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New Oppia XBlock allows embedding interactive activities into Open edX courses

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My name’s Sean Lip, and I’m writing this post on behalf of Oppia.org, a website that allows people to create and share interactive online learning experiences called ‘explorations’. These explorations simulate a conversation with a personal tutor, allowing students to learn by doing while receiving targeted feedback. Exploration creators can easily improve their explorations over time by adding responses to the most common answers submitted by students.

The following screenshot shows an example from an actual exploration: here, the student has picked a note that’s a little lower than the one that was played, and Oppia provides feedback targeted to that answer.

Screen shot of a music theory Oppia exploration

About a year ago, Drs. Janet Walkow and Donna Kidwell from UT Austin approached me to ask whether it would be possible to embed Oppia explorations in an upcoming edX course (“Take Your Medicine”) that they were planning to launch in the fall of 2015. They wanted to use explorations as supplementary ungraded “interaction dialogue” activities for their students. For example, one of the explorations they created simulates a conversation between a pharmacist and a customer.

We kicked off the project with an initial meeting between the three of us and Sarina Canelake and Leslie Gerhat from edX, where we discussed the possibility of adding an Oppia XBlock to the platform. We considered using a simple iframe, but ended up deciding to develop an XBlock because it would offer tighter integration with edX’s analytics capability. Since the Oppia site already emits its own events, it was straightforward to take these events and feed them into the edX analytics infrastructure. In addition, with the help of Chris Rodriguez from edX, we worked to make the XBlock accessible, and also enhanced Oppia’s accessibility in general.

We hope that this XBlock gives you additional opportunities for incorporating interactive learning into your courses, whilst simultaneously contributing to an open commons of learning material. If you’re interested, full documentation for the new XBlock can be found on the Open edX docs site (including a link to the Oppia user documentation). Additionally, the source code is available as an open source package at https://github.com/oppia/xblock; we welcome feedback, bug reports, and pull requests.

Finally, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Dr. Janet Walkow and Dr. Donna Kidwell for initially proposing this idea, as well as Sarina Canelake, Leslie Gerhat, Chris Rodriguez, Ned Batchelder and Alison Hodges from edX for their help in the course of the review and documentation process. Thanks to their help, getting the XBlock completed, reviewed, and integrated was very straightforward, and it was a great pleasure to work with Sarina and the team.

 

Sean Lip currently serves as the president of the Oppia Foundation, which supports the Oppia.org site.