The Open edX “Birch” version has finally been released!

EdX explained that “between Aspen and Birch, we changed almost 2,500 files, removing almost 90,000 lines and adding over 130,000 new ones”.

This “Birch” release contains several new features for students, course staff, and developers.
These are the main ones:

All the documentation is here.The next version, “Cypress”, will be released in three or four months.


Open edX doesn’t natively support the SCORM standard, and the developers’ community has been analyzing solutions without any clear outcomes for months.

Now there is a way to add existing SCORM-based content to Open edX, although not in the cleanest way because of the lack of an Xblock or a code integration. In addition, it might require some fixes to the edX code.

Nate Aune, founder of, has described and suggested a solution by using a third party service called SCORM Cloud. This company wraps content that can be embedded into Open edX as an LTI component. For 3,000 registered students the price is $1,000/month.

Here is a detailed guide on how to add SCORM packages to Open edX.

Wake-up call for schools who are not offering captions for their MOOC content.

MIT and Harvard University are facing two federal class action lawsuits filed by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and four deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, claiming the universities failed to caption a vast array of online content, including MOOCs.

The cases, filed in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, assert that MIT and Harvard violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act by denying deaf and hard of hearing people access to thousands of videos and audio tracks that each university makes publicly available for free.

“This lawsuit is part of our battle for full access to online media content,” explained Howard A. Rosenblum, NAD’s Chief Executive Officer. (Watch above’s video).

The non-captioned content includes campus talks by President Barack Obama and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, educational videos made by MIT students for use by K-12 students, “self-help” talks, entire semesters’-worth of courses and regular podcasts such as the “HBR IdeaCast” by the Harvard Business Review.

With this lawsuit the message to large universities is loud and clear: you should make accommodations for people with disabilities and online course material should be accessible. Entire groups of people cannot be excluded.

Through its new venture, McKinsey Academy, McKinsey & Co has started to offer a series of courses (“the McKinsey Management Program“) designed to provide participants with specific skill-sets in business.

Courses, taught by McKinsey practitioners and external business leaders, are designed to provide rising professionals with a practical, interactive and real-time learning experience.

Many of the technical innovations showcased at the Open edX-powered McKinsey Academy platform will be integrated into “McKinsey Academy is one of many important partners helping us improve our core platform and the learning experience for the entire edX community”, explained edX.

Some of them, like Polls and Surveys, are already being open-sourced.

Learn about McKinsey Academy’s view in the video above, filmed on November 2014 during the Open edX Conference in Cambridge.

EdX has set a target date for Birch’s official release: Tuesday, February 24.

David Baumgold, the edX engineer in charge, noted that “if a significant number of changes are added to the release candidate branch, a new release candidate will be created and the release date will be pushed back, to give people time to test the new release candidate”.

The “Birch” version is now on its RC3 (Release Candidate) phase. Bugs will continue to be fixed until the target date.


McKinsey Academy
has made a contribution to the Open edX ecosystem this month releasing the Poll and Survey XBlock.

This XBlock, developed by OpenCraft, enables a course author to create poll and survey elements and get feedback from students.

  • Poll XBlocks have one question, and a series of answers.
  • Survey XBlocks have several questions and a handful or answers that students answer each one from (Such as ‘True’, and ‘False’, or ‘Agree’ or ‘Disagree’)

For an educator who wants to enhance his classroom experience with educational technology, the Open edX technology is a great solution.

Blended Learning with edX  is an online course created by the edX team that includes examples of course teams from around the world as well as research articles. It also contains numerous discussion threads that invite users to share resources and ideas with each other.

“Our hope is that this course not only provides you with a solid foundational understanding of blended learning, but that it continues to serve as a resource to you throughout your own course design process,” say the creators.

The course’s intro video, above, showcases TEAL, MIT’s Technology Enabled Active Learning classroom.


The Open edX “Birch” release –the second version after “Aspen”– is almost here. It is scheduled to be released in February.

For now, this version is a release candidate.

“Birch” will include many new features, capabilities and APIs, as well as many small changes and bug fixes. edX’s Release Notes provide a cumulative list of changes listed after the release of Aspen, which was based on the version from September 4, 2014.

Here is a summary:

  • Prerequisite courses. You can require that students pass specific edX courses before enrolling into your course.
  • Entrance Exams. You can require that students pass an entrance exam before they access your course materials.
  • Student Notes. Learners can highlight text and take notes while progressing through a course. They can then review their notes either in the body of the course or on a separate “Notes” tab.
  • Course Reruns. You can create a new course easily by re-running an existing course. When you re-run a course, most –but not all– of the original course content will be duplicated onto the new course.
  • Google Calendar and Google Drive Components. You can embed Google calendars and Google Drive files into your course. Learners may see the calendar or file directly in the courseware. Learners can also interact with Google Forms files, and complete forms or surveys in the courseware.
  • Support for “Graded Problems” in “Content Experiments”. You can now use graded problems in content experiments.
  • Split Mongo Modulestore. This refers to the separation of identity, structure and content, and it enables you to use more advanced capabilities while developing and managing courses.
  • Cohorts for Discussions and Content. You can now define smaller communities of students within the larger, course-wide community. Learners in a given cohort may have private discussions.
  • Content libraries and randomized content. You can create a content library that contains a pool of components that can be used in randomized assignments.
  • Documentation for the first versions of several APIs:

Why should college only last for four years? Why stop learning after that period of time?

Some days ago we mentioned a bold initiative based on taking one year of college for free by using MOOCs.

Anant Agarwal, CEO at edX, said in an interview that a continuous education system will allow people to get just-in-time education on topics that are on cutting edge of technology and learn as they need to learn”.

“Imagine that a student comes into college having done their first year of college as MOOCs and online — possibly even for free. And they come in and they get credit for those first year of courses. They spend two years on campus, and then rather than spending the fourth year on campus, they go outside, get a job and become continuous learners for the rest of their lives.”