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February 2017 Open edX Product Update

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A resounding hello from edX headquarters in Cambridge! The month of January has been a busy one here, as we've worked on numerous improvements for learners and course teams.

Improvements for Learners

The Support dialog box showing a drop-down list of courses.

Getting help with a specific course from learner support is now easier than ever. Now, instead of having to remember to manually include their course name when they submit a support request, learners can select the course from a drop-down list before they enter their questions or comments. EdX support can then find valuable background information without having to send messages back and forth with the learner first, reducing the time to resolve the learner's concern.

Additionally, to help learners find discussions that are popular or relevant to them, learners can now sort inline discussions by most votes, most activity, and recent activity.

Improvements for Course Authors

The "view course as" option showing a drop-down list of options that include "Student in Content A".You want to make sure that important information reaches the right learners. Course teams that use content groups can now use the View this course as option in the LMS to make sure that their content will be available only to the cohorts that they specify. Additionally, course teams can now send messages to learners according to course track, so you can reach all of your verified or audit learners at one time. (Don't worry—individuals, including staff, who belong to multiple recipient groups will only receive one copy of the message.) For more information about these features, see Viewing Content Based on Roles and Sending Email Messages to Learners in Different Enrollment Tracks in Building and Running an Open edX Course.

We want to make creating content as easy as possible for you, so we've also made a few changes to our UI. Right on every unit page, we added clearer instructions for creating links to units in HTML text components (hint: you just enter /jump_to_id/ and the unit ID number in the dialog box that opens when you select the insert/edit link icon). We also made extensive updates to the problem template for Custom JavaScript Display and Grading problems (also called custom JavaScript problems or JS input problems). The new problem template contains specific instructions and a new, easier to use example problem that you can use as a model for your own JS input problems. For more information, see Add a Link to a Course Unit and Custom JavaScript Display and Grading Problem in Building and Running an Open edX Course.

The Unit Location area in the unit view in Studio with the unit ID and link instructions visible on the left, with an HTML component with an open Insert Link box on the right.

Accessibilty Improvements

At edX, we continue to strive for improvements in accessibility—both on our site overall and for individual elements, including problems. During January, our accessibility team made major changes to the navigation bar at the top of every page on the Course tab. Learners who use screen readers now receive information about elements such as tabs, including the state of the element—for example, the screen reader tells the learner whether the element is collapsed or expanded. Learners who rely on keyboards can now use the left arrow, right arrow, and tab keys to move through screen elements quickly and efficiently. We've also made even more updates to our drag and drop problems, enabling your learners with disabilities to complete them more easily.

Data Improvements

We want you to have the most up-to-date information about enrollment as possible. In the Student Profile report, available from the Data Download page on the instructor dashboard, we've added two columns: "enrollment mode" and "verification status". You can now see at a glance not just how many total learners you have, but which enrollment track they've chosen—and whether learners who are enrolled in ID-required tracks have successfully completed ID verification. For more information, see Columns in the Student Profile Report in Building and Running an Open edX Course.