Friday, November 21, 2014

First open edX conference… a blast!

By Ramón Talavera Franco

The first open edX conference brought together over 200 education specialist from all over the world to share ideas about the use of the edX open source platform. For two days, we examined possible solutions to issues addressed to the implementation of edX platform as well as pedagogical and best practice approaches—such as the importance of transforming the MOOC certification paradigm. Breakout sessions and keynote speakers were impactful. However, the best part of the conference was the opportunity to get to know the people who are “behind the scenes”. These are the people who came from different places of the world to share creativity, knowledge, problem-solving skills, and enthusiasm in order to make a better MOOC world.
I had the opportunity to talk with educational specialists from Croatia, Switzerland, Japan, Mexico, France, Spain, England, India, and of course, from the United States and learned a lot from those conversations. The colleagues that I met with gave me a perspective on how open edX platform and MOOCs are implemented around the world. I also learned from MOOC design challenges. For example, how to convince a professor who has taught a lecture class for years to write a 6-minutes scripts for his/her video lectures?

It would be impossible to share all those conversations in one post. Therefore, I will include a brief description of some of the initiatives that I learned during the breakout sessions and conversations.

1) UC3M a Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
This is one of edX international partnerships that provides MOOCs designed in English, and in Spanish. The Spanish language is the official language in 21 countries and there are over 500 million Spanish speakers in the world. Therefore, it is expected that UC3M benefit a large number of Spanish speakers in the coming years.

2) Open edX extension to use digital badges in a MOOC
An initiative for the new Open edX extension component (XBlock), currently under development, to award digital badges for completed modules within a MOOC in the Open edX platform.

3) IBL Studios Education.
OpenedX technology and advance solutions for flipped courses and blended learning.

4) George Washington University MOOCs
George Washington University is launching its first sets of MOOCs. The courses offer two variations from traditional MOOCs:
a) Designing a MOOC with the collaboration among faculties at three different institutions;
b) Designing a MOOC based on modules that students can finish at their own pace.

5) Achievery
Achievery offers a digital badge system to support personal learning. Achievery provides a customizable and secure digital credential and badge platform as an innovative learning model to recognize, verify, and connect the real skills of students.

6) Extension Engine
Extension Engine is a leading provider of online learning and education IT services. Its services include MOOC installation, customization, and support, instructional design, and data analytics. Their instructional design approach is LXD or Learner Experience Design.

7) Cognii 
Cognii is an educational technology startup that provides intelligent learning and assessment solutions to online education providers. Cognii develops leading edge assessment technology to evaluate essay-type answers for online learning platforms. Cognii's solution are offered through an API for all online learning platforms, including LMS (Learning Management System), MOOCs, and more.

8) Digital learning initiative (Boston University)
Its goal is to use the whole spectrum of alternative models of blended and personalized online learning, that can complement or substitute the standard ways of teaching college students. MOOCs, competency-based learning, flipped classrooms, badges and social learning represent only some of the new possibilities.

9) Academic technologies office of information technologies (University of Notre Dame).
The Academic Technologies team identifies and facilitates the adoption of emerging technologies that advance teaching, learning and research. They review and test a wide range of technologies that enable faculty and students to be more creative and collaborative to achieve learning goals both inside and outside the traditional classroom.

At the end of the conference, Beth Porter, edX VP Product Manager, shared with us a video of President Barack Obama’s remarks during the “ConnectEd” conference held that same day at Washington, D.C. This initiative is a five-year plan to close the technology gap in schools and connect 99% of American students to high speed Internet. To make more robust this initiative, President Obama announced the commitment of 10 technology companies to “ConnectEd”. EdX is one of them:

“ Edx has already offered its advanced level courses for free. That’s making certification for those courses free as well. So if you are a student who masters the material but can’t afford the certification that proves it, edX will provide it.” (See the video here:

Congratulations edX ! What a great way to conclude a top-notch conference.


  1. Great summary! That was an awesome conference and I'm really looking forward to more of them. I see you're here in Boston...I'd love to connect and talk more about your work and MOOCs in general!

  2. Sure! Let's have a cup of coffee right after Thanksgiving celebrations!