EdX Wants YOU To Improve Their Online Learning Platform

edx open source

One of the biggest (yet newest) names in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) is edX. In case you’re new to the MOOC or Edudemic world, edX is basically a consortium of schools that have banded together to assemble a robust library of online courses. From Physics to History to Computer Science, many of the world’s largest universities and colleges have come together to use the edX online learning platform.

And now the edX platform is yours. The edX team made their code open source as of June 1, 2013 and are actively encouraging developers around the world to remix, rethink, and build onto the platform. After all, what better way to develop a product than to have countless people around the world add to it, use it, and continuously test it. The model has worked for a ton of major web tools like WordPress and Wikipedia.

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.

So what can you do to help edX?

If you’re not tech-savvy but want to help, I’d recommend trying out edX and offering your tips, fixes, and requests via this contact page.

If you are a web developer or know at least a little bit of code, then you should access the newly open source edX source code on github here. 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.

Who Is Contributing To edX Code?

edx schoolsThere’s a buzz slowly building about who is stepping in to help improve the edX online learning platform. Here are some of the recent contributions according to a press release from edX:

  • 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 discussion tools that will be piloted next month.