Online students can earn digital badges for completing their course. But what about issuing badges to check student progress and cumulative skills learned? How can you verify and manage individual identities? Wouldn’t it be smart to keep the material open as evidence of student’s outcome?

The challenges are being discussed between Indiana University (IU), George Washington University, edX and IBL Studios. All parties share a firm commitment to open education.

This collaborative effort to build and issue digital badges is based upon the findings at the Design Principles Documentation Project and is being undertaken by the Open Badges in Open edX and Beyond initiative. IU’s Center for Research on Learning and Technology will provide a twofold mode of support for digital badges to Dr. Lorena Barba’s MOOC: technology (facilitating coding in Open edX) and pedagogy (purposeful implementation, evidence, and assessment).

The team has set the goal of issuing digital badges by mid-November to students who complete built-in assessments with proficiency across the Open edX platform.

Indiana University’s scientists, Daniel Hickey and James Willis, describe the project in this blog post.


This initiative is huge: 26 new, free MOOCs developed by top universities for high schoolers in the U.S. and all around the world, to be launched through the educational portal within a few months. Subjects range from Computer Science, Mathematics and Chemistry to History and English. Currently, 22 high school courses are open for registration.

“We know that nearly 150,000 edX learners are high school students, and developing high quality, engaging, and interactive courses to specifically meet the needs of this student population is a high priority for us at edX,” explains edX’s president, Anant Agarwal. In addition, these courses will meet the needs of students interested in entry-level course materials – 90 percent of edX learners according to this organization.

To identify the best courses, edX issued a request for course proposals offering seed funding of up to $50,000 per course for support services. They received 75 proposals from 22 institutions before selecting 26 courses from 14 leading institutions. Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Wertheimer Fund, Fariborz Maseeh / The Massiah Foundation granted funds for the content creation, while edX committed to provide training services, including pedagogy’s best practices, media consultation and video transcriptions. [Disclosure: IBL Studios is providing the film services of two of those MOOCs].

Participating academic institutions are:

  • Boston University
  • Georgetown University
  • MIT
  • Rice University
  • TU Delft
  • UC Berkeley
  • Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
  • UT Arlington
  • UT Austin
  • Wellesley College
  • Davidson College
  • Cooper Union
  • School Yourself
  • St. Margaret’s Episcopal School
  • Tennessee Board of Regents
  • Weston Public High School

The last five are non-edX members.

Currently, 22 high school courses are open for registration at


George Washington University’s first MOOC titled “Practical Numerical Methods with Pyton” has attracted nearly 3,000 participants in two weeks since the launching without any PR support or marketing campaign.

This course, developed in collaboration with several universities internationally, is being run on an Open edX platform.

George Washington is the only other U.S. university apart from Stanford with a serious Open edX deployment outside the edX Consortium.

This enrollment growth and the technical deployment has captured the attention of all the main players in the field, from Stanford University to the edX Consortium.

discussion edx

Discussion forums are central to massive online courses’ learning experience. It is where community interaction happens and students speak with professors or one another. However, if not built properly, forums can be frustrating when you try to find something or have a functional conversation. Humanities-related boards face more challenges than scientific ones wherein students look for sets of right answers.

Considering all of this, edX has added some nice features to their discussion forums. We tried the last version of the Open edX platform at GW Online and we cannot be more pleased –although we found some minor bugs that we reported.

Main changes in the new forums are made to differentiate between “questions” that are meant to be answered authoritatively –requiring the right answers– and “discussions” which are meant to be pursued discursively.


EdX has just released a new version of its platform that allows students to sign into the educational portal with their existing Google or Facebook accounts. In addition, edX has decided to highlight the importance of LTI cloud-based apps by including a more stylish way in the LMS (or users’ view interface) to show external components. See what it looks like: lti


Sef Kloninger, one of the leading engineers of the Stanford Open edX initiative, has left this organization to join a start-up called Wavefront. “I’ve heard the siren’s song of the startup”, is the only explanation he provided regarding his departure from Stanford University –although he will continue as a member of the EdX Technical Advisory Board.

What does it mean for the edX community?

Mr. Kloninger, a gifted developer and technology visionary, built the Class2Go platform and contributed many features in the edX code (i.e. theming, course email and instructor analytics, etc) along with an engineering team from Stanford. One of his main achievements was to convince key people in Stanford University and MIT and Harvard in Boston to make the edX platform open source software. So, in a way, he is one of the fathers of Open edX.

He reflects on his website: “I’ve spent a lot of my own time helping to make sure the Open edX project a healthy open source project. It’s not enough to just open up the code, to have a thriving community you have to conduct your development out in the open. Beyond helping other institutions get up and running I’ve worked to drive the open-source agenda overall.”

The edX universe is moving fast and new people with different views and agendas are emerging. The first Open edX conference, taking place this November 19 in Boston, will be an opportunity to picture the future.


Today we have launched our first adwords campaign through Google. “What a news story”, you may think. Does it even deserve a post?

It does. So far, in 18 years on the Internet software business, we have done no digital advertising for our company. Last month we launched the first Open edX guide under the most permissive Creative Commons license; we did it as service to the community.

Yesterday we got a Google coupon of $75 (which is available to anyone), and suddenly we decided to try Google ads. And we are enjoying the experience!


With 2.7 million users around the world and 3 billion records of data related to student activity, the edX platform is “a particle accelerator for learning”. That is what the president of edX, Anant Agarwal, said during the LinuxCon conference in Chicago.

“We can learn how students learn by mining the big data of learning”. For instance, the big data analysis found that between 6 and 9 minutes is the ideal length of time for an educational video. Anything longer and students begin to drop off.


We have finally launched “The Ultimate Guide To Open edX” ebook.

It is free to download, it doesn’t require registration, it contains no ads, and it is released under a Creative Commons license. It will be continuously updated –just check the version number on the second page.

You can download it through our webpage wherein we will comment on developments.

This book is the first guide related to Open edX disruptive technology. Created by MIT and Harvard, and supported by Google, Stanford and 45 international universities, Open edX is a global success:

The eBook, written by education and media entrepreneur Michael Amigot, is divided into the following sections:



We like to say that Open edX is the most visually engaging learning platform in the world. But what are the best Open edX graphic layouts?

In an ebook we are about to launch –“The Ultimate Guide to Open edX”– we review what we consider to be the best user interfaces built with Open edX software.

Here is a preview of the list –although we avoid ranking the platforms.