Many of you are familiar with the edX-specific version of eXtensible Markup Language (XML) that edX uses as a content format. This format, which we’ve just renamed Open Learning XML (OLX), allows our course authors to easily reuse content in a variety of contexts—from courses on the edX platform to private instances of Open edX and even in other learning environments. We want to thank the partners and early adopters, including MIT and Google’s Course Builder team, who have been helping us develop OLX since the beginning as we seek to create engaging content for nearly three million students worldwide.

Our overarching goal in developing OLX has been to create a format that supports a broad range of content types and has virtually limitless extensibility. To reach this goal, we’ve defined three purposes for OLX through conversations with our partners in the larger Open edX community:

  • Allow seamless movement of content between instances of Open edX.

  • Allow OLX content to be generated outside of edX Studio, our authoring tool—we want course teams to be able to easily convert content they’ve created in other course formats.

  • Give you control over your content by making sure content remains portable and free of edX-specific encoding.

As excited as we are about the potential impact of OLX on worldwide education, however, we recognize that the format has its quirks. Some representations don’t follow current conventions, and we’ve never written down details or provided a schema. To help you navigate these sometimes confusing waters, we’ve just released an alpha version of documentation for OLX. This documentation describes the existing state of the OLX format, including:

  • Current policies governing the use of OLX.

  • The current state of OLX for courseware.

  • XML for other course content, including course About pages, static pages, and assets.

  • XML for problems, tools, and components.

By releasing this documentation, we’re taking an important first step toward a new goal: We want to create and implement formal standards that will make OLX more reliable for everyone. And we want you, the Open edX community, to be part of the conversation. We believe that you have valuable ideas about how to fully support our existing users, who enjoy the flexibility of our format, while still creating a structure and standards that will help newcomers to OLX get started. We welcome your input about not only what the format should look like, but also the best ways to encourage adherence to the policies we create.

With preliminary documentation in place, our next steps toward fully implementing and documenting our OLX standards are:

  1. Describe and publish an OLX standard (schema). This is probably the most challenging aspect of any XML effort, and it’s particularly challenging for OLX as our community members will create a wide variety of XBlocks that enrich course content.

  2. Validate an OLX document against that schema when content is imported into an Open edX instance.

  3. Develop tools that will help Studio users to create valid OLX while they create content.

  4. Separate some of the currently platform-specific OLX extensions.

  5. Define an open extension mechanism that allows OLX to evolve over time.

Again, we want you to be part of this conversation. We welcome any feedback you have on both our documentation and our OLX plans. As we work toward our goals for the next few months, we’ll keep you in the loop with incremental updates of our documentation. Future versions will include details and examples of OLX that can be deployed directly to the LMS, rather than having to be interpreted by Studio. You’ll also see more detailed instructions for deploying to the LMS and for converting from other formats, as well as detailed tours of several XML courses.

We thank you again for being such a valuable part of the edX community, and welcome your comments and questions. Please me send email at [email protected].