Two developers from the EducateWorkforce team, at the Clemson University Center for Workforce Development (CUCWD) center, attended the recent 2019 Open edX Conference (March 26 – 29, 2019) on the UC San Diego campus in Southern California. The theme of this conference was “Collaborative Learning. Community Lead” and was geared more toward the community collaboration, online learning, and the use and extension of the Open edX platform. This was the largest Open edX conference ever with 325 people from 6 continents in attendance. The keynote talks consisted of the following subjects: Future Learner, State of Open edX Ecosystem, Technology Use and Transformation in Higher Education, Credential Disruption and Sustainable Practice, Personalized Learning at Scale, and How Artificial Intelligence (AI) can Transform Learning. These talks were inspiring and gave precedence to the future of the Open edX platform and its use within the community going forward.
Additionally, the conference consisted of several workshop breakout sessions that included advancements in platform technology improvements and configuration for system developers. Overall these workshops sessions were a great value added for the EducateWorkforce development team, in that, it helped reassure us on how to proceed with a specific technology stack, extensibility with the platform, and define a more streamlined approach to platform configuration. Some of these sessions included: Building Open edX Apps in iOS and Android, Building Open edX frontend applications with React, Maintainably Extending Open edX, Learner Analytics with xAPI, Microservices and Microfrontends, and Painless Open edX Upgrades.
The future direction from the Open edX platform architecture team was to continue improving the platform by developing a small core that was explicit and well defined; the platform would then use plugins to extend the core functionality. To improve frontend development on the Open edX platform several Microservices (MS) would communicate with one or more Microfrontend (MFE) services (React and Redux) using the available MS REST API endpoints; EdX is slowly migrating the frontend architecture within each platform upgrade and is expected to have it fully integrated with later releases of the platform. Much of these architecture improvements were noted in some of the keynote, workshop, and developer summit meetings throughout this conference.
Other breakout sessions at the conference were geared more toward the Instructional Design (ID) role focusing on the design and creation of online curriculum. For future Open edX conferences, it would be beneficial for the EducateWorkforce team to send an ID developer so that they could attend workshops focused on the design and creation of online curriculum. This would allow us to potentially share with the community how we approach curriculum development but also learn from others too.
The EducateWorkforce team presented at a lightning talk session on how to extend the Open edX platform Course Discovery service in pushing course meta information to a separate marketing frontend WordPress service. Seeing that this talk was brief, it was a great way to introduce to the community how the team pushed course details to a separate site, outside the Open edX platform default Drupal service, to brand and market accordingly. We had a couple community members thank us for giving this presentation of which they thought would be most useful should they want to build marketing for courses on top of a WordPress frontend. For those interested in viewing this presentation see links below.
Conference Lightning Session by Zachary Trabookis
Session Stats and Links
Title: Extending the Course Discovery Service for Delivery on WordPress Frontend
Program Manager, Web Services, Center for Workforce Development
1:36:00 – 1:46:00 (Main Talk)
1:55:10 – 2:00:37 (Questions and Answers)
The conference concluded with a developer summit that had random topics where the Open edX platform team and the community could get together to discuss existing issues with the system, build out new functionality, or explain how a process works. We attended sessions consisting of configuration, frontend development, and credentials. During the frontend development session, the EducateWorkforce team continued to discuss with several community members that were interested in our lightning talk on extending the Course Discovery service for a WordPress frontend. We spoke with Lawrence McDaniel (community member) on potentially creating a news article together on how to utilize our frontend Course Discovery changes. Zachary Rockwell, one of the developers from the Open edX Team, wrote the original code for the Course Discovery service for the default Drupal frontend; he gave input on how we could effectively contribute our code changes back to upstream edX Course Discovery repository. The credential session allowed us to communicate with Open edX platform developers and community members on how we foresee badge credentials being used within individual courses, as well as, linking these badges to some form of pathway recognition for the learner. The discussions that we had on credentials were in their initial stages and so we decided to potentially meet later to discuss future platform improvements with Marco Morales (edX Product Manager and Designer) and community members involved. Topics in this discussion consisted of: allowing the learner to decouple their credential recognition from the systems that awarded it, and how would the learner opt-in to share their recognition with employers.
Overall this conference provided a way for the EducateWorkforce team to reach out to the Open edX community through attending and providing workshop sessions, as well as, asking questions that could help shape the future of online learning. Being able to see and communicate with the Open edX platform team and the community in-person, while at this conference, helped drive innovation forward for online learning. I would recommend that even if you couldn’t attend this conference that you look over the schedule, presentation slides and recorded workshop sessions to see how this platform is evolving. EdX will conduct next year’s Open edX conference in Lisbon, Portugal on May 19 – 22nd, however, don’t let that discourage you from viewing the conference videos and presentation slides should you not be able to attend since this information can provide you with direction on where online learning is headed.