We are back from the 4th annual Open edX conference at University of Carlos III in Madrid and we can say: It was very inspiring! There were many excellent talks, tutorials and lightning talks and the topics ranged from pedagogy and adaptive learning to corporate learning and policy. In the following article, we share some of the highlights and key ”Take-Aways”.

2017 Open edX conference Madrid

We are back from the 4th annual Open edX conference at University of Carlos III in Madrid and we can say: It was very inspiring! There were many excellent talks, tutorials and lightning talks and the topics ranged from pedagogy and adaptive learning to corporate learning and policy. In the following article, we share some of the highlights and key ”Take-Aways”.

The Setting

The University setting inspired a “lifelong learning” atmosphere, as all talks were held on campus in various lecture halls. There were nearly 50 speakers, including keynotes Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX, Nick van Dam, Global Chief Learning Officer at McKinsey & Company, and Kiron Open Higher Education Co-founder Vincent Zimmer.

Where is Open edX heading?

The Open edX community continues to develop at great speed, with a growing number of providers and a clear edX product vision, consisting of creating the world’s leading learning destination site and platform, including Open edX.  As stressed in Anant’s keynote, there are now more than 11 million learners on edX.org and more than 11 million learners on Open edX. This means that both platforms together reach more than more than 22 million students worldwide with a total of 5.000 courses taught across 800 sites via 120 global partners!

What were the Key Take-Aways?

  • Learning in the 21st Century: learning in the 21st century needs to be fast, active, interconnected and above all enable continuous upskilling, as by 2030 most probably 50% of all current jobs will have disappeared.

  • Active Learning: edx.org is using Big Data and Neuroscience to create pedagogies for learning indicating that students learn better with active learning or “interpolated testing”. As a consequence, methods of active learning are constantly being revised and adapted by edX to ensure the most efficient ways of taking in and keeping the consumed information.

  • Open edX is becoming “credit grade”: edX has been thinking of new models to unbundle degrees in order to remain flexible, guarantee open admissions and at the same time offer a pathway to credit. Hence, edX has launched the MicroMasters™ program. It is faster than a full Master program entailing  25-50% of a full Master. MicroMasters are career focused, flexible and affordable, meaning free to learn and costing only when getting a credential. In addition, a MicroMaster can be converted into your university master program, offering a pathway to credit. In addition, edX also launched the so called “Professional Certificate Programs” that are smaller than MicroMasters and no pathway to credit, but are very skills-focussed and a valuable career credential with a variety of levels. Due to these innovations, there are naturally new features required in order to ensure data safety and integrity, ranging from timed exams and the control of exam visibility to randomized questions, virtual proctored exams and the creation of cohorts.

Overview of technical announcements

The current Open edX release Ficus had been released in January 2017 with a number of new features, including time zone improvements, CAPA problems experience, and many more. The next release called “Ginko” is intended to be released this July and will be shortly followed by an even newer release called “Hawthorn” (release date to be published soon). In terms of technical innovations, the most important feature to mention is that Ubuntu has been upgraded from 12.04 - 16.04, with Ubuntu 12.04 now not being supported any longer. In terms of planned innovations for the new future releases, the current focus is on React front-end components and Bootstrap 4, the Django 1.11 upgrade and an updated core platform architecture.

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