FAQ – Create online courses using the Open edX platform
This article was written by Jeff Miller, a member of the OpenCraft marketing team.
So, you’ve been looking for a learning management system (LMS) and have decided that the open source Open edX platform makes the most sense. You’re not alone! It’s the most widely used LMS platform in the world, with 45 million people using it in 34 different languages. It’s open source, so you don’t have to take a vendor’s word, alone, for anything, but it’s proven itself to be a resilient, effective learning tool that can scale to support thousands of simultaneous learners.
The official documentation for Open edX is excellent, but we know that setting it up and hosting it on your own can still be daunting. OpenCraft is here to help.
We sat down with OpenCraft’s very own product specialist Gabriel D’Amours to talk about how OpenCraft handles hosting and address some of the common technical questions that clients ask about Open edX.
So, for starters, how can OpenCraft help organizations customize, deploy, and maintain an Open edX installation?
We can help at every step of the way, from designing a custom Open edX instance, developing the code, and hosting and maintaining it. We can even provide training on how to build courses.
OK, so let’s say I want to get started and begin working with you all to design an Open edX instance. What version of Open edX do you use?
All good questions. As for the platform, we always use the current version when building a new instance, and we upgrade all of our hosted instances within a few weeks of a new release. That’s included in the subscription fee for all our hosting plans, so clients don’t need to worry about getting charged to ensure they’re up to date. It’s important, because not only do new releases provide new features and better performance, but they also ensure and enhance security.
Customizations & integrations
What if I need to incorporate functions not yet supported in Open edX, like video conferencing? Can you add that?
When clients want features or integrations that aren’t already supported by the Open edX platform, we’ll do what’s necessary to develop it. Frankly, that’s what we love doing most.
For instance, the LabXChange team wanted users to be able to quickly incorporate and reuse content to create new learning pathways on the fly. At the time, Open edX didn’t support that capability, so we wrote a completely new storage architecture called Blockstore that’s now the standard storage architecture for the project.
It’s true that Open edX doesn’t support video conferencing out of the box, but OpenCraft can integrate apps like Zoom, and many others, into instances and courses using the LTI protocol.
How about hosting? Do you host clients’ instances? If so, what does that entail and what do you provide?
We frequently host our clients’ Open edX instances on OpenStack servers which are based in Europe, though if your needs are different, we’re happy to discuss it. In a nutshell, we have two plans.
Our Pro & Teacher is designed for clients looking for a full-featured, dedicated Open edX instance at a reasonable price. It includes the Open edX LMS and the Studio authoring tool for developing courses. Pricing is based on the number of monthly users, up to 1,000, and support is provided via email.
Our Institutional Plan is intended for clients who need significant customization and advanced functionality such as e-commerce, single sign-on, edX Insights analytics and dedicated mobile apps. With this plan, themes are completely customizable, there is no limit to the number of users and OpenCraft provides priority support with one of our senior developers.
For full details on the different plans we offer, click here.
Do clients need to use the OpenCraft domain if you host the instance or can they use a custom URL?
We provide custom domains for clients on both plans, though the Pro & Teacher option does require an additional monthly fee to enable this (it’s included in the Institutional plan). We can point your instance to any valid custom domain.
What examples can you provide of the work you’ve done?
We’re doing a lot of work directly for edX, which is pure platform development for Open edX. From our early days we’ve done work such as developing much of the platform’s single sign-on capabilities, Drag and Drop XBlock (where the learner drags items to zones on a target image) and the Content Libraries feature. We’re currently working on multiple projects with edX to update and improve many areas of the platform such as discussion tools, open response assessment, LTI exercises, Common Cartridge compatibility, content libraries and taxonomies, theming & branding, and more obscure backend stuff! We have many more projects to come in Q3 and Q4 2020.
We also work with many high-profile academic institutions. We currently provide Open edX services to universities such as MIT, multiple Harvard schools, Arizona State University, Notre Dame University, and have worked with many others.
We’ve worked with the French Ministry of Higher Education to develop the French national platform for promoting the use of massive open online courses, and currently work on a similar project with the Government of Israel on a national platform called Campus-IL. We also work with private firms. For example, we provide deployment, hosting and maintenance of Cloudera OnDemand, the California technology company’s learning platform.
Safe to say, if you need a learning platform, OpenCraft can deliver it.
Need support for the Open edX platform? Book a free 1hr consultation and we will help you out.