We are taking some time in the weeks leading up to Open edX Con 2015 to share a bit about the speakers and what they are working on. Open edX Con 2015 is October 12-13th, at Wellesley College in Wellesley, MA. Register today!

Xavier Antoviaque, along with edX employee Sarina Canelake, will be presenting Contributing to Open edX as part of the Deploying and Developing the Open edX platform track.

Tell us a bit about yourselves

A photo of Xavier Antoviaque.I’m Xavier Antoviaque – I am an Open edX contributor, and I founded OpenCraft, one of the main development consultancies specialized on the Open edX platform.

I’m Sarina Canelake. I’ve been working at edX since July 2012, first building courses, then coding for the LMS, and now doing software development on the Open Source team, particularly working with our community to get their features merged into the upstream master branch.


What inspired you to get involved with edtech? What inspires you today?

[XA] I really enjoyed MOOCs as a student – I wish I could have studied this way from the get go! This is still a huge driver for me – MOOCs, or future iterations of ed tech, are the future of learning, and it feels like a privilege to help making it happen. I also love to work on free software – as a developer, it feels that the work is more useful, to more people, and with less strings attached.

[SC] I’ve always loved education; as a kid, it was always my safe space. I was very lucky to be able to attend MIT, and got involved while at MIT in projects to deliver content to the broader world. When Anant asked if I’d be interested in joining the team at edX (then still MITx), I lept at the chance and haven’t looked back. Impacting the lives of so many students, enabling the distribution of a variety of types of content, and bringing education to the whole world continually inspire me every day.

How does working on the Open edX platform relate to your work?

A photo of Sarina Canelake.

[XA] I am a MOOC enthusiast – that’s how I came to contribute to edX in the first place, by wanting to give back some of what I had received for free, as a MOOC student. I have also been involved in the free software community for a long time, so the Open edX project felt like home pretty quickly : )

[SC] In my previous job I worked on the Linux kernel, so switching to web development to work at edX was quite a change! I strongly believe in the mission, and I’ve come to really love web development and working in Python.

How long have you been working with the Open edX platform?

[XA] Since its release as free software – I can’t believe that’s now almost 2.5 years ago. Time flies when working on great projects : )

[SC] I beat Xavier by a few months 🙂 I’ve been at edX since July 2012.

What will you be talking about at Open edX Con?

[XA] Contributing to the Open edX project. It can be a little intimidating to do the first step here, and try to your first contribution accepted. It’s really not that hard, and you now get good guidance along the way, but there are still a lot of good contributions being held back – I hope it can inspire more people to contribute back what they worked on. Not only it will benefit the platform, but it benefits the contributor too – you get a very good code review, and you don’t have to maintain your patch in future updates any more!

[SC] Xavier is a prolific contributor to the Open edX platform. I manage the open source pull request (OSPR) process, and Xavier has really helped me fine tune it. I agree that contributing can feel intimidating, and I’d like to break down that conception. I am also interested in hearing from all of our contributors on how they feel the process goes. What confused you, or was challenging? What could we improve on? How can I help you out? I’m looking forward to a great discussion.

What excites you about the conference?

[XA] I’d like to talk about deployments and setup of instances – I feel there is more that can be done in this area, it’s not simple enough today. You shouldn’t need to hire us to setup your instance! And today, unless you have strong technical skills internally, and the ability to commit a sizeable amount of time to learning about the platform, you do need to hire someone. We can do better than this.

[SC] I’m really excited to talk to all of our attendees and hear about the cool ways they’re putting the platform to use. I love hearing about the different types of sites that exist – from elementary school courses to teacher training to religious education to corporate training. It’s so cool to hear about new use cases and ways of using the Open edX platform that I hadn’t thought about before.

I also love learning about the cool extensions everyone has built, and what new ideas are driving the community. After last year’s conference I was brimming with excitement and hope about the future of the Open edX platform and community; this year I’m sure I will be overflowing.

Will you be attending the post-conference hackathon?

[XA] Yes! I recently picked an interest in improving the development sandbox workflow – temporary servers we setup to validate individual features during development. I might work on that during the hackathon : )

[SC] Absolutely. My pet interest is improving our tools around translating the platform, and I hope to tackle some projects that will improve our abilities in this space.

To catch Xavier and Sarina’s talk, come to Open edX Con 2015.

Edited for formatting and content.