CommonPlaces Develops New EdX Online Portal

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EdX is a nonprofit online eLearning initiative offering Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) from the world’s best universities, founded by Harvard and MIT. As the number of edX partners grew rapidly, to more than 65 prestigious institutions offering high-quality MOOCs, the edX team needed a better way to communicate with all the stakeholders. In addition, edX needed to enable a growing open source community. These needs led to the vision of the edX Partner and Open Source Portals.

edX online network portal

CommonPlaces, Inc. was hired to develop a single system to support both portals. The Partner Portal was envisioned to be a new, one-stop destination for edX partners to access the resources required to use the edX platform effectively, and to communicate with each other. The Open edX Portal would support the community in hosting, extending, and contributing to the edX Platform.

According to Mark Hoeber, head of Documentation at edX, his team developed requirements and drew up their own sitemaps, beginning in the summer of 2014. When it came time to select a developer, they didn’t have to look far. Mr. Hoeber had a relationship with CommonPlaces at a previous job, and believed that they were a good fit for the Portal project.

CommonPlaces understood that the Portal should be designed to position edX partners and the open source community for success, endowing them with the ability to build great online courses using the edX platform.

Initial Requirements:

  • Easy to use/intuitive navigation and layout
  • Responsive design
  • Strong search capability
  • Robust knowledge database
  • Interactive forums
  • Organic Groups
  • Roles with different level of access capabilities

Target Audience:

  • Course Authoring Staff
  • Faculty and Instructors
  • University/Organizational Leadership
  • Open source community

In spite of extensively detailed plans for the project, edX needed to make a significant change in the site architecture late in the game, and the CommonPlaces team responded very quickly to this need. The result is a single system that supports the different needs of edX partners and open source users.

According to Mr. Hoeber,The impressive thing was how quickly the CommonPlaces team turned this around. Delays were practically nonexistent, and a realistic goal of when the Portal would go live was met in spite of the change.’

Michael Reich, the COO at CommonPlaces, and Project Manager on the edX Portal project observed, ‘It’s always a pleasure working with such a professional team as those at edX. Unforeseen aspects of the project are inevitable unless you’re building something that has been done before. Mark and his team were able to communicate feedback quickly and make solid, unwavering decisions, which kept the project on-track.’

He added, ‘I consider it a success when we’re able to learn a new technique, or discover a new tool, from our clients which we’re then able to incorporate into future projects. That’s exactly what happened on this project. EdX has helped sharpen CommonPlaces.’

Some elements of the Portal, still developing, will probably need more nurturing and support throughout the rest of the year. CommonPlaces will continue that support.

Finally, Mr. Hoeber sent this message, which Mr. Reich shared with the CommonPlaces team.

“I think this has been a great project. You all have been really flexible and responsive. The Team is very impressed with your work and happy we chose CommonPlaces.”

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