This article was written by team member Fox Piacenti.

If your company runs a copy of the Open edX platform, you may feel satisfied with its impressive array of features. However, keeping an up-to-date installation is essential for several reasons. You would not want to end up facing security issues, being stuck with old bugs, or missing out on great things the platform has to offer. By the end of this article, I hope to convince you that you should upgrade your Open edX installation when new releases arrive.

Open edX puts out ‘named release’ upgrades. They name each version of the platform after a tree (or family of them). Aspen, Birch, Cypress, and so forth. Each one comes with its own upgrade guide, like this one for the most recent release, Koa. Only the latest release is supported, however.

At OpenCraft, we provide hosted installations of the Open edX platform. All of our customers receive these upgrades as part of our service plans. If you’re going it on your own, or you just want to know why you should keep up to date, keep reading!

Upgrading Keeps Your Learning Management System Secure

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If you’ve not upgraded your Open edX installation in a long while, your installation has security vulnerabilities. To keep the data of your staff and students safe, upgrading is essential. Like most open source projects, the Open edX platform has many dependencies. On the LMS’s code alone, the base requirements include over 240 packages.

Any package could contain vulnerabilities, and that’s not considering the platform’s own code. While the code quality standards within the platform are top-notch, even with great vigilance, security patches roll out. In fact, the Juniper release had two security upgrade releases after its initial debut. Patches are a normal part of running any web application, so be sure to have an upgrade plan in place!

When You Upgrade your Open edX Installation, You Will Have the Latest Features

The most exciting reason to upgrade your Open edX installation is new features. The practice of online learning evolves– and so do the tools for it. Open edX’s latest releases have heavily focused on Micro Frontends– which work great on mobile devices. Micro Frontends are independently deployable JavaScript applications that use modern web technology to streamline the learning, authoring, and teaching experiences. They can add features much faster than the traditional user interface, and they are the future of the Open edX platform. One example is the new editable gradebook.

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Another improvement in the Koa release is an improved ID verification workflow, which helps you and your team ensure the integrity of proctored exams. Personalized learning schedules arrived as well, letting you tailor due dates to learners’ individual circumstances. On top of this, celebratory milestones have been added, to give an extra bump of encouragement as learners progress through the course. These additions, and many more, demonstrate how upgrading your Open edX installation allows you to meet the changing demands of modern education.

Keeping up to Date makes Getting Support Easier

If you ever have an issue with your Open edX installation, or you want to know how to do something, you’ll want to talk to people who know your system works. Since the Open edX community only supports the latest named release, you’ll want to have it (or be working to upgrade to it) when you post on the community forums or their Slack channel.

Software developers working on the Open edX platform use the devstack, which is constantly evolving. This means that it can be more difficult to build software solutions for old versions of the platform, and that makes getting custom improvements or XBlocks written for it more expensive.

Concerned that your install has fallen behind and not sure how to begin the upgrade process? We at OpenCraft can help you update your Open edX install– even if you’ve got a complicated or custom setup. We work with some of the biggest names using the edX Platform, including Harvard, Australian National University, Cloudera, Autodesk, and, of course, edX themselves.

A complex computer setup with three monitors, a mechanical keyboard, and glowing lights in the case.
Image courtesy Casper Camille on Unspash