) at Stanford University, a grant-funded organization that collaborated with edX and Open edX community.

Find out more about how to use these new features:


IBL Studios Education released on this week the first Xblock that allows digital badges to be awarded from an online course using Open edX.

The IBL OpenBadges XBlock connects any Open edX code-based platform to any badge-issuing server, including the open source BadgeOne server.

This software has been developed by IBL Studios with conceptual and feature design by Lorena A. Barba and Michael Amigot as well as financial and technical support from edX.

It was used in Prof. Barba’s open online course “Practical Numerical Methods with Python”, which started on December 2014. General consultancy on the principles of open digital badges in education was provided by Prof. Daniel T. Hickey and his team at Indiana University during the fall of 2014.

These are the features:

  1. The badges can be awarded from a “Graded Sub-section” in a course in Open edX. The instructor sets the minimum score for the eligibility of the badge, and configures the badge component with the data of the badge service, badge ID, custom messages for the user, etc.
  2. Once it’s added to a Graded Sub-section, the open-badges XBlock will automatically check the user’s score in that sub-section (when the user enters the sub-section).
  3. While the user does not have a high-enough score for eligibility, the XBlock will display a custom message indicating that this is the case.
  4. Once the user has a high-enough score, the XBlock will reveal the badge image and the input fields to claim the badge.
  5. The user fills the claim form, entering URL fields providing evidence of her learning, etc.
  6. Once awarded, the badge becomes privately available in the user’s account on the badge service. The user then “claims” the badge to make it public (this is the normal operation of open-badge services.)

IBL OpenBadges XBlock is available for free download and installation at GitHub., a well-known cloud hosting company, has created a pre-configured image to run Open edX on Amazon EC2, based on the Birch release and Ubuntu 14.04.1.

Details are here. And docs, here.

The fact that Open edX is available in the AWS Marketplace has been highlighted by edX in a recent press release.

However, it is worth remembering that pre-installed images have been provided by edX on Amazon.

Some users in the developer community have noted that Bitnami’s solution is “disappointing, not responsive and no-go for clients”. Ubuntu 14.04.01 on Open edX is truly experimental. “Regular installations are full of problems, so who needs to experiment with a new Ubuntu”, said David C.

EdX has partnered with the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) to offer a special selection of high-quality, free courses to combat summer learning loss and avoid returning in the fall with atrophied skills.

This offer includes more than 60 courses from top institutions in core subjects such as math, science, and language as well as skills-based courses in software development, computer science and innovation.

These courses are ideal for career-minded high schoolers (who are dealing with their AP exams and college admissions), college-age students, and working professionals.

These courses include:



badgr2Badgr, written in Python by the new Badge Alliance Director Nate Otto, has been released. This is another great badging initiative that comes to the edX universe, in addition to BadgeOne.

Badgr Server provides an API for issuing Open Badges and handles badge management for issuers, earners and consumers.

According to its GitHub page, “it will soon provide integrated badge management and sharing for badge earners and tools for inspection, exploration and discovery of Open Badges and a world of learning opportunities.”

The portal plans to use this server, along with the badge XBlock developed by IBL Studios. EdX’s portal blog and Concentric Sky –the company that Nate Otto works for– posted this week describing their collaboration.

The Open edX community portal has started a web page to acknowledge open source contributors of the Open edX platform. Some contributions are significant: large features, major upgrades, high-risk security bugs…

This Hall of Fame of contributors is not complete, and that is why edX encourages people to submit their commits.


Stanford Bulk E-Mail (PR-555)
This allows instructors to send e-mail to themselves, course staff, and students from the instructor dashboard.
Google 3rd Party Auth (PRs-2736, 3450, 3553)
This adds requirements, an auth module, a settings mechanism, and an API for auth providers.
Harvard Mentoring XBlock (PR-2814)
This added the mentoring XBlock to requirements and installed apps.
Stanford Email Content History Viewer (PR-4451)
Previously, instructors could only view task information about e-mails they sent, but now they can view entire e-mails.
MITx Release edX-jsme 1.0 (OSPR-43)
This added the jsme package to edX, which provides the molecular struture problem type for capa.
Stanford Certificate Improvements (Multiple OSPRs)
In a series of approximately 25 pull requests to the certificates repo, the Stanford developers released to the open-source community all of the certificate generation code they currently use.
Queen Rania Foundation Right to Left (WIP)
This is part of an ongoing project between QRF and edX to support Right to Left (RTL) text support.
Harvard Annotation Tools (OSPRs-150, 158)
One part of this changes the color and adds borders to annotated images. The other fixes a bug found when using the “share without saving” option for annotation.
Stanford Supoprt and Tests for Adding a Reset Button to Units (OSPR-146)
This decouples “reset” functionality from “randomization” functionality in capa problems.
Stanford Fixed Continuation Related Pep-8 Issues (OSPR-197)
This changeset resolves 105 PEP8 (python style guide) issues.
Stanford  Limit File Upload Size to GridFS (OSPR-168)
This PR puts a limit on the size of files that course staff can upload to MongoDB.
SchoolYourself SchoolYourself XBlock (OSPR-232)
These XBlocks display iframes and send data back and forth between edX and School Yourself.
Stanford XBlock User Service (OSPR-379)
This implements support in the XBlock SDK for the user XBlock service.
OpenCraft Event Tracking for Forums Events (OSPR-82)
This tracks events for student activity analytics reports.
MIT Staff Graded Assignments XBlock (OSPR-337)
This enables students to upload assignment files, and for instructors to download and grade them.
OpenCraft XBlock Settings Service (OSPR-427)
This allows XBlocks access to Django settings.
(for Harvard)
Mentoring XBlock (OSPRs-401, 419, 422, 427)
This cleans up technical debt while adding new functionality to the Mentoring XBlock.
MIT Custom Courses X (OSPR-351)
This allows for a course (or portions of a course) to be reused with a small groups of students.
Stanford Answer Distributions for First vs Last Problem Attempt (OSPRs-413, 414, 415)
This is an upgrade to answer_dist collection task.
Feedback Fruits (with edX) Creative Commons (OSPR-536)
This allows for custom Creative Commons licensing for course content. To learn more about the significance and use of Creative Commons licensing, read the feature report.


badgeBadgeOne is the first free, fully open-source, OBI-compliant, multi-language open-badges server. Available in Github since mid-June for any site administrator to download and install, this badge server is operable with Open edX and LMS platforms. It is written in PHP and requires only an Apache server and standard web technologies.

The BadgeOne server was developed by IBL Studios, with GW Professor Lorena A. Barba in an advisory role, and with financial and technical support from edX.

Along with the badge server, IBL and edX have developed an XBlock that allows connecting securely an Open edX platform with the badge server. Other badge providers will be supported in the future. The XBlock—to be released soon—was thoroughly revised and extended from a prototype written for Prof. Barba’s Fall 2014 MOOC.

This badging project has its origins in the first integration of open badges in the Open edX platform, in November 2014.

[Update: Background information to use the BadgetOne’ API ]

Amnesty International will offer a series of MOOCs about human rights education on, starting in Fall 2015. The first course, “Reclaiming Freedoms through human rights”, will be followed by others over the next several years.

“From the seasoned activist who wants to learn more about human rights, to the technology entrepreneur whose interest has been piqued by the surveillance and privacy debate, these new courses will have something for everyone,” explained edX and Amnesty International.

The goal of the two organizations is to establish the largest online platform for human rights education globally, starting with more than 4 million learners from every country registered on “Our global platform will be an ideal place for the organization to amplify its message of justice for all,” edX said.

In order to develop a course relevant to learners, Amnesty International –who has become edX’s newest member– has set up a survey to determine what kind of course would be of value to users.

[Press Release: Top human rights experts to offer cutting-edge education course with ‘something for everyone’]



EdX has received the top spot in PC Magazine‘s Education & Reference Comparison Chart, earning 4.5 out of 5 stars and an editor rating of “excellence”.

PC Magazine has commended edX for “its welcoming platform for faculty and students”, “innovative assessments”, “free honor certificates”, “growing catalog of excellent courses” and its open source platform (Open edX), that “enables developers to build and share assessment modules”. “Faculty ought to appreciate the platform’s open-source code, generous support, and institutional backing.”

IBL has extracted other ideas from PC Magazine’s review:

  • “EdX offers both self-paced and timed classes. Its courses possess features of online education, including discussion forums (often moderated by faculty and teaching assistants); machine-graded multiple-choice assessments; self and peer assessments; and, of course, video lectures (typically divided into segments of twenty minutes or less).”
  • “Home institutions do not grant credit to their edX courses. For example, I can audit The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours class for free, but if I want course credit, I will have to enroll in a semester-long Harvard Extension course, which costs between $1250 (for noncredit or undergraduate credit) or $2200 (for graduate credit).”
  • “Participants will spend most of their time in Courseware, which begins with a left-aligned overview. Lessons are divided into sections, sections into learning sequences, and learning sequences into units. Participants navigate through units using arrows at the top of the screen. I found this process somewhat inorganic at first, and I would have preferred something like Coursera’s auto-progression; however, once I adjusted to it, I actually preferred the edX structure because it allowed you to anticipate forthcoming content via the object icons.”
  • “edX offers the most versatile toolkit. In addition to multiple-choice, tick boxes, and fill-in-the-blanks, edX supports specialized tools such as circuit simulators and chemical bond simulators. DemoX showcases some of the most ingenious assessments, including those designed for the K-12 market (e.g. a drag and drop tool for counting) and introductory sciences (an interactive periodic table).”