One of the largest successes of Open edX technology is the XBlock architecture.
An XBlock is an extensible system written in Python that processes user input, stores course content, displays it, etc.
A groundbreaking example is the Annotation XBlock. It essentially introduces a new paradigm in online learning by allowing for contextual commentaries and conceptual tagging of media fragments inside online courses. HarvardX recently introduced digital annotations to “Poetry in America: Whitman”, a course that “made the study of poetry a conversation instead of a solitary endeavor”.
Today there are over 60 XBlocks listed in the GitHub directory; 40 of them have non-edx origin.
In our opinion, these are the best XBlocks:
- Badging XBlock and Open Badge Server.
Instructors are able to award digital badges from an online course using Open edX. This XBlock depends on IBLOpen Badges-Server, a self-hosted platform to award your institution’s micro-credentials. [Disclosure: IBL developed this XBlock with the support of edX]
- Google Drive and Calendar XBlock
It allows for the embedding of Google Documents or Google Calendar within edX.
- Poll & Survey XBlock.
It enables a course author to create survey and poll elements to get feedback from students.
- Staff Graded Assignment
Students are invited to upload documents as a way to encapsulate their work on their assignments. Instructors download the files and grade them. This package is both an XBlock and a Django application.
- Drag and Drop XBlock v2
Students are required to drag and drop text or images into different sections as specified by the assignment.
- Image Explorer
It allows for display tooltips of an image within the course content.
- File Storage XBlock
It allows to insert or embed files from One Drive and other providers. [Disclosure: IBL worked under a contract with Microsoft in this development].
- Office Mix XBlock
Course teams can integrate narration, website links, polls, screen recordings, etc. into presentations by using Office Mix extension to PowerPoint. These type of lectures are hosted on Office Mix. This XBlock allows for embedding them into an edX course. [Learn more]
- Annotation Problem or “Annotatable” XBlock
It allows instructor to highlight specific text and then ask questions about that text. In addition to the highlighted text the questions will also appear in a section below the text block, along with space for students’ responses. [Learn more on Open edX Annotation tools].
- Problem Builder XBlock
It allows to create questions of varios types and simulate the workflow of real-life mentoring, within an edX course.
- Oppia XBlock
It allows to create short interactive lessons or tutorials, called explorations. Oppia simulates conversations with human tutors to encourage exploration and experiential learning –although these assessments cannot be graded on the Open edX platform. [Learn more]
Other XBlocks * are:
- 3D Model Viewer XBlock
- ACID Xblock
- Animation XBlock
- Audio XBlock
- Brightcove Video XBlock
- Carousel XBlock
- CarouselWorkspace XBlock
- Image Explorer XBlock
- LeaderBoard XBlock
- Flash XBlock
- Mathematica Cdf XBlock
- Problem Builder XBlock
- Ooyala Video Player XBlock
- Paella Video XBlock
- PDF XBlock
- Pie Chart XBlock
- PDF XBlock
- School Yourself. Courses at edX.
- Table XBlock
- Video JS XBlock
- SSH XBlock
Each page provides relevant details, including how to test the block.
This tutorial provides a lot of new information, including:
- A quick-start section that helps you create a new XBlock in just a few minutes.
- An overview of XBlock concepts.
- A tour through all the parts of a sample XBlock.
- Guidance on modifying your own XBlock.
On December 2015, it was added guidance for installing and using XBlocks.
Remarkable Community Contributions
Top organizations have contributed with valuable software.
- Stanford University: Adaptive hinting, eCommerce, OLI integration
- Google: Single-Sign-On, Instant Hangouts
- Berkeley: Forums 2.0
- MIT: Equations, many types of problems, SPOC/CCX, SGA XBlock
- Harvard: Annotation, edX – Canvas – BlackBoard integration
- Tsinghua: International support
- Edraak: Right-to-left
- University of Queensland: LTI
- McKinsey Academy: Polling XBlock