Thursday, June 06, 2013

EdX is out and open -- let a thousand flowers bloom

EdX and Stanford merged their course delivery platforms several months ago and announced that they would open source the combined code base in June.  EdX is now out and open.

The description of the code is terse and I can only get a rough feel for the overall architecture. The edX-platform is the main repository, covering both the learning management system and the authoring tool, Studio. XBlock is a component architecture for building courseware and there are modules for machine learning, voting, nested comments, discussion and automated, staff and peer grading.

They have a modular architecture and hope to attract a broad developer community. The current release contains code from Stanford, Berkeley, the University of Queensland in Australia, 10gen (Mongo DB) and the Concord Consortium, an education technology research group.

We now have two new open source teaching platforms, Google's Course Builder and edX.  It is encouraging to note that Google's slogan is "don't be evil" and EdX, a non-profit, has lofty teaching and research goals.

Much of today's Internet-based education is repackaged material from the textbook-and-lecture era -- old wine in a new bottle.  These open source platforms promise innovation -- new wine for our new bottle, the Internet.

EdX has a "simple, flexible" configurator to deploy ready-to-go instances in the Amazon cloud.  That will be cheaper and simpler than running one's own server, but deploying an edX (or Google) server still requires technical expertise.

These early versions will evolve rapidly and I suspect that, when the code is more mature, hosted versions will be made available.  That will lower the cost and hassle barriers further -- and a thousand flowers will bloom.