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What is the difference between edX and Open edX platform?

Both open edX and have made significant impact in society and in particular in online learning and given the name similarities and the interlaced history of these 2 giants, it is easy for newcomers to be confused about the two.
Difference between edx and open edx platform

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If you are starting to explore the world of open source lms technologies with an interest in open edx or in and are not yet sure where one ends and where the other begins, you have come to the right place.



In this post we’ll explain the difference and the current connection between open edX and edX and will provide the best next steps to continue exploring your way around each of the 2 projects.

What is edX?

edX, commonly referred to as or edx 2U, is an online learning destination, launched back in 2012 by Harvard University, the MIT and several highly ranked universities and partner institutions in the edx consortium.   This initiative, which can be found at is now owned by 2U, and is the home of an outstanding catalog of over 3000 high quality online courses available for free and spanning hundreds of subjects.   It reportedly serves more than 42 million learners worldwide.


the online learning initiative by edX Inc. () and the Open edX platform. In short, edX is a non-profit initiative that delivers high-quality online courses from Harvard University, the MIT and hundreds or other consortium members, and  Our purpose at eduNEXT is to support this type of initiatives by providing services and solutions based on the Open edX platform.

What is the Open edX platform?

Open edX  is the technology platform created by edX and used to build the courses and run the core of the initiative. 


Soon after its inception, it was licensed as an open source software product, enabling the possibility for other online learning initiatives to use it, even without being affiliated with, and furthermore, for more than 8 years edX planted the seeds of the open edX community for practitioners and interested parties to gather and contribute to the advancement of the platform. 


As a result of the acquisition of edX by 2U in 2021, the Open edX platform transitioned from being a by-product of the initiative to be a more independent open source project, stewarded by a new entity called The Center for Re-imagining Learning Axim Collaborative.


Currently, Open edX is being used in thousands of online learning initiatives worldwide and has a vibrant community of developers and contributors, as well as an ecosystem of specialized partners, such as edunext, that provide services to organizations to leverage the capabilities and possibilities of the platform.

Why is there still some confusion?

  1. Because of the similarities in the names and logos of the 2 entities and the long history of Open edX operating under the umbrella of
  3. Because a long body of documentation and online publications may still reference edX and Open edX interchangeably or imprecisely. 
  4. Because the initiative still runs its courses on the Open edX platform and 2U is not only a key player in the Open edX governance model, but is also a major contributor to the Open edX community.

What are some practical differences between edX and Open edX?

One way of approaching this section is to break it down by role:


1. For learners

A learner can register and take courses in and can also register and take courses in any of the initiatives powered by the open edX platform, but there would be no conexion between the 2 sites and accounts.

2. For course creators

Any course creator may want to use the open edX platform to create an online course and operate this course using the Open edX LMS.  This will require hosting the open edX platform and marketing the course directly to the end users.



Only when the course creator is working at an institution that has partnered with edX 2U, will they be able to create the course in and have it published at

3. For any institution

Any academic institution, business, NGO or government initiative, can leverage the power of the Open edX platform to build and deliver online courses.  This will require hosting the platform in the institution’s domain and running the platform and courses either with the institution’s own technical resources or with a service provider like edunext.

If the institution is interested in partnering with edX 2U in order to offer courses and programs in, they can explore the eligibility and requirements starting at

To wrap it up

In summary, since 2012 the initiative built the Open edX platform to power its courses and released it as an open source technology and in late 2021, when joined forces with 2U, the Open edX platform started a new chapter in its evolution, being steward by Axim Collaborative and leveraging contributions from a wide range of community members, including edX 2U.

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