“After a lot of work hammering out the last few issues, Cypress is ready to go!”

With this revealing announcement on the General Open edX discussion forum on Google Groups, David Baumgold, edX’s engineer in charge of the release, broke the news.

An official blog post on the Open edX portal, written by Sarina Canelake, explained that this third release of Open edX is “absolutely jam packed with new features and improvements” (see below) and “strongly encouraged everyone in the Open edX community to begin their upgrade to Cypress immediately, revealing that “Cypress is now the only supported Open edX release” and “security patches will no longer be released for Birch”.

This Cypress-named release added around 188,500 lines of code and removed around 46,000 lines, touching nearly 2,500 files in the process. Seventy individuals, along with many other contributors, have been involved in writing the code of the edX platform since the release of Birch in February 2015. In total, over 3,150 commits.

Among the new features:

A full list of features has been posted here, along with instructions to migrate to Cypress.

The next Open edX release, Dogwood, is expected for the end of November 2015.


The first Open edX Universities Symposium will take place on November 11 in Washington DC, organized by The George Washington University (GW) under the direction of Prof. Lorena Barba, and with technical support from IBL. Prominent speakers and panelists from top universities across the world will participate in the reunion.

This one-day conference –from 8:30AM to 6:00PM, at the School of Public Health of GW and hosted by GW Online Programs– will discuss three themes: learning analytics, web-enhanced learning and inter-institutional collaboration.

An evening reception will be hosted on November 10. The edX Global Forum –for edX’s institutional partners only– will take place during the previous days (November 8-10) in Georgetown University. Many participants are expected to stay for the extra day and attend the Open edX Universities Symposium. Several staff members from edX will attend as well.

The confirmed speakers/panelists include:

Learning Analytics
— Linda Baer (featured speaker)
— Isaac Chuang, MIT
— Andreas Paepcke, Stanford University
— Carolyn Penstein Rosé, Carnegie Mellon University
— Taylor Martin, Utah State University
— Alfred Essa, VP, R&D and Analytics, McGraw-Hill Education

Web-Enhanced Learning and Pedagogy
— George Siemens, University of Texas Arlington (featured speaker)
— Carlos Delgado-Kloos, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
— Armando Fox, Berkeley
— Toni Marsh, George Washington University
— Beth Porter, edX

Inter-Institutional Collaboration
— Paul-Olivier Dehaye, University of Zurich (featured speaker)
— Donna Kidwell, Webstudent International AS
— John Zornig, Director UQx
— Lorena A. Barba, George Washington University
— Timo Kos, TU Delft
— John Mitchell, Stanford University

Registration is now open via EventBrite. The $75 attendance fee includes lunch and refreshments. Space is limited. Organizers have announced that sponsorship opportunities are available.


IBL Studios launched this month the BadgeOne.com website in order to host everything related to this new badging solution. In addition, it released an API that will allow anyone to integrate the BadgeOne server into her own applications.

BadgeOne 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 other 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. The project has its origins in the first integration of open badges in the Open edX platform, in November 2014.

Along with the badge server, IBL and edX have developed an XBlock that allows to securely connect an Open edX platform to the BadgeOne server.

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.


Bitnami.com, 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 edX.org 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.