In late May, our partners in the Open edX community at Stanford University shared an exceptionally thoughtful set of recommendations (full document here) for how to move Open edX forward as an open source project and as a teaching and learning platform. We have considered those ideas carefully and are using them as a basis for developing the 2014-2015 Open edX and edX Platform roadmaps. An updated version of our roadmap will be posted toward the end of July on our public wiki, and updated quarterly. In this post, I address the business objectives that inspire continued investment in our open source strategy and a platform approach to development. I also outline key areas of development specific to the Open edX initiative that will be the focus of edX and partner engineering efforts in the next 6-12 months. A longer, more detailed version of this post is also available as a Google doc.

Business Objectives

Increase the number of people using edX worldwide via platform adoption

By advocating use of Open edX by learning communities globally as their education solution, we will increase the total overall number of users of the platform. In a manner similar to how we cultivate, promote, and support edX MOOC developers, we benefit from doing the same for our Open edX partners, whether they develop and run MOOCs, supplement residential college programs, or support other lifelong learning experiences.

Increase the number of institutions using edX worldwide by fostering innovation, creating an ecosystem for developing and distributing content for broad use

Open source puts the tools of innovation in the hands of the people closest to the specific teaching and learning opportunities presented by online education – professors and instructional designers. While we will anticipate (and have anticipated) many of the most relevant tools and services that will drive the development of effective courses, our goal is to foster innovation everywhere and not be a bottleneck in the process of experimentation. Further, our intent is to refine and standardize our content format, making it easier to share courses in a broad-based way.

Extend capacity beyond edX engineering and make contributing to the platform easy

We believe that inspiration and motivation for feature development can come from anywhere in the community, and the open source platform provides the means of extending capacity beyond the edX walls. While we may plan for investments in the many important, key capabilities that are fundamental to platform success, ultimately there will still be significant interest in features that edX doesn’t build or doesn’t even merge into the edX base platform. We expect most such contributions to be in the realm of extensions to edX.

Enable multi-device support of applications

Through exposure of a broad set of integration points (e.g., XBlocks, APIs), a subset of our platform efforts, it is possible to build multiple front ends (mobile, responsive, translatable) rapidly and at relatively low cost. Further, for anyone who doesn’t want to be responsible for building and maintaining their own edX instance, but wants to create custom experiences derived from the edX platform or extend the platform, APIs provide another avenue for integration.

Summary of Commitments for 2014

The following list summarizes our commitments for the remainder of 2014, in three categories:

  • Green – Features and activities being taken on by edX product development teams
  • Yellow – Features that we wish to support the Open edX community in building that will become a part of the supported platform
  • Blue – Features that we don’t anticipate having the capacity or interest in developing in the near term

We welcome dialogue about how community contributions become a part our “Yellow” roadmap. As we move forward, we will introduce a formal process for requesting that edX “sponsor” your feature as an item on our roadmap. Along with our commitment to support your efforts, you will be asked to commit people or funds, be able to describe the type of support you need (i.e. people to advise, being responsive to emails, potentially accelerating items on roadmap, etc.), and propose a timeline. In general, these designations apply across all feature areas on edX. Specifically, this section describes how these designations apply to the Open edX roadmap.

In that vein, between now and the end of 2014, we commit to the following efforts:

Green List

  1. Create a public bug list and active backlog
  2. Create and update the public roadmap on a quarterly basis
  3. Develop named releases and publish them on a quarterly basis
  4. Publish our API and make the interfaces public
  5. Designate a full-time community manager
  6. Clarify and welcome dialogue about the Open edX mission
  7. Define KPIs for success of Open edX (including a phone home feature with opt out)
  8. Sponsor an Open edX conference (Nov 19, 2014)
  9. Publish our XML format (edXML)
  10. Launch a Platform Adopter Web site (+Developer area)

Yellow List

In most cases, community members have already approached us looking for partnership on these development efforts, which will result in features that become a part of the platform. If you are interested in being part of the process of bringing these features into the platform — either as consultant, contributor, tester, etc — please contact us at product@edx.org. This list is also likely to evolve significantly as we engage as a community, and, of course, this does not preclude independent efforts by any member of the community to contribute to our open source repositories following these guidelines.

  1. Support site styling (subset of theming)
  2. Support Open Stack
  3. Support LTI 2.0
  4. Support OLI courses on edX
  5. Support Mozilla Open Badges integration
  6. Support Shibboleth integration [no community partner]

Blue List

At this point, we are still refining the 2014-2015 edX roadmap, but from what we know today and based on what we believe to be our core competencies, the following items are unlikely to be scheduled for development or supported development in the near term:

  • Full installation scripts and supporting documentation for non-AWS deployments
  • Full SIS, LMS, and other campus system integration projects
  • Investment in on-call or full-service support engineering team for adopters and developers

This list will be further elaborated over time, and our full 2014-15 roadmap will be published by the end of July, which should also provide better community guidance on our engineering efforts.

Beth Porter is the VP of Product at edX. She is always eager to get feedback directly from people using the edX platform and members of Open edX community. Please write to her at bporter@edx.org.

Addendum

July 25, 2014

A few of you have asked about this “blue” item, “Full SIS, LMS, and other campus system integration projects.” I want to clarify what work we are doing in the campus integration domain to support online learning for residential students. This year, we want to support very specific integrations that streamline the use of courses in the context of campus systems. Specifically, we want to enable learners to log into their edX courses using other authentication mechanisms, such as public identity providers, like Google, and education-oriented identity services, like Shibboleth. We are also committed to the potential of learning tools interoperability (LTI), both expanding what we offer via the LTI 1.1 protocol and expanding into LTI 2.x to enable grades to transfer to the LMS and courses to launch from other environments. Members of our open source community are stepping forward to lead these initiatives, and we will support their work in order to help those projects succeed. We know that there are many other potential integration opportunities, but we are focused on these initiatives as those most requested by our partners and of clear value in supporting them. 

Thanks – Beth