Discover the Open edX multi-tenancy enhanced features

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Open edX in multi-tenancy configuration

As the demand for online education continues to grow, many institutions are using online learning platforms in a growing number of ways, and some have realized the advantages of hosting different projects or initiatives in separate environments in order to gain the independence required to fulfill each initiative’s unique needs.

However, using the same platform for multiple initiatives also provides some advantages as it allows standardizing processes, optimizing costs, and improving maintainability. 

We’ll refer here to Multi-tenancy, the particular configuration, which enables organizations to successfully run multiple LMS sites published in different domains, out of a single Open edX installation, with some different configurations and theming, keeping independence between the initiatives and bringing the advantages of a single well-maintained and supported platform. 

The Open edX platform in multi-tenant configuration is a great alternative for institutions to expand their services to a wider public, as well as to support different market segments with a course offering and configurations based on their needs and interests.

Some of the most common business cases that can be supported include:

Part of this capability was initially added to the open edX platform with a data structure called “Microsites”, which was later deprecated in favor of a new structure called “sites” and “site configurations”. When using this approach, each site is configured to host the courses of a particular organization, and each course is then created from Studio in the corresponding organization in order to have it appear in a particular site. However, while this feature allows you to host multiple LMS sites with independent course catalogs out of a single Open edX installation, it has some significant limitations that in our experience can discourage its use, as described in the table below.

For Learners For Managers For Developers
  • Insufficient data separation makes, for example, certificates from one site be displayed in all others.
  • Users are created in a shared namespace, and they are able to log in to any of the sites with the same credentials.
  • There are some cross URL branding issues.
  • Limited management capabilities. For example, When providing users with the course creator's role, those users will have the ability to create courses in any of the organizations and thus add courses to any of the Sites in the platform.
  • Changes in configurations need to be applied via redeploying the application.
  • There is very little documentation available.
  • Only a limited subset of features is microsite friendly.
  • No priority or maintenance efforts are being invested to improve this feature.
  • Support for this model has to be added per feature, and oftentimes developers are unaware of it, thus no support is added for some features.
  • Complex layers of CACHE that are hard to understand and manage.
  • No API access for the individual sites.
  • Extensions configurations are not allowed.
  • Very little documentation for developers.

In addition to these limitations, the multi-tenant capabilities included in the master version of the Open edX platform are being progressively reduced, as they are not necessarily core to the strategy for edX.org, the main driver of development and innovation for the Open edX platform. The site configurations capability is planned to be deprecated by the Nutmeg release and likely removed in Olive or the next stable release of the platform.

As part of eduNEXT’s involvement in the open edX community, we have always promoted and contributed to the advancement and maintenance of the multi-tenancy capabilities, as we consider them to be not only critical to our shared cloud open edX provisioning services, but also a great opportunity for our clients to leverage in order to optimize their experience using the Open edX platform.

For that reason, we have enhanced the existing Open edX capabilities to provide a more consistent and robust version of the Open edX multi-tenancy that covers both the independent configuration for sites (or tenants) and also a set of fine-grain theming and content capabilities per tenant.  

The table below highlights the main advantages of eduNEXT’s approach for the platform configurations.

For Learners For Managers For Developers
  • Better filtering capabilities. For example, courses or their certificates are only displayed to a learner in the corresponding tenant.
  • A more robust and configurable tenant object to replace the sites' configuration object.
  • Configurations for the LMS, Studio, and theme are separated in the tenant object for improved clarity. 
  • The course creation access is limited to the user's organization, which means that not all users with administrative roles can execute changes in all the organizations but only in those in which the user has administrator permissions.
  • Ability to handle multiple routes for a single-tenant, thus enabling the use of the preview feature.
  • The explicit link between a tenant and an organization
  • Ability to allow or prevent the login of learners to a specific tenant.
  • Support of asynchronous operations per tenant, such as sending emails or generating reports.
  • Support for this model has to be added per feature, and oftentimes developers are unaware of it, thus no support is added for some features.
  • Built on the new plugin architecture for better maintainability over time.
  • APIs are available independently per tenant (site).

As per the theming capabilities per tenant, we understand this to be a key part of the business case needs. Each tenant requires to be branded independently and ideally, the changes in the branding need to be applied without requiring redeployment of the application to provide additional flexibility to the site managers.  In order to accomplish this, we created a multi-tenant capable theme with dynamic configurations, as described in the table below.

Advantages Limitations

 

  • Theme configuration can be performed without redeployment to the application.
  • Changes to the theme parameters can be done frequently and easily.
  • Hierarchical organization of themes.

 

 

 

  • The New Microfrontend  MFE architecture for theming is not yet supported.
  • Support is not provided directly by edX.

 

 

How to leverage eduNEXT’s enhanced Multi-tenancy capabilities?

If you are a current eduNEXT cloud-based subscriber in the enterprise or performance tiers, you can make use of the multi-tenant as part of your subscription. 

For on-premise subscriptions or stand-alone initiatives, these capabilities can be added through eduNEXT’s consulting services. For more information, reach out to sales@edunext.co

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