LTI Technology is Getting a Second Chance on Open edX Thanks to Harvard University

Because of the lack of proper documentation and poor promotion, XBlocks are not getting much traction on the Open edX platform. This technology was intended to be the Open edX’s weapon to become dominant among learning systems. Instead, the old LTI components are getting a successful second chance.

During Open edX’s first conference in November, Phil McGachey, Tech Lead of Teaching and Learning Technologies in Harvard University made a presentation titled “Tool Integration with LTI”, reflected in the video above and in these slides.

He explained how LTI technology has allowed Harvard to share content between the two LMS they use for distance learning and in-campus teaching –edX and Canvas. He mentioned that Harvard installed a server to host new, LTI-based pedagogical tools.

Wait a minute. Harvard, co-founding member of edX, putting its innovation energy on creating LTI modules instead of XBlocks? You read it well.

There is even a satellite development group that was created during the Open edX conference to develop LTI technology.

As an additional note, it is worth noting that edX is not even a member of the IMS Global consortium, the LTI consortium, and therefore its LTI activity is not certified by this institution.


An XBlock for Embedding PowerPoint Videos, Interactive Lectures and Office Apps Into edX Courses

office mix

edX just released an XBlock component for Office Mix, an add-on for PowerPoint 2013 to produce consumer-quality videos, interactive lectures and “Lab apps for Office” (which creates a sort of in-quiz video experience).

This component will allow educators to embed materials hosted on directly into an edX course.

This Office Mix Xblock has been open sourced and is available for distribution on GitHub. It means that the Open edX platform’s deployment organizations –such as IBL– will be able to reuse or modify this XBlock.

office mix2

Caveat: the Office Mix authoring tool only works with Windows-based operating systems.

The First Six Badges of the Open edX Universe


The first Open edX-based badges or micro-credentials are being issued this weekend by George Washington University’s MOOC “Practical Numerical Methods with Python”, run by the innovative Professor Lorena Barba. IBL Studios Education developed an XBlock and created the  layouts of the badges.

These six badges –hosted at– recognize the efforts of GW Online’s students.

This development was introduced at Harvard on November 19th during the Open edX conference. Here is the video.

See the process of a student claiming a badge on the Open edX platform below.






300,000 Students Enrolled in the "Introduction to Linux" Course.

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The “Introduction to Linux” course on edX has seen one of the highest enrollments of any class offered on, ever. It has attracted 300,000 people from all over the world, with the top five countries being the U.S., India, UK, Brazil and Spain.

If you missed the first run, you have a second chance: on January 5, 2015 the course starts again.


"Open Online Learning Is Improving Residential Classes"


We met Dartmouth’s folks at the edX Global Forum and shared ideas and views about learning science, research and open online learning.

Josh Kim, Director of Digital Learning, wrote an interesting article at Inside of Higher Ed.

Let us highlight some of his ideas:

  • “What MOOCs [at edX] have done is raise the quality bar for residential teaching.”
  • “Blended and online learning capabilities are increasingly viewed as infrastructure”. “The costs of creating high quality online courses are largely viewed as part of a larger infrastructure now needed to create high quality learning for all of our students, both our traditional matriculated students and the lifelong learners that we connect with online.”
  • “The methods, norms and practices have been largely absent from the classroom”. “Blended and online teaching methods are making making available the data that determine learning outcomes”. “The data available from the edX platform are pushing us all to develop analytics and research plans for all the teaching and learning in which we engage”. “Every edX school is strongly focused on how experimenting with open online courses at scale and improve residential teaching and learning”.
  • “All of us are experimenting and learning together. None of us are experts in open online learning at scale”.”None of us understand exactly how we can leverage this new excitement about student learning and data to make long-lasting improvements in our capabilities around residential teaching and learning.” “Any win for a peer institution is a win for us as well, as we are all trying to create a new way of thinking about higher education”.
  • “Open online learning is changing methods of developing, teaching, and improving residential classes”.

First Integration of Open Badges on Open edX – Supported by edX’s CEO


On Wednesday, November 18, IBL Studios Education, George Washington University, Indiana University and presented the Open Badges XBlock at the 2014 Open edX conference at Harvard University.

These badges –also called micro-credentials– are digital tokens that recognize and verify achievements at any point in time. As our partner,, explains, these digital credentials “recognize proof of a discrete skill or a more significant achievement like a diploma”.  “Enabling professors to issue Open Badges solves one of the challenges facing MOOCs in that students in large online course are accessing the educational content in different ways. The majority doesn’t complete a course and receive a completion certificate, but many pick up relevant skills and experiences along the way. Issuing Open Badges allows professors to see ongoing levels of engagement and provide independent learners proof and evidence of their accomplishments”.

The integration of these badges is powered by the Achievery API and an XBlock and Python client developed by IBL Studios Education and George Washington University, with support from Indiana University Professors Daniel Hickey and James Willis and the MacArthur Foundation. These first Open Badges will be awarded to students on Professor Lorena Barba’s MOOC, “Practical Numerical Methods with Python”. The badges will be issued upon successful completion of graded modules and may contain student links providing evidence of their learning such as through their Github repositories.

Below is a document, prepared by Lorena Barba and Michael Amigot, that explains how the Open Badges XBlock works.

This XBlock will be open sourced by the end of January 2015, once more badge providers are included.

The software was unveiled during a real-time demo session at the Open edX Conference.


As a result of this success, edX decided to create the Open badges satellite group in order continue the development of this software.

The CEO of edX, Anant Agarwal, enthusiastically supported this group and promised full support. In fact, he revealed that he started to use badges in his online courses calling these credentials “micro-karmas”. (Below in the picture, Lorena Barba, James Willis, Anant Agarwal, Michael Amigot and Daniel Hickey).

Video presentation in Harvard:

The First Open edX Conference Was a Blast: Watch the Videos!

edx conference

The first Open edX conference in Cambridge, MA, brought together around 250 specialists on the edX technology and pedagogy.

Great keynotes speeches, breakout sessions, networking, a hackathon and social events. As our friend Ramón Talavera explained in his blog, “this conference was a blast”.

Many presentations were live streamed –and here are the videos–. Tweets can be found at #openedxcon and @OpenedX.

Below is an image with many of the Open edX projects. We, at IBL Studios Education, presented three platforms during the Demo Table sessions: ING Open edX (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile), ISEADX Business School and LECTYA – FGSR. In addition, we demoed the first Open Badges XBlock developed by our engineering team.



EdX Joins President Obama's Program to Empower Teachers to Embrace Blended Learning

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President Obama announced last week that edX has joined ConnectED, the White House’s initiative to empower teachers to embrace technology and digital learning. As part of this program, edX partner universities and colleges will offer professional development courses for teachers, along with courses to prepare students for AP exams.

  • Courses for teachers include training on using technology in the classroom, learning theory and leadership, along with teaching in a blended format. Teachers will be able to earn verified certificates upon successful course completions.
  • Students in high-need and in rural schools around the country will be able to earn free verified certificates in any of the more than 40 courses and modules edX university partners are developing as preparation for the AP exams.

All courses, developed by the nation’s best colleges and universities, will be open for registration on within the next 12 months.

EdX partners participating in the ConnectED initiative include:

Teacher Professional Development:

  • Boston University
  • Davidson College
  • Georgetown University
  • Harvard University
  • MIT
  • Rice University
  • Teachers College, Columbia University
  • University of Texas Arlington
  • University of Texas Austin
  • University of Texas System

Courses to Prepare for AP Exams:

  • Boston University
  • Cooper Union
  • Davidson College
  • Georgetown University
  • MIT
  • Tennessee Board of Regents
  • Rice University
  • UC Berkeley
  • Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

The First Open edX Badge Solution Will Be Presented in Harvard


An innovative Open edX extension that integrates digital badges into MOOCs will be presented this Wednesday on Harvard University’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, during the first Open edX conference.

It will be an XBlock developed by IBL Studios Education and George Washington University (GWU), with the support of University of Indiana, edX and

GWU’s Professor Lorena Barba, who provided a conceptual design and iterative refinements for this app, has prepared a set of slides explaining the development.

The badge solution will work initially with the badge hosting service. This Rhode Island-based company has developed an API that IBL’s engineering team has integrated into a Python client and connected to the Open edX platform.

The first institution to integrate this solution will be George Washington University through its Open edX platform.

Students of the “Practical Numerical Methods with Python” course will be the first ones benefiting from the IBL Open Badge XBlock. Their achievements will be recognized through badges that will be automatically issued when their grading scores on each lesson surpass 50 percent or any other percentage set by the instructor.