edX source code released and compared to OpenMOOC

edX has released its source code, which is great news! We love free software (as in speech, not beer) and we love to see that more MOOC platforms are choosing this path like OpenMOOC did from the beginning.

We have looked into it and it’s exciting to compare the two platforms, looking at the differences and the decisions taken.

The license

We have talked about how both platforms are free software, but the licenses chosen are quite different. edX has been released under an AGPLv3 license while OpenMOOC has been released under a more permissive Apache v2 license.

The restrictions established by the AGPL are heavier than the ones by the Apache license. You can use OpenMOOC and link its code in more scenarios than with edX, due to the more versatile Apache license.

Teachers administration panel

In edX there are two applications that share the same databases. One is used to create the courses and is designed for teachers, the other one is a classroom application for the students. In OpenMOOC we chose to use only one application, which contains both the teachers administration and the classroom.

The course edition tool is similar in both platforms, it offers a draggable boxes-based interface to organize the nuggets and units. The main difference here is that we chose to write a one page interface without constant refreshes, relaying heavily on a exhaustive REST API; on the other hand, edX chose a more traditional interface that refreshes the page after every change.

Both platforms are based on video, because we both consider that is the best media to deliver the classes to the students successfully. But while edX only supports YouTube videos, in OpenMOOC we support YouTube and Vimeo as video backends. And if it were necessary to deliver other different media to the students, in OpenMOOC we also support Scribd and Prezi, in order to give more tools to the teachers.

In edX there are also static pages that can be added to the course as another content. In OpenMOOC there is a field per nugget where the teacher can write more content to complete the lesson. In both cases the functionality is quite similar.

When it comes to question the students, edX has a more rigid approach. The teacher can add basic question nuggets, that always have a small introduction text and a single HTML form control (like radio buttons, text field, etc) but never a mix of those. In OpenMOOC the questions aren’t nugget by themselves, they are part of the regular nuggets. If the video is using YouTube as backend, then the teacher can use the last frame of the video as background for the question. This way the form controls can be superposed to the video content. This is optional, the teacher can use a white background if he likes. Also, the teachers can use several HTML forms controls, mixing them (like having checkboxes and text inputs in the same question) as they like.

edX has a second more complex category of questions, with electronic circuits support and other advanced topics that we don’t support in OpenMOOC yet.

The classroom

The classroom application is similar in both applications. Both have a sidebar menu to navigate between the videos and questions and the main area where the video is displayed. Both have a “questions and answers” application where the students can debate and study in groups. edX has a custom application embedded in the platform, while OpenMOOC uses the powerful Askbot project to achieve this. Askbot is a full-featured Q/A software that has a great community and it’s actively developed and, of course, it’s also free software.

edX has an integrated wiki too. OpenMOOC doesn’t have one yet, but we have plans to integrate the MoinMoin software, so every course in OpenMOOC will have a wiki for its students soon.

Future

Both platforms have a bright future ahead of them. There aren’t many good open source MOOC platforms out there. Both projects aim to an international public, but OpenMOOC has a better support for foreign languages and special characters, since it has developed in Spain and we are famous by our ñ char 😉

Anyway, we are looking forward to try the next features the people in edX have in the oven.

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