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Open edX: What Is It And Why 19 Million People Use It?

Blended learning, corporate training, customer onboarding, MOOCs and other online learning platforms purposes create significant demand in learning management systems or LMS. And nowadays, there are a lot of options out there: proprietary and open source, on premises and SaaS… And in some cases, open source is the best way to go. And, when it comes to open source LMS, Open edX is one of the greatest options in the market. So, what makes Open edX the LMS that is used all around the world by top universities and corporations along with governmental organizations and eLearning startups? In this article, we will outline the answers to this question. But, before you start…

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Head of Sales and Marketing, Raccoon Gang

Sergiy has significant expertise as an eLearning and Marketing expert since 2012. He brings his experience into play to help RG customers to keep pace with the changing dynamics in the Learning indust

Open edX: What Is It And Why 19 Million People Use It?

Before you start

There is no one-size-fits-all products in the world except water (maybe) and Open edX is not an exception. So, before dive in, we suggest you to use the quiz we’ve created for our blog post to help you understand whether open source lms is a good fit for you:


If the answer is “yes” - we totally recommend you to read on.

What Is Open edX

Open edX is an open source learning platform that was created by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology(MIT) for the biggest online learning portal in the world - It was created to fulfill instructional design needs of various organizations so they can create engaging experiences that cover different topics, pursue different goals and use different learning scenarios. That’s why Open edX became so flexible and diverse. One can have the tools to teach learners physics, maths, and even acoustics using engaging and interactive tools that are available out of the box. And, there is the ability to integrate multiple third party systems and tools like SCORM, LTI, iFrame so the abilities are boundless. But before we dive into the features of Open edX, we’ll briefly describe its history and how it compares with other learning management systems.

Brief Open edX History

EdX was founded in May 2012 by scientists from Harvard and MIT. The first edX course enrolled 155,000 students from 162 countries and in 2013 they reached 1 million students. It was the start of successful open source release and Open edX creation.

Open edX Platform History

Adoption Stats In Dynamics

Open edX Platform stats

Open edX VS Other Popular Platforms

It’s important to understand how Open edX stands between other LMS, so you might want to know what LMS suits your needs best by comparing LMSs.  Please refer to it for more details. But for your convenience, we’ll post here the main comparison infographic.

The Top Open Source LMS Vendors

Who Use Open edX Currently?

As we said, Open edX is adopted by the wide range of organizations:

  • Large Organizations

World’s largest organizations including Google, Microsoft LaaS, McKinsey, Johnson & Johnson use Open edX for employees education, customer onboarding, etc.

  • Educational organizations

Harvard, MIT, Arizona State University and others use Open edX to engage a huge amount of students and provide them with interactive content,  ability to track educational progress, etc.

  • Small Organizations

Open edX gives the ability for small organizations to create high-quality and customized content that increase organizations’ profit and learner engagement.

When we are done with brief Open edX introduction, let’s get to the most interesting part: explaining why Open edX becomes so popular.

Why Open edX is used by 19 million people today?

As it has been said, demand for LMS is huge today and it keeps gaining its momentum.

So why Open edX stands out in comparison with other systems? The logic is simple: the more needs are covered by the system and the better its readiness for online learning future, the more popular it becomes.

The list of features we’ll uncover here is based on the global online learning challenges and needs that are actual today.

Challenges With Online Teaching Tools

According to Brandon Hall Group, there are a lot of organizations that are looking to replace LMS. The main reason is that current systems do not help to fully resolve all the challenges that they face.

Organizations Looking to replace LMS

We bet that Open edX is one of the systems that these organizations are switching to.

Let’s take a look at these challenges:

  • Advanced features such as content creation, course organization and administration

  • Comfortable web and mobile learner interface 

  • Variety of content types and delivery features

  • Integration with internal systems and corporate databases

  • Reporting and analytics features

  • Modern learner engagement features such as gamification, adaptive learning, etc.

  • Custom look and feel aligned with brand

Top 5 learning technology priorities in small organizations

When we defined what is needed, let’s take a look at how Open edX delivers all the needs.

Open edX Features: Learner Interface Overview

Comfortable user interface design is an essential part of the learning experience. It can influence a user’s perception of the entire learning process. 

Having diverse purposes and community influence, Open edX has clear and simple yet effective interface that has everything that learners need, leaving out all the bells and whistles that rather distract users from the learning process.

Course Navigation

Structured course navigation panel helps to quickly switch between modules and lessons. Navigation between lessons during the learning process is intuitive and learner can always see where they are and how many lessons are left for the current module/subsection. And, it is easy to understand whether there are some assessments to complete.

Open edX: Course Structure

Progress Dashboard

Progress monitoring is an integral part of the educational process either for teachers and students. Open edX enables learners to monitor their progress with the progress dashboard in different ways. The dashboard is clear and informative: it gives an understanding of the current course success and important information about assessments results in a structured report format. 

Open edX Features: Types of Content

When it comes to content for an online course, variety matters. Out of the box, Open edX provides the ability to craft online learning material using extensive range of content types:

  • Text, images (what you see is what you get editor)
  • Videos
  • Interactive videos and images
  • SCORM, LTI, iFrame
  • 20+ types of assessments

The list can be extended and customized to the needs of a particular project (simulation, virtual lab, etc)

Open edX Features: Instructor Interface Overview

Instructors or course owners have a wide range of tools to create, organize and run online courses in Open edX:

  • Build the course structure (3-level)

  • Manage enrollment rules (access settings, prerequisites, enrollment options, course dates…)

  • Set the grading policies (course completion conditions, types of assessments and their influence on the final course grade etc)

  • Enroll and unenroll learners

  • Group learners and manage content routing

  • Add, organize learning content inside the course

  • Manage visual features of the course

  • Manage and issue certificates

  • Manage monetization

  • Track learning metrics, build reports

The range of the tools is not complete and even very specific cases can be covered by basic Open edX functionalities. To get to know more, you can simply book a demo with us.

Open edX Features: Social Abilities

Social features are absolutely essential for all learning platforms and Open EdX platform delivers a variety of channels for socialization of the process. The social features allow students to collaborate on assignments, projects, discuss all learning issues/ideas/feedback with other learners, and take part in polls and surveys separately or within groups.

Polls and Surveys

It’s important to figure out what your learners want. A good survey tool can help instructors to get answers on important questions.

Online Discussions

Course creators can create Discussions within a course and ensure collaboration between learners. 

Group Tasks

Using this feature instructor can create groups that are focused on specific learning topics, business needs or work-related interests. Groups may be used for assignment submissions and content organization.

Open edX Features: Reporting and Analytics

Using Analytics, instructors monitor enrollments and unenrollments within chosen period.

Different types of Analytic reports help to detect which assessments cause problems for students, clusterize course students by their learning progress in real-time, detect where course content might need improvements etc.

An internal Raccoon Gang project RG Analytics aimed to create easy-to-use, actionable insights for Open edX course instructors.

Open edX Features: Customization

Open edX custom feature development is applied and enables the adding of specific functionality required by course authors.

Game-based learning and gamification

Gamification allows to significantly increase engagement and course completion rates. Game-based learning often considered as an important component of modern eLearning systems. 

Both can be easily implemented to Open edX courses.

Gamification Mechanics

Adaptive Learning

This technology is used for educational process improvement and modifies teaching methods based on that data. An adaptive learning architecture for the Open edX platform enables to respond to learner's interactions in real-time, automatically providing individualized support.

Adaptive Learning in Corporate Training

Competency-based learning

Competency-based education allows students to advance their skills or competencies at their own pace regardless of environment. Open edX includes the ability to implement modern learning concepts based on competency-based learning approach: scenario-based learning, self-directed knowledge assessment, skill-based branching scenario.

Comprehensive theming

By leveraging the comprehensive theming Open edX enables course creators to completely customize their platform. The software provides a powerful and flexible way of tailoring user interface to business’ needs.

Mobile App

Open edX mobile app is a great feature that allows to take learning on the go. It helps to provide a simple and convenient environment for students that access online courses from mobile devices.

Final Words

If open source platform fits you needs, you should definitely choose a preferred Open edX provider. To know more about custom Open Edx solutions you can schedule a demo with the Raccoongang team.


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