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Open edX LMS: The Learning Management System

The LMS (Learning Management System) is probably the most significant application in the Open edX platform. It is the place where learners find about the online learning initiative, sign up, browse and find available courses, enroll in them, consume the course contents, interact in the course, and ultimately obtain their course certificates. 

It is also the place where instructors first create their accounts and support the learner’s journey when the course is in operation. Instructors and course designers can use the LMS platform to monitor, manage, follow, support, and interact with their learners.

The following sections will provide a general description of the main components found in the LMS for both the learner and the instructor’s perspectives.

The LMS from the learner perspective

Homepage and static pages

Visitors can browse the homepage, the course catalog, and some additional static pages, to find all the general information about the online learning initiative and its offering.

The homepage normally has a very strong brand presence, some key information for all users, and a list of some or all of the courses available.

The static pages help to publish some important information about the online courses initiative. Here is a description of the 6 static pages available:

This page is intended to publish the platform terms of service, covering aspects such as:

 General terms and conditions of the service
 Rules of online conduct
 Rules and policies to be applied about user accounts
 Copyright disclaimers for the contents in the site
 Rules or guidelines for user’s posts in the discussions.
 Branding guidelines
 Exclusions of warranties and liability limitations.

This page is intended to cover:

 Agreed rules for online conduct
 Use of personal accounts and passwords
 Online security guidelines
 Collaboration policies
 Rules of online conduct
 Rules or guidelines for user’s posts in the discussions.

A page used to explain in more detail the purpose of the learning initiative, its sponsors, main goals, etc.

A page intended to provide the users with useful resources to troubleshoot any problem they may encounter when using the site or its contents.

A contact form to get in touch with the teams behind the site. Open edX does not include a solution for the contact form, but it can be easily implemented in this page.

Intended to address any privacy policies, in compliance with local legislation in the matter, including for example:

 Management of personal information.
 Disclosure to third parties
 Security concerns

The Course Catalog Page

The course catalog will display all the courses that are currently available for learners to enroll in. 

Learners will be able to search by keywords or filter the courses by some criteria.

For each course, there will also be a course description page with the relevant information. These pages can be accessed by all visitors even before having a session in the system.

Alternative CMS integration

The content management capabilities available in Open edX for the homepage, course catalog, course description pages, and static pages are quite limited. In some cases, when a more comprehensive set of tools and options is needed to provide the content for these pages, you can opt to integrate Open edX with an external CMS, such as WordPress, Drupal, or any other. For eduNEXT cloud subscriptions, this process is streamlined with the website integration add on.

LMS registration and login functionality

The LMS has user registration and login functionality.

The registration can be free or restricted by the email domain.

Users can log in or sign up with their credentials through the integration with third-party identity providers such as services and social networks (Google, Facebook or Linkedin), organizational domains, using Google, Office 365 or Microsoft’s Active Directory, Identity providers that support the SAML protocol and other Oauth 2.0 identity providers.

Learner dashboard

After login, the user normally lands in the learner dashboard, where he/she sees all the courses in which he is enrolled.

 The learner can see the list of courses in which they are already enrolled, see the starting date of each course, and access those that have already started. 

They can also unenroll or change their email notification settings for a particular course.

The course enrollment process

Courses can be free and freely accessible. They can be configured to allow access only on certain dates, or only up to a certain number of students.

Closed courses can be configured so that they can only be accessed by the invitation of the course administrator.

You can include paid courses, both completely closed and that require payment to enter, or open access courses but that at some point require payment to continue or obtain a certificate. Here you will find more information about how to monetize your online learning initiative.

Inside an Open edX course

The course layout is divided in a few tabs that can be found at the top.  These are the most common ones, available in every course:

Course : This the first and main tab, and it includes the course outline, or the expandable / collapsable list of section subsections and units for the course.

Discussion: here you will find all the information about the discussions you participate in.

Progress: it visualizes the progress of learners in each of the courses.

Course: Navigation & units

Once learners enters a particular subsections, they advance through the learning sequence in order.  There is a navigation bar that will let them know the type of unit and whether it is already completed or not.

A unit is ultimately a full page of content that is composed of resources or activities.

These are the most common types of components that make up the units in a course

  • Text and HTML content.
  • Video.
  • Problems.
  • Inline discussions.
  • Advanced resources or activities (xblocks)

Discussions

In this tab, the learner can interact with other learners around different subjects.

Progress page

In this tab, the learner is able to see how far have you come in the course.

Certificates

Once the learner completes the course requirements, he can access his certificate.

Advanced configurations

There are certain configurations that allow you to set up the conditions for your courses.

  • Release schedules:  Each section is only displayed until the selected released time arrives.
  • Due dates: Set the due dates for the assignments of your courses.
  • Subsection Prerequisites: Access to each section is enabled as the student meets the specific requirements in the prerequisite section).
  • Timed exams: It is possible to set a subsection to be timed. By doing this your learners will have an amount of time to complete their exams.
    There may also be other tabs in a particular course, with some specific functionality, such as custom HTML pages, teams, student notes, textbooks, and wiki.

The LMS from the Instructor perspective

Registering and accessing the LMS for instructors

Instructors first use the Open edX LMS to create their account just as a normal learner would, and when they are granted with staff permissions on a particular course, the can also access the LMS in order to visit the Instructor dashboard for each course which contains features such as course stats, manual enrollments, gradebook management, course reports, certificates configuration, email and more. 

Navigating course contents and an instructor.

The instructor also uses the LMS to navigate the course contents. When a user has instructor privileges for a course, he can also enter the course and will experience some differences.

  • Ability to test how the courses are seeing by the students through the “view this course as” bar).
  • There are links to jump from the LMS to studio.
  • Moderating functionality can be given to team members or learners in the course discussions. Team members need to be assigned with the discussion admin role to moderate discussions.
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Inside the instructor dashboard

The most important section the instructors will find in the LMS is the Instructor dashboard, where they can manage the main aspects of an operating course. 

Do not confuse the learner dashboard of an instructor user in the LMS, (list of their courses) with the instructor dashboard for a course of a user who has instructor permissions in that course. 

Here is a description of the different tabs found in the Instructor dashboard:

Here learners will find all the basic information about the course and enrollments.

It enables instructors to add or withdraw students to the course, individually or in batches( bulk).

It is also used to grant special roles to users, for example, beta testers role, discussion moderator role, etc.

It is used to create cohorts, configure them, and associate students with each cohort.

Under certain circumstances (personal emergencies, disabilities), it may be necessary to allow extending subsections due dates to one or some learners.

From this tab, the learner gets access to the status of a specific learner status.

In the dashboard, it is displayed some learner data about the students enrolled in a course.

It is then possible to:

  • See the grades or progress of a learner.- Check the enrollment status of a student.
  • Modify a student’s grade for a specific problem.
  • Rescore an individual learner’s score for a specific problem.
  •  Data download:  Download the reports and lists, the student list, report card, and the problem report card.

Send bulk email messages to all your course participants

See student behavior on timed tests and other special tests.

Configure certificate generations for the course, generate certificates massively as an exception, or invalidate certificates.

Observe student’s behavior in open response problems.

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