Open edX is an open source course management system that is used to create and deliver online courses. The platform is used to host Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), though it can also host smaller courses. Open edX rolls out fully tested releases about every 4-6 months, with the sixth and most current release being Ficus.
The Perpetual Learning team has set up a public instance of Ficus on AWS for readers to test out for themselves. Read on to find out more about Ficus, or scroll down to jump on into testing.
The most significant update in Ficus is that the platform is now run on Ubuntu 16.04. This means that upgrading from Eucalyptus or an earlier release includes upgrading the operating system from Ubuntu 12.04 to Ubuntu 16.04. Although this may be a deterrent for users who already have Open edX set up, it allows for security updates and allows for the new additions from Ficus and later releases. Ubuntu 12.04 has reached it’s end of life as of April 2017, and so it’s important for users to make the switch to Ubuntu 16.04. Ubuntu 12.04 will no longer receive maintenance updates.
Ficus adds a bunch of new features outside of the migration to Ubuntu 16.04. The biggest changes come up in the course studio ie the course creation interface. HTML components are now easily copied to be reused in other modules. HTML formatting, including using the script element and adding multiple course responses, is now allowed in different problem types.
Drag and drop problems have been revamped so that authors can prevent students from receiving feedback until after they have dropped all the draggable items. The author can also specify if the student’s score will drop or not if they receive a lower score on additional attempts. Course teams can now create custom pages that only team members can see. In addition to all of this, there were tweaks made to various elements to improve the UX.
The studio wasn’t the only place to see improvements. In the learning management system (LMS), there were improvements made to help the experience run smoother. The progress page now loads significantly faster. ‘Next’ and ‘Previous’ buttons were added so that students can move intuitively through their courses. The ‘check’ and ‘final check’ buttons were combined into a single submit button to avoid redundancy, and buttons such as the ‘save’ and ‘show answer’ buttons were moved to the side because they were found to not be used frequently. Finally, the students are now able to quickly see whether their problems are graded or ungraded.
In addition to these updates there were also behind the scenes updates to enhance accessibility and improve both readability and navigability. These updates, as well as the rest of the updates made, can be seen in the release notes.
Ready to dive on in to Open edX Ficus? Use the links below to access our Ficus server and feel free to experiment with course creation and management for yourself!