Analysis, Innovators, Open edX News, Universities

What Makes the Open edX Platform Unique? See These Cases

Guest Post: Michael Amigot, Founder at IBL Studios Education

This article originally ran on the Open edX Universities Symposium’s website on September 8, 2015


It’s a Global Success

The Open edX software is open-source technology that makes learning easier and studying faster.

It was created by MIT and Harvard University, and was quickly supported by universities such as UC Berkeley, Georgetown, and Stanford, and companies such as Google and Microsoft.

This software platform is designed to engage students and teachers in an interactive, modular way. It promotes active learning by using video snippets, interactive components and game-like experiences.

The Open edX project is a global success. It powers major MOOC initiatives, hosting blended and online courses, all around the world.


Top Ten Uses

These are the top ten examples of the ways in which the Open edX platform is used:

  1. It powers’s MOOC portal with more than 5 million users, 500 available courses and 50 involved international universities and business organizations.
  2. Stanford University uses it at for both on-campus students and distance learners.
  3. MIT has made its private installation of the Open edX platform its central on campus LMS, with nearly 200 courses and 80 percent of students using it.
  4. Harvard University uses it for online teaching and learning.
  5. Top universities in China, the Middle East, Indonesia, Japan, France, India and Spain, among other countries, have embraced it for MOOCs.
  6. Innovative universities such as The George Washington University (GW), NYU, and Duke University are using it to launch MOOCs, SPOCs and professional education-related initiatives. GW was the second American university after Stanford to deploy an Open edX-based online learning website.
  7. McKinsey & Co has adopted the Open edX system to create McKinsey Academy, which serves over one hundred of its clients.
  8. Johnson and Johnson, Microsoft, Amnesty International, International Monetary Fund, MongoDB and other top international companies are creating Open edX-based courses.
  9. Davidson College, the College Board, and edX have launched AP courses on intended for high-schoolers. EdX’s High School Initiative highlights this focus, too.
  10. Arizona State University is offering the first freshman in college through edX-based courses on


Superior Pedagogy

Open edX technology allows instructors to create engaging learning sequences, which promote active participation as students alternate between learning concepts and solving simple exercises to check their understanding.

The course content is presented through learning sequences: a set of interwoven videos, readings, discussions, wikis, collaborative and social media tools, exercises and materials with automatic assessments and instant feedback.

Students can move at their own pace following a self-regulating learning process. They complete interactive assessments and receive instant feedback.

Results on both student learning outcomes and student satisfaction from the use of the Open edX technology are compelling.

The Open edX system provides superior pedagogy.


Tech Features

The Open edX software includes two main applications: one for taking courses – the LMS or Learning Management System – and another one for creating them – “Studio,” the CMS or Content Management System.

An Open edX course organizes course content through a three-level hierarchy of sections, subsections and units. Sections and subsections appear on a vertical navigation bar on the left and units appear sequentially on a horizontal navigation toolbar. This navigational structure is effective, engaging, and results in a great learning experience.

Units contain components such as discussions, HTML, problems and video.

One of the most powerful technologies native to the Open edX platform is the multiple ways in which course staff can express problems. It allows for multiple-choice questions, checkboxes, dropdowns, textual, numerical and mathematical inputs as well as many other types of advanced problems, using custom Python and JavaScript to evaluate answers and display the results.

The Open edX video player, which is based around YouTube’s embeddable video player, is excellent: custom extensions to this player allow students to follow click-on transcripts to move along the video, adjust video speeds, download both the video and the transcripts, and even view transcripts in other languages.

A course can have cohorts, HTML pages, textbooks, wikis.

There are endless ways to structure course materials within an Open edX course.

“What makes Open edX unique is that it is the only last-generation, full-featured, open-source platform for online learning,” explains Lorena Barba, Professor at GW and one the most prestigious voices in the Open edX community.


Sites powered by Open edX

In our view, these are the best platforms built with Open edX-based code.

An extensive list, organized by Open edX community members, is on GitHub.


Michael Amigot is the founder at IBL Studios Education, a leading Open edX provider for higher-ed. IBL works for MIT Sloan, George Washington, NYU, Duke University, edX, Cooper Union, ETS and over 10 universities in Europe, Asia and Latin America

Previous ArticleNext Article