Open edX Ironwood Release Available now at eduNEXT Cloud subscriptions
The latest version of the Open edX ® platform was released in March 2019 and it is called Ironwood. Since the release, the team at eduNEXT has been working on updating all of our Cloud subscriptions to this last version. We have been not only reviewing and testing all changes but also making sure that eduNEXT’s improvements to the Open edX platform are also upgraded to work in the new version; lastly, we have also verified the thousands of sites that we host in all the 15 languages in which we operate work as expected.
What you need to know as a subscriber
First and foremost you should know that upgrades are a positive thing. Although sometimes they may be challenging, they are needed as all software products are in constant evolution and it is vital to meet the highest standards in terms of performance, security, and compatibility with the latest technologies. Moreover, the upgrading process is the best moment to take advantage of all new features and improvements in the functionality of the platform.
Apart from the inherent changes and improvements in this new version, you should not be concerned about the functionality of your sites as they will continue to operate as usual.
In terms of functional changes, you may have already read about the features or improvements in the Open edX Ironwood release. We have classified them according to the way they will impact the experience of our subscribers as explained in detail below:
1. Features available immediately
Some of the new features are adding extra capabilities and functionalities without disrupting any existing behavior, so they will be added during the upgrade. This set includes the features below:
- Learner Data report for a Specific Problem: there is a major improvement in the downloadable Student State report which includes new columns for single problems or all problems in a unit, subsection, or section, along with problems in the course.
In Ironwood, once an Instructor access the Student State report, it is possible for him to download a CSV file including the answer given by the student, the correct answer set for this particular problem and the question.
This new feature provides the instructor with all the necessary data to properly grade the student’s responses to questions.
- Anonymous access to certain types of course content: This is the ability to configure as public the different courses of your online learning initiative, granting access to visitors not yet registered or that do not have a username and password. This new feature offers great flexibility to authors, as it allows them to set all course content, or, only some sections as public. It is now possible to offer a free sample to promote your courses or entice visitors to purchase by setting as public The Course Outline (course sections and subsections). This new functionality will make the indexing of course content easier by search engines, will improve SEO performance, allowing greater discover-ability. If you need to ask this functionality, please request for it through a support ticket providing the corresponding course ID, specifying ‘Course outline privacy settings’ in the subject line. Currently, it is possible to use this new configuration only for HTML and video content sections. It is expected that in the future the support will cover different types of content.
This feature can be activated independently in each course, to request it please request its activation for one of your courses through a support ticket. Once the feature is activated by our support team, you will have to visualize your course in Studio and go to the Advanced Settings page, then localize the Course Visibility For Unenrolled learners. Generally, it is set by default as “private”, you will have then to modify this to “public_outline” if you only want to set your course outline as public. You can also set all of your course content as public, by changing to “public”.
- Course Launch & Best Practices Checklist: The “Checklist” feature could be helpful for authors to control that they are following the required steps before launching a course and following the best practices for course creation. This checklist is automatically updated as the authors progress in the course creation process and can be seen from the course outline page in STUDIO. This may be a powerful resource for platform administrators to keep an eye on the work done by authors and for authors to be encouraged to apply the best practices when creating their online courses.
- Language improvements: All language packages have been updated and improved. Support for new languages such as Greek, Vietnamese, Spanish (Spain) and Portuguese (Portugal) has been added to the list of 13 languages that we already supported.
- Accessibility improvements: Certain improvements have been made for the accessibility compliance of some sections such as the learner account page, the MathJax components, and others across the LMS.
- Other course settings: You can now add a new field to the course “advanced settings”, allowing the authors to store any value in a JSON dictionary, thus they will no longer require to update the platform code. This is an easy way to preserve the code even if there are any upgrades. This field can hold metadata such as course ID (in an external system), course difficulty, or any other instance-specific metadata related to the course that needs to be available to the theme.
2. Features that will be researched in the future
Some of the Ironwood changes will require some additional research effort and possibly changes into the eduNEXT management console before they can be eligible for being included in our Cloud Subscriptions. This set comprises:
- Feature-Based Enrollments: It is the new approach to monetization implemented in edx.org with which access to some types of course content may be granted based on the enrollment type. For example, audit learners may have access to main course content, Videos, Reading, Discussion forums, Additional resources, Practice problems, etc. during the course duration, but verified learners will have access to both course content after it ends, and graded problems.
- Password Complexity Requirements: In this new release, the syntax for setting the password of your instance has been updated by including some default checks that ensure your password’s strength. It is possible now to add your own password validator plugin in case you prefer to have custom rules or reinforce your password security.
3. Features that will not be enabled
Some of the features that are announced in the official statements as part of the Open edX platform are not really applicable to every open edX installation, as they may not be fully operational yet, or depend on external services or some other configuration. In the case of eduNEXT’s Cloud subscription, they will not be made available, including:
- New gradebook Application: This is a new feature intended to display and manage grades of all your course learners. It will have an improved research tool that allows you to look for specific learners and invalidate assignment-specific grades. You will also be able to filter by cohort, track, or assignment type. As this is a work in progress by edX, available exclusively in Ironwood for devstack, it should be removed in all production instances.
- Studio Login via the LMS: The Ironwood release notes mentioned a change in the way authors login to STUDIO. For eduNEXT’s Cloud subscriptions, the login to Studio will remain unchanged.
- Transferable learner records. This component is also an ongoing development and relies on other Credential services not currently available.
4. Deprecated features
As part of the normal evolution of any software application, some features that are not functional or no longer needed are removed from time to time.
- Full-Screen Image component: Since the last version of the platform (Hawthorn) the Old full-screen image HTML component was not opening the full-size image in the same window, but in another browser tab, rendering the experience inadequate. Starting in Ironwood this type of HTML component will no longer be available to be added from the STUDIO interface.
Enjoy Open edX Ironwood
To learn more about Ironwood’s new features visit the Open edX Ironwood Release Notes here.
We encourage all our subscribers to take advantage of all the available features for this new version of Open edX. In case you require additional support to enable any of these new characteristics, you can count on eduNEXT’s support and guidance through the whole process.
If you are not yet enjoying the advantages of eduNEXT’s Cloud subscriptions powered by Open edX, you can join us by Subscribing Now and start making use of this new Open edX release!