Options for Extending the edX Platform#

Open edX platform development follows the Open-Closed Principle: we want Open edX to be an extensible platform that allows developers to build extensions that integrate with the core of the platform. This allows the core to remain small, while volatile extensions remain in the periphery.

As you can see in this document, there are many different ways to integrate with Open edX. However, we know that there are still some features/integrations that are not possible today without modifying the core. If you have such a need, please consider proposing a new extension point in the core that would make possible the functionality you have in mind. When you submit a pull request for a new extension point, be sure to include a change to this file to document your new extension point. (Doing so will also notify reviewers that want to help with making the platform more extensible.)

Throughout this document, we will refer to the Status (Adoption and Completion) of each specific integration point. The Completion refers to how complete and stable an integration point is: either “Limited” (incomplete, or unstable) or “Stable” (complete and stable enough for general use in some or all cases). Adoption shows how the integration point is currently being used, and whether or not it should be used in the future:

  • Adopt: Technologies we have high confidence in to serve our purpose, also in large scale. Technologies with a usage culture in our production environment, low risk and recommended to be widely used.

  • Trial: Technologies that we have seen work with success in project work to solve a real problem; first serious usage experience that confirm benefits and can uncover limitations. Trial technologies are slightly more risky.

  • Assess: Technologies that we are considering using; to be listed on this page, they must exist as a prototype in the codebase.

  • Hold: Technologies not recommended to be used for new projects. Technologies that we think are not (yet) worth to (further) invest in. They should not be used for new projects, but usually can be continued for existing projects.

REST API Integration with External Applications#

Status: Adopt, Limited

The Open edX platform provides a suite of REST APIs that any type of external application can use. Auto-generated API documentation for the main LMS and Studio APIs is available at (LMS URL)/api-docs/ and (Studio URL)/api-docs/ .

Things that you can develop as an external application using REST APIs include:

  • Marketing sites / course catalogs

  • Custom learning frontends

  • Native mobile applications

  • E-commerce and subscription management portals

  • Administration tools

  • Custom course authoring tools

You can write your external application using any language and framework you’d like. The API specifications are available in OpenAPI format (e.g. at /api-docs/?format=openapi), and you can use the OpenAPI Generator to generate an API client library in the language of your choice.

Be aware that most existing REST APIs are not considered stable, and some platform features lack a REST API. We welcome help as we work to standardize our API practices and version them to create API stability.

Content Integrations#

If you want to provide learners with new content experiences within courses, options include:





Adopt, Stable

XBlocks are python plugins specific to Open edX that get installed into edx-platform and can be used to build courses. An XBlock defines a new type of interactive component, and authors can then create many instances of that content type in their courses (each with different settings and content). If you only need to support Open edX, XBlocks provide the best user experience. Open edX operators must install an XBlock into their Open edX instance before it can be used. See the XBlock tutorial to learn more about XBlocks.


Adopt, Stable

Learning Tools Interoperability is a standard that allows an individual piece of learnable/interactive content (the “tool”) to be embedded via an IFrame in a host Learning Platform (the “consumer”) such as Open edX. Open edX supports LTI content in both directions: as a consumer (external content appearing in an Open edX course) and as a provider (Open edX course content appearing in an external Learning Platform). If you need to support multiple Learning Platforms, and not just Open edX, LTI is usually the best way to integrate your content. Note that not all LTI versions/features are supported, however.

Custom JavaScript Applications

Adopt, Stable

If you have a single piece of content, such as a single interactive HTML5 animation or problem, and you want to use it in an Open edX course, you can create it as a custom JavaScript application. Unlike XBlocks, these applications can be implemented without intervention by the Open edX operator.

External Graders

Hold, Stable

An external grader is a service that receives learner responses to a problem, processes those responses, and returns feedback and a problem grade to the edX platform. You build and deploy an external grader separately from the edX platform. An external grader is particularly useful for software programming courses where learners are asked to submit complex code. See the external grader documentation for details.

TinyMCE (Visual Text/HTML Editor) Plugins

Trial, Limited

TinyMCE’s functionality can be extended with so-called Plugins. Custom TinyMCE plugins can be particularly useful for serving certain content in courses that isn’t available yet; they can also be used to facilitate the educator’s work. You can follow this guide to install and enable custom TinyMCE plugins.

For a more detailed comparison of content integration options, see Options for Extending the edX Platform in the Open edX Developer’s Guide.

Platform Features (Integrating Python Code)#

If you wish to customize aspects of the learner or educator experiences, you’ll most likely need to create a Python plugin that can be installed into the platform and which uses Python APIs to extend the platform’s functionality.

Most python plugins are enabled using one of two methods:

  1. A Python Entry point: the core Open edX platform provides a standard plugin loading mechanism in edx_django_utils.plugins which uses stevedore to find all installed python packages that declare a specific “entry point” in their setup.py file. See the entry_points defined in edx-platform’s own setup.py for examples.

  2. A Django setting: Some plugins require modification of Django settings, which is typically done by editing /edx/etc/lms.yml (in Production) or edx-platform/lms/envs/private.py (on Devstack).

Here are the different integration points that python plugins can use:

Plugin Type (and entry point or setting)



Django App Plugin (lms.djangoapp and cms.djangoapp)

Adopt, Stable

A “Django app plugin” is a self-contained Django Application that can define models (MySQL tables), new REST APIs, signal listeners, asynchronous tasks, and more. Even some parts of the core platform are implemented as Django app plugins, for better separation of concerns (announcements, credentials, grades, etc.) Read the Django app plugin documentation to learn more.

Plugins can also inject custom data into django template contexts, to affect standard pages delivered by the core platform. See Plugin Contexts to learn more.

Course tab (openedx.course_tab)

Hold, Stable

A course tab plugin adds a new tab shown to learners within a course. courseware, course_info, and discussion are examples of built-in tab plugins. Read the course tabs documentation to learn more.

This API may be changing soon with the new Courseware microfrontend implementation.

Course tool (openedx.course_tool)

Hold, Stable

The course home page (the landing page for the course) includes a “Course Tools” section that provides links to “tools” associated with the course. Examples of course tool plugins included in the core are reviews, updates, and bookmarks. See course_tools.py to learn more.

This API may be changing soon with the new Courseware microfrontend implementation.

Custom registration form app (REGISTRATION_EXTENSION_FORM Django setting in the LMS)

Trial, Stable

By default, the registration page for each instance of Open edX has fields that ask for information such as a user’s name, country, and highest level of education completed. You can add custom fields to the registration page for your own Open edX instance. These fields can be different types, including text entry fields and drop-down lists. See Adding Custom Fields to the Registration Page.

Learning Context (openedx.learning_context)

Trial, Limited

A “Learning Context” is a course, a library, a program, a blog, an external site, or some other collection of content where learning happens. If you are trying to build a totally new learning experience that’s not a type of course, you may need to implement a new learning context. Learning contexts are a new abstraction and are only supported in the nascent Blockstore-based XBlock runtime. Since existing courses use modulestore instead of Blockstore, they are not yet implemented as learning contexts. However, Blockstore-based content libraries are. See learning_context.py to learn more.

User partition scheme (openedx.user_partition_scheme and openedx.dynamic_partition_generator)

Unknown, Stable

A user partition scheme is a named way for dividing users in a course into groups, usually to show different content to different users or to run experiments. Partitions may be added to a course manually, or automatically added by a “dynamic partition generator.” The core platform includes partition scheme plugins like random, cohort, and enrollment_track. See the UserPartition docstring to learn more.

XBlock (xblock.v1)

Adopt, Stable

An XBlock provides a new type of learnable content that can be used in courses, content libraries, etc. See Content Integrations.

XBlock unit tests (xblock.test.v0)

Assess, Limited

XBlocks can also install test code that will then be run alongside the platform’s usual python unit tests. It’s unclear how well-supported this is at the moment.

Pluggable override (edx_django_utils.plugins.pluggable_override.pluggable_override)

Trial, Stable

This decorator allows overriding any function or method by pointing to an alternative implementation in settings. Read the pluggable_override docstring to learn more.

Open edX Events

Adopt, Stable

Events are part of the greater Hooks Extension Framework for open extension of edx-platform. Events are a stable way for plugin developers to react to learner or author events. They are defined by a separate events library that developers can include in their requirements to develop and test the code without creating a dependency on this large repo. For more information see the hooks guide.

Open edX Filters

Adopt, Stable

Filters are also part of Hooks Extension Framework for open extension of edx-platform. Filters are a flexible way for plugin developers to modify learner or author application flows. They are defined by a separate filters library that developers can include in their requirements to develop and test the code without creating a dependency on this large repo. For more information see the hooks guide.

Platform Look & Feel#

Themes (“Comprehensive Theming”)#

Status: Hold, Stable

Changing the look and feel of the edX platform is generally done by creating a new “theme”. See Changing Themes for an Open edX Site for documentation. Note that most theming documentation applies to the legacy UI components used in edX, which are .html files (django/mako templates) rendered by the backend and styled using either the “v1” or “v2” (a.k.a. “Pattern Library”) stylesheets. However, the platform UI is slowly being replaced by new React-based “MicroFrontEnds” (MFEs), and a different approach is required for theming MFEs (see Theming Microfrontends).

Theming Microfrontends#

Status: Trial, Limited

Methods for theming MFEs are still being developed. It is likely to involve:

  1. Branding: modifying fonts, colors, and logos via themes/css (there is an example edx theme that you can use as a template for defining fonts and colors, but some MFEs currently lack a mechanism for changing the theme).

  2. Configuration: modifying settings and toggles via MFE configuration settings

  3. Customization: gives the ability to override specific elements like the header and footer to better reflect your branding or offer different functionality - see Overriding Brand Specific Elements.

  4. Frontend Plugins: runtime configuration of frontend components in designated slots on frontend pages

In addition, Open edX operators will be able to replace entire MFEs with completely custom MFE implementations that use the same backend APIs.

Custom frontends#

Status: Trial, Limited

If you need a very custom look and feel for your users, and you have the time and resources required for a huge project, you can consider creating a custom frontend for Open edX, which is a completely separate application that runs on its own domain and integrates with Open edX using REST APIs. The edX Mobile App can be thought of as an example of a separate frontend that connects to Open edX using only REST APIs. Another example is LabXchange. If you develop your custom frontend using Django, you may wish to use the auth-backends django plugin for user authentication.