Blog post:

Open edX: What You Need to Know

(Want a more “advanced” deep-dive into Open edX’s features? Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of “The Hidden Features of Open edX Studio.”)

Open edX – An Overview

Want to learn about the basics of Open edX? You’ve come to the right place. In this post, we’ll walk through what Open edX is, how it works, its many use cases and features, who uses it, and why many trainers and educators choose the platform to deliver online learning.

But first, let’s clarify the question we hear most often from people new to Open edX…

Open edX vs. What’s the difference?

You may have already heard of Developed by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2012, is a nonprofit, massive open online course (MOOC) provider.

With over 35M users worldwide, edX offers many free and paid courses that are designed to help you advance your career. courses range across a variety of disciplines including computer science, data science, languages, engineering, psychology, writing, biology, business and more.

edX platform

On the other hand, Open edX is a free, open-source content management system (CMS) with a large, supportive community. Released to the public in June 2013, Open edX was originally developed by edX. It is the same platform that powers’s own courses. 

Open edX is used worldwide and enables anyone to deliver engaging online course content to their learners. Rather than using to create and submit their own courses, organizations can host and deploy their own branded instance of edX tailored specifically for their own online learning or training needs.

Features on the Open edX learning platform include self-paced training, online discussion groups, wiki-based collaborative learning, learning assessments as a student progresses through a course, right to left language support, course and learner analytics, cohort-specific content and discussions, digital course certificates, online laboratories and more.

open edx - redis university example
Open edX example – Redis University (

How Open edX works

There are two sides to the Open edX platform:

  1. LMS: The LMS is the learner-facing side of the platform, where learners can access and complete courses.
  2. Studio: Open edX Studio is the side of the platform accessed through a browser by course administrators, instructors, and course authors. This is where you can create, design, and manage your courses.

Open edX supports video, HTML text, and discussion elements. Course authors are also able to include their own wiki, or textbook-style elements that can be uploaded as a PDF file.

Like any new software, there are many new terms to learn. Luckily, there’s a handy glossary you can use to familiarize yourself with anything you don’t understand.

Who uses Open edX?

Because Open edX is such a robust and versatile platform, it is trusted worldwide by organizations of all shapes and sizes to power a wide range of online learning use cases.

Open edX is trusted worldwide by some of the world’s largest organizations including McKinsey, Microsoft, Johnson and Johnson, Stanford University and more to create courses that educate their customers, employees, partners and students.

Open edX site example: Starbucks

Open edX provides companies and higher education institutions with a powerful platform to scale their education and training efforts. 

For example, MongoDB, an open source database, could previously only train 1,800 people per year with their in-person training. However, with their Open edX site, they were able to train 14,000 during the same timeframe and MongoDB University now serves as its largest source for lead generation and an effective developer marketing initiative.

Not only can you create courses for your own company, but you can also create a catalog of courses consisting of your own internal courses and useful licensed courses from other corporations. 

Check out some of our customer stories to learn about other Open edX use cases.

Open edX Sites and Providers

Within the edX wiki there is a list of sites powered by Open edX as well as a list of Open edX service providers.

Learn how to build your first Open edX Course with Appsembler's experts.

The difference with open source software

In-person training is dying out, slowly. As we see a shift from the physical classroom to anytime, anywhere learning, learning management systems (LMS) are growing quickly across many industries.

While traditional LMS’s have to rely on their ability to update their proprietary software as and when the market calls for it, the open-source nature of Open edX means the platform is constantly iterating and improving with contributions from the open source community.

Open edX benefits from a large number of major corporations currently using the software – such as Google and Microsoft who contribute new features others can benefit from.

What’s brilliant about the platform is the range of different things companies are using it for. Some are creating mini-MOOCs within their own internal content strategy, while others are using the platform to improve the skills of their workers.

Why Choose Open edX?

There are many open source learning platforms to choose from. Open edX has emerged as the chosen online learning or training platform for many organizations because it is learner centric, innovative, scalable, and flexible.

Open edX’s modern web user interface pushes the focus on usability making it a great platform for instructors and an immersive learning environment for students.

It is a cutting-edge, powerful online learning platform and it’s open-sourced, which means it is constantly innovating with contributions from the world’s most brilliant minds. It is extensible, versatile, and can be modified and customized for your needs.

Open edX instructors maintain full intellectual property of their course as well as their learner data.

Open edX encourages active learning which is a modular approach to learning through interaction. This approach uses sequences, videos and interactive exercises and allows instructors to teach by asking questions. And unlike traditional teaching, Open edX supports self-paced learning so learners can pause, rewind or even mute the instructor at any time.

When courses attract hundreds of thousands of students, grading work becomes a problem. Open edX supports instant feedback where the computer grades the exercises and students immediately receive their marks after answering each question.

Throughout their time on the course, learners are able to see a progress bar with their final scores and how much more of the course they need to complete before they finish.

Have questions or want to learn more about how Open edX can work for your online learning needs? Get in touch or try out our 30-day free trial of Tahoe, which let’s you build a branded Open edX site in minutes.


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