Open edX Dogwood Release#

This page lists the highlights of the Dogwood release.


With the Open edX Eucalyptus Release, the Dogwood release is no longer supported. This page remains in these release notes as a record of when new features were included in Open edX.

New Features#

The following new features are included in the Open edX Dogwood release.

New LTI XBlock#

A new LTI XBlock is now available. This XBlock is intended to replace the existing LTI XModule. In addition to all of the functionality previously offered by the XModule, the LTI XBlock also offers course teams the ability to configure the way that learning tools interoperability (LTI) components open when learners use them: in a modal window, in a separate web browser window, or embedded in a course page.


The LTI XModule continues to function in courses that include it, but it does not provide the new launching behavior options.

For more information, see opencoursestaff:LTI Component in the Building and Running an Open edX Course guide.

Course Preview as a Specific Learner#

A new preview mode in the LMS allows course team members to see the courseware as a specific learner sees it. For courses that use randomized content from content libraries, course team members can use this feature to view the content assigned to a specific learner and to adjust a learner’s grades if necessary.

For more information, see the Grades section in Building and Running an Open edX Course.

Partial Credit#

In Studio, course teams can now configure the following problem types so that learners can receive partial credit for a problem if they submit an answer that is partly correct.

  • Checkbox

  • Multiple Choice

  • Numerical Input

  • Write-your-own-grader

For more information, see Awarding Partial Credit for a Problem in Building and Running an Open edX Course.

Open edX Analytics Developer Stack#

Developers who are interested in extending Open edX Insights can now set up a separate development environment, the Open edX Analytics Developer stack, to support analytics development. This environment, known as the Analytics Devstack, includes the edX Analytics Data API and Open edX Insights, as well as all of the components needed to run the Open edX Analytics Pipeline.

For more information, see the Installing, Configuring, and Running the Open edX Platform guide.


EdX does not currently provide installation or support of Insights for Open edX installations.

Initial Version of Comprehensive Theming#

The initial version of comprehensive theming is now available. Sites that are running Open edX can now create and use themes to change the default branding of the system to present their own brand. Logos, page headers and footers, and other templates and assets that control the way a site looks are now organized into specifically named directories and files that can be replaced easily and without coding changes.

For more information, see Changing the Way Open edX Looks in the Installing, Configuring, and Running the Open edX Platform guide.

Additional File Types for Open Response Assessments#

Course teams can now specify, and learners submit, additional types of files along with text responses to open response assessment problems. When course teams edit an open response assessment component in Studio to allow file uploads, the following options are available.

  • Image files in .jpg, .gif, or .png format.

  • The image file formats listed above, and also files in .pdf format.

  • A custom set of one or more file formats, specified by the course team.

For more information, see PA Allow Images.

To protect learners from the transmission of potentially harmful files, this enhancement also gives system administrators the ability to configure a list of file types that learners cannot upload.

For more information, see Configuring ORA2 to Prohibit Submission of File Types.


This release includes several updates to web certificates.

  • Course team members with the Admin or Staff role can now set the start date for a course that is configured to issue certificates before its certificates are activated.

  • Course teams can now override the course number as well as the course name on the certificate.

  • Both the course number and the override course number are displayed in the certificate set up page in Studio.

  • There are now no character limits on the name and title fields of certificate signatories.

For more information, see Setting Up Certificates in Building and Running an Open edX Course or Print a Web Certificate in the Open edX Learner’s Guide.

As a part of the effort to support XSeries program certificates, edX has created a new credentials service. In the Dogwood release, program certificates can be configured on the Django admin console. Additional changes are currently in progress to move all existing course certificate tools and logic to this new service. Be sure to watch for more changes in the Eucalyptus release and other future Open edX releases.

Search Feature for DevStack#

When you install the Open edX developer stack, the search feature is now enabled by default. For more information about how you can configure this feature, see Enable edX Search. For more information about how learners can use this feature, see SFD Search.

Timed Exams Feature#

This release includes the timed exams feature. Course teams can configure a course subsection so that learners have a specific period of time to complete and submit all problems in that subsection.

For more information, see the Timed Exams section in the Building and Running an Open edX Course guide.


Another special exam feature, proctoring, is available for courses on the website. The proctoring feature can be enabled in Open edX, but it is not supported for the Dogwood release. This feature requires additional configuration and the services of a third-party proctoring vendor such as Software Secure to be used effectively.

E-commerce Service#

Open edX installations can now add an e-commerce service. The edX e-commerce service is a Django application that manages and handles orders for product catalogs.

TPA Sign In Without Account Activation#

Learners who register and sign in using third party authentication, such as with a Google or Facebook account, can now sign in immediately. They can sign in and enroll in courses even before they follow the activation link that is sent by email. A reminder message appears on the learner’s dashboard until account activation takes place.

A learner who enters an incorrect email address, and who therefore does not receive the activation email message, can correct the email address by selecting the menu next to his username, and then selecting Account.

Consistent Team Role Names in Studio and LMS#

The labels that identify two of the course team member roles in the LMS now match the labels for those same roles in Studio. In the LMS, on the Instructor Dashboard Membership page, the “Course Staff” role is now labeled “Staff”, and the “Instructor” role is now labeled “Admin”.

No changes were made to the privileges granted by these roles. For more information, see Course_Staffing in the Building and Running an Open edX Course guide.


No changes were made to the privileges that system administrators set in the Django admin console, or to their labels.

Icon Change for Graded Subsections#

In the LMS, the icon that indicates a graded subsection in the course navigation is now a paper and pencil symbol instead of an alarm clock.

Command Change for SAML Testing#

The recent edX platform upgrade to Django 1.8 required a change to the management command used when testing an enabled SAML identity provider. This command now uses the syntax lms saml --pull instead of lms saml pull.

New and Changed Events#

The following list includes new or changed events in the Open edX Dogwood release.

  • edx.certificate.created

  • edx.certificate.shared

  • edx.certificate.evidence_visited











  • play_video

For more information about these events, see Event Reference.

Accessibility Updates#

In keeping with edX’s commitment to creating accessible content for everyone, everywhere, the Open edX Dogwood release contains numerous accessibility enhancements and improvements to readability and navigability.

  • In Studio, changes to the Unit page make it easier to use a keyboard to navigate to the options in the Add New Component section of this page. It is also easier to use a keyboard to make selections from the list of choices that appears when you select the Advanced option.

  • On course pages in the LMS, options for actions that course team members can take, such as View Unit in Studio and Staff Debug Info, are now pink instead of blue. This change increases the contrast between the text and the gray background when these options are in a default state.

  • In the LMS, the list of topics on the Discussion page now uses colors that meet WCAG AA guidelines for contrast. As a result, the background color of the selected topic is now white instead of light blue.

  • The calculator now has a background color that contrasts with the foreground on the input label.

  • Alert notifications for course wiki articles have been updated to increase contrast between the background color and the alert text.

  • The left navigation menu presented by the Courseware page was re-engineered. Navigating through sections, subsections and units using the course navigation menu is now significantly improved for keyboard and screen reader users.

  • Keyboard navigation in open response assessments was improved by restoring keyboard focus outline indicators.

Design Updates to the Video Player#

This release includes several updates to the edX video player.

  • The user interface controls for the player appear only after a learner selects play for a video, and take up less screen space.

  • New icon designs are used for the full screen and show transcript options.

  • The language menu, for video with transcript in multiple languages, is indicated by a drop-down menu icon next to the show transcript icon.

  • To improve accessibility, all options use an icon font method that streamlines delivery.

  • To enhance the experience of learners who use screen readers, changes that improve spoken announcements and simplify navigation are also included.

Deprecated Features#

Several features are deprecated as of the Open edX Dogwood release.


The “shoppingcart” functionality is deprecated as of the Dogwood release, and it will be removed in a future release. Similar services are now provided by the Otto Ecommerce Service.

Studio Checklist#

The Tools menu in Studio no longer offers the Checklists option. For a template checklist, see the Course Launch Checklist topic in the Building and Running an Open edX Course guide.

Original ORA Problems#

When you access a course that contains an open response assessment created using the original version of this assignment type (ORA 1), Studio now displays the message, “This course uses features that are no longer supported.”

A newer version of the open response assessments feature (ORA 2) was released over a year ago, and the ability to add ORA 1 problems was removed from Studio in May 2014.

Legacy Instructor Dashboard#

Support has ended for the “legacy” Instructor Dashboard. The Legacy Instructor Dashboard is now disabled by default, and the LMS presents a single version of the Instructor Dashboard. The Revert to Legacy Dashboard option is no longer available.

Code for the Legacy Instructor Dashboard will be removed entirely in the Open edX Eucalyptus release.

The Data Download page in the Instructor Dashboard now includes an option to download a report of all learner submissions for a specified problem. Previously, this report was available only from the Legacy Instructor Dashboard through a view on a Django app.

XModules and Tools#

The following XModules and tools are deprecated in the Dogwood release.

  • The FoldIt protein simulator XModule.

  • The LTI XModule. This XModule has been replaced by the LTI XBlock.

  • Support has ended for the graphical_slider_tool. Code for this tool will be removed entirely in the Open edX Eucalyptus release.

Django Apps#

The following Django apps are deprecated in the Dogwood release.

  • The Psychometrics Django app.

  • The Licenses Django app.

Wiki Notifications#

The recent edX platform upgrade to Django 1.8 required edX to deprecate the wiki notifications feature. The wiki notifications feature was disabled to make the Django 1.8 upgrade possible, and this feature has not been reimplemented.

Django 1.8 Upgrade#

The edX platform was upgraded from Django 1.4 to Django 1.8.7. This section summarizes the effects of this upgrade.


  • For Django 1.8, edX recommends that you use the transaction.atomic decorator to start transactions for the code. For more information, see the Database Transactions page on the Django website.

  • The commit_on_success decorator is no longer available. You can use the new outer_atomic decorator instead.

  • To avoid exceptions when you create models, edX recommends that you use the following pattern.

    if need_to_create_model:
          with transaction.atomic():
      except IntegrityError:
          # Model has already been created.

Model Migrations#

  • All Django Python South schema migrations have been incorporated into each initial “0001” Django schema migration.

  • Data migrations that seed data are now idempotent. All other data migrations have been discarded.

Model Meta Classes#

The app_label attribute has been added to several different models. For more information, see app_label on the Django website.

More Information#

To view the release notes for Django versions 1.5—1.8, see the following resources.

Patch Releases#

9 March 2016: Dogwood.1#

  • An update to the release packaging was made.

  • The help links in Studio now open topics in the correct version of the Building and Running an Open edX Course guide.

14 April 2016: Dogwood.2#

  • Django is updated to version 1.8.12.

  • You now have the option to allow learners to audit courses without offering certificates for the audit track. Use the AUDIT_CERT_CUTOFF_DATE setting to control when audit certificates are discontinued.

  • A number of installation issues are fixed.

  • A number of security issues are fixed.

25 April 2016: Dogwood.3#

An update to the release packaging was made to fix errors during installations and upgrades.