A Collaborative Tool to Empower the Open edX (R)  Community to Go Further!

One of the greatest advantages of an open source platform and especially one with an active community around it is the possibility of many third parties to be involved in creating additional components, integrations and extensions that enrich the learning experience from many different angles.

This is especially true for the Open edX platform, as it provides multiple extensions and integration possibilities at different levels, such as the plugin architecture, the xblocks, the LTI integration, and the custom problem types, to name a few.

One significant challenge in this scenario is for these contributions or possibilities to gain visibility so that anyone in the community can explore them and new possibilities are continuously added. 

Over the years, the Open edX community has experimented with different mechanisms to collect, publish and maintain information about the available extensions. Notably, there have been multiple initiatives about maintaining a list of xblocks to shed more light on xblocks apart from the ones that are directly supported by edX.

Collecting and maintaining this information has proven very hard, and these  difficulties can lower the potential benefits of such a tool.

In 2020, the Open edX marketing group decided to take on this challenge again, and started working on building a new consolidated list of all the components that previous instruments had identified, curating and updating the information for each of the components.  As part of this effort, the group discussed and identified the most relevant information for users to find, as well as the criteria that should be met in order for a particular component to be included in or excluded from the list. 

After all this collaborative effort and multiple reviews, the first version of this instrument called the Extensions Directory was published in March of 2021 on the Open edX website and in just a few weeks it has gained some visibility and traffic as a valuable resource for the Open edX community.

The extensions directory is basically a list of components, each of them described in detail in a card that contains all the necessary information, its name, description,  vendor / creator and classification, as well as the links to the component page or documentation as shown in the image below.

Image. A card in the Open edX Extensions Directory

The first version of the directory already has 50 components and it is expected to grow, so part of the solution was to design a navigation interface that allowed filtering the list by specific keywords.

Likewise, since the list includes components that tackle a wide range of challenges, a categorization by function was implemented to facilitate the users’ exploration. 

Image 2. Filter by function.

Finally, as there are different types of components in the directory, such as xblocks, django plugins, themes, and also external cloud based services that work well with the Open edX platform, the ability to filter components by type was added to the interface as shown below.

Image 2. Filter by type

How to Contribute to Improve / Grow the Extensions Directory ?

In order to keep the information in the Directory as accurate and complete as possible, the marketing group decided to distribute this responsibility on an annual rotation among members of the group. For the year 2021, eduNEXT, a service provider fully committed with the Open edX community and the Marketing group, was selected due to its leadership in bringing this idea to life.  The maintenance of the Directory includes the consolidation and verification of the information as well the coordination with the Open edX team for its periodic publication.

All members of the Open edX community that use and are knowledgeable with the platform, as well as vendors or open source contributors that have built and maintain any kind of extension are welcome to participate in this curation effort. 

Visit eduNEXT’s website at https://www.edunext.co/discover/extensions/submit/ to submit a new extension to be reviewed and included in the list or to suggest an improvement to the information already published.

The extensions directory is a testament, both to the breadth of the Open edX technical ecosystem, and to the strength of the working group that worked together to build and produce it.  We’re looking forward to it growing as new updates come up and being a valuable resource to support the Open edX community.