The First Open edX Platform Built on the Latest Cypress Software


University 4 Industry
is the first Open edX platform built on the latest Cypress software.

Developed by IBL Studios Education, University 4 Industry is an Open edX platform, created by German entrepreneurs, that intends to close capability and skills gaps in the workplace by educating industry practitioners and students.

The first course, “Internet of Things – Opportunities and challenges for the semiconductor industry”, will become available to the general public within a few days.

EdX Releases "Cypress" (with 188,500 new lines of code) and Announces that it Won't Support "Birch"

“After a lot of work hammering out the last few issues, Cypress is ready to go!”

With this revealing announcement on the General Open edX discussion forum on Google Groups, David Baumgold, edX’s engineer in charge of the release, broke the news.

An official blog post on the Open edX portal, written by Sarina Canelake, explained that this third release of Open edX is “absolutely jam packed with new features and improvements” (see below) and “strongly encouraged everyone in the Open edX community to begin their upgrade to Cypress immediately, revealing that “Cypress is now the only supported Open edX release” and “security patches will no longer be released for Birch”.

This Cypress-named release added around 188,500 lines of code and removed around 46,000 lines, touching nearly 2,500 files in the process. Seventy individuals, along with many other contributors, have been involved in writing the code of the edX platform since the release of Birch in February 2015. In total, over 3,150 commits.

Among the new features:

A full list of features has been posted here, along with instructions to migrate to Cypress.

The next Open edX release, Dogwood, is expected for the end of November 2015.

A Patch Release for Open edX-Based "Birch" that Administrators Must Install Urgently to Make YouTube Videos Display

EdX announced today Birch.1, the first patch for the Open edX “Birch” named release.

This patch allows to switch from the deprecated version 2 of YouTube Data API to version 3, in order to make YouTube videos display.

Before applying this fix, administrators of Birch-based Open edX platforms will need to sign up for an API key from YouTube and put that key into their installation. This is the documentation site for this process.

Open edX administrators running versions prior to Birch –which was released in March 2015– will be forced to upgrade to the Cypress version, which is expected by the end of this week. EdX is no longer supporting Aspen, the first named version, released in October 2014.

“EdX is providing this patch in order to assist people currently running Birch in production, but we recommend that everyone migrate to Cypress when it comes out”, explained David Baumgold, edX engineer.

In addition, the Birch.1 patch addresses a security vulnerability involving a malicious course import as well as other smaller changes.

> Original post with the announcement (July 28): Announcing Birch.1, patch release for Birch.
> Past news report (July 17): YouTube Videos Won’t Be Displayed on Open edX Platforms Until a Fix Is Developed – edX Engineering Team Is Working Against the Clock

$70K is the Average Cost of Producing An Online Course

What is the cost of creating and running a MOOC? And how much money is your College or University willing to invest in it to develop distance learners’ skills?

post on Linkedin has gotten our attention.

  • University of Texas says their cost is $100k to $300k per course.
  • Teachers College at Columbia University estimates them to range from $39k to $204k each.
  • Harvard’s costs range from $75k to $150k.
  • Cornell says that the cost of supporting a MOOC instructor, materials, and teaching assistant is about $50k.
  • Udacity reports costs of $200k to produce a course, plus $50K to run it subsequently. And costs are only expected to rise, they say.
  • edX gives grants of $50k for creating a course within its “High School Program”.

The two main cost components are course creation (faculty, admins, instructional designers, technical support) and the type of delivery. It is generally estimated that the cost of a high quality video production is approximately $4,300 per hour of finished video.

On average, $70k is the cost to produce a course; the delivery costs range from $10-20 per learner to access the course on Amazon or internal servers.

Introducing the Official Architectural Diagram of Open edX


What does the Open edX architecture look like?

The first version of the diagram illustrating the many components of Open edX is displayed above. It contains various blocks that are scheduled for development but not necessarily in the current version of the Birch release.

In addition, this page explains the current architecture of the platform. It contains also a larger image of the diagram.


The New Open edX "Birch", Just Released, Contains 130,000 New Lines of Code

The Open edX “Birch” version has finally been released!

EdX explained that “between Aspen and Birch, we changed almost 2,500 files, removing almost 90,000 lines and adding over 130,000 new ones”.

This “Birch” release contains several new features for students, course staff, and developers.
These are the main ones:

All the documentation is here.

The next version, “Cypress”, will be released in three or four months.

EdX Sets a Date for the Release of the "Birch" Version: February 24

EdX has set a target date for Birch’s official release: Tuesday, February 24.

David Baumgold, the edX engineer in charge, noted that “if a significant number of changes are added to the release candidate branch, a new release candidate will be created and the release date will be pushed back, to give people time to test the new release candidate”.

The “Birch” version is now on its RC3 (Release Candidate) phase. Bugs will continue to be fixed until the target date.


EdX Launches the "Birch" Release – A Sneak Peak of Its Features


The Open edX “Birch” release –the second version after “Aspen”– is almost here. It is scheduled to be released in February.

For now, this version is a release candidate.

“Birch” will include many new features, capabilities and APIs, as well as many small changes and bug fixes. edX’s Release Notes provide a cumulative list of changes listed after the release of Aspen, which was based on the version from September 4, 2014.

Here is a summary:

  • Prerequisite courses. You can require that students pass specific edX courses before enrolling into your course.
  • Entrance Exams. You can require that students pass an entrance exam before they access your course materials.
  • Student Notes. Learners can highlight text and take notes while progressing through a course. They can then review their notes either in the body of the course or on a separate “Notes” tab.
  • Course Reruns. You can create a new course easily by re-running an existing course. When you re-run a course, most –but not all– of the original course content will be duplicated onto the new course.
  • Google Calendar and Google Drive Components. You can embed Google calendars and Google Drive files into your course. Learners may see the calendar or file directly in the courseware. Learners can also interact with Google Forms files, and complete forms or surveys in the courseware.
  • Support for “Graded Problems” in “Content Experiments”. You can now use graded problems in content experiments.
  • Split Mongo Modulestore. This refers to the separation of identity, structure and content, and it enables you to use more advanced capabilities while developing and managing courses.
  • Cohorts for Discussions and Content. You can now define smaller communities of students within the larger, course-wide community. Learners in a given cohort may have private discussions.
  • Content libraries and randomized content. You can create a content library that contains a pool of components that can be used in randomized assignments.
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