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Integrating Open edX with WordPress

The challenge of creating an engaging landing experience for online learning

A key success factor for an online learning initiative is to provide an outstanding website experience right from the start. This requires a great deal of flexibility for web content management. Ideally, as in every other online experience, the landing and marketing pages would need to have attractive visuals, include innovative formats, support multiple languages and front-end technologies and, also be easily adaptable, so that they can be adjusted whenever needed as part of the day to day operations.

The Open edX platform is a great piece of technology to build and manage online courses, but its capabilities for the management of the marketing contents are indeed limited.
The standard Open edX codebase includes a few pages that would fall in this category:

  • The homepage.
  • A course catalog page.
  • One description page for each course.
  • 6 additional pages for publishing specific contents that are not changing frequently such as the terms of service, privacy policy, etc.

For many online learning initiatives, this set of pages is not sufficient and moreover, the functionality to edit and build these pages is not included in the Open edX platform itself, which means that HTML content needs to be added directly into the platform files, which requires a deeper technical knowledge and ultimately implies a longer cycle for publishing content and making any modifications to it.

How does edX.org solve this challenge?

edx.org, the online learning initiative created by Harvard and MIT, addressed this issue early on by creating a separate web platform for the creation and management of their marketing contents using the well renowned and open- source Drupal CMS (Content management system).
Both Drupal and the specific design of the sections and contents found at edx.org are not part of the Open edX platform, however, the two platforms are well integrated with a seamless experience so that the user hardly takes notice.
The fact that edx.org works in this particular way, explains why when installing the Open edX platform in order to set up an online course initiative, the user experience is very different from the one found at edx.org.

Other online learning initiatives running on the Open edX platform have chosen Drupal, WordPress or, other CMS for the same purpose.

Advantages of integrating Open edX with a CMS

The integration of the Open edX platform with a Content Management System enables to take advantage of the great flexibility and power of a CMS such as WordPress for authoring some of the most important landing pages while still using Open edX to power the online courses, including everything from the user registration and login, learner dashboard, and of course the inner course experience.

 

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Some of the advantages of this approach are:

  • More flexibility to build the navigation structure and User experience for the external pages.
  • Best authoring tools to create and maintain the contents of these pages.
  • Development and deployment cycles for these contents can be much shorter.
  • Permission model can be defined in a more granular way, giving permission to certain users for certain sections of the site.
  • Simpler access to the tools needed to track visits and measure marketing objectives.

Some examples

How does the integration work?

An integration between Open edX and a CMS requires the following components:

On the Open edX side

  • The right Configurations to the Open edX platform LMS for the homepage and other marketing pages to be managed elsewhere.
  • Configurations on the Open edX platform so that the user session information is shared with the CMS.
  • Branding the LMS site to match the CMS site in terms of colors, logo , and visuals so that the user does not experience a significant difference between the two sites.

On the WordPress side

  • Include access to the Open edX platform in the site’s navigation options.
  • Visibility of the course catalog. The ability to discover what courses are available and their current enrollment policy or other relevant course metadata.
  • Session awareness. The capacity of the website to identify if the user is already logged into Open edX or not so that it can present the access options or contents accordingly.
  • Learner enrollment awareness. The capacity of the website to figure out if the logged user is or is not enrolled in a particular course so that it can display the available actions appropriately.

How does eduNEXT solve this challenge?

This type of Open edX and CMS integration can be enabled by using the Open edX – WordPress integrator plugin developed and maintained since 2017 by eduNEXT. 

This plugin can be downloaded directly from the WordPress plugin directory and takes care of the requirements on the WordPress site so that it can be used as the front-end site or marketing site for your online learning initiative powered by the Open edX platform.

The plugin configurations are fine-tuned to integrate a WordPress instance with an Open edX site hosted by eduNEXT, but it can also be used to integrate WordPress with a stand-alone or on-premise instance. instance.

Why did we choose WordPress?

WordPress is the more widely used open-source content management system in the world. It has great support from a large number of companies, it is localized to more than 160 languages, has an easy learning curve, and a lot of extensibility. Both Newies and developers use it because of its simplified content creation process and powerful functionality, extensibility, and integration options.

What does the plugin do?

The plugin takes care of the requirements mentioned above for the WordPress side as explained below:

Access to the Open edX platform in the site’s navigation

The plugin will allow you to add open edX specific menu items to your WordPress Menus. These menu items can be arranged as required and their behavior and style properties can be configured directly from the WordPress menu editor.

Visibility of the course catalog

The current version does not yet automate course discoverability, so courses will need to be created and maintained as WordPress objects.

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Session awareness

The plugin will allow the WP website to identify if the user is already logged into Open edX or not so that it can present any login options, or user options or contents accordingly. The way this is done is by having Open edX share the user session information with the WP domain.

Learner enrollment awareness

The integration between any piece of WordPress content such as a post, page, product , or any Custom post type is made possible by adding a shortcode that will render a Course button to the WordPress object. This course button will be configured with the Open edX course_id and some additional options and when placed on the page will take care of retrieving the relevant course information specifically tailored for the logged in user. This means that if the user is not yet enrolled in the course, the button will display an option to enroll in the course, if the user is in fact enrolled, the button will display an invitation to access the content, if the course is not open, or if enrollments are closed for that particular course, the button will display the relevant information.

Other advanced scenarios

  1. Session synchronization via Oauth between WordPress and Open edX, for scenarios where a user session in the WordPress platform is also required.
  2. Integrating one WordPress install in a network configuration with multiple Open edX sites (a different Open edX site for each WordPress Site).
  3. Integrate multiple WordPress sites with a single Open edX site.
  4. Extend the integration towards Woocommerce to enable the sale of Woocommerce products that are linked to Open edX courses in such a way that after the purchase, the user is automatically enrolled in the corresponding course.

How can I get this?

Depending on the model you use to provision your Open edX platform, you have multiple options.

For eduNEXT cloud Subscriptions, this integration is already available out of the box, as one of the add-ons you can choose in the Enterprise and Performance tiers called “Website integration add-on”.

For self-hosted or On-premises instances, eduNEXT offers the professional services for the installation and configuration of both the Open edX and the WordPress platforms. You can also opt to perform the configurations with your own resources. Contact our sales team to find our more.

Future challenges

We continue to work in new possibilities of integration and will be excited to let you know as soon as they are available. Some of the things in our roadmap are:

  • Automated course discovery.
  • Additional course metadata: Number of learners, price, course descriptión.course start date.
  • Multi-language capabilities.
  • Improved e-commerce workflows.

Ready to take your online learning to the next step?

Cloud Subscriptions powered by Open edX

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