2022 Open edX Conference: Talks Topics Brainstorm

Hey everyone!

Let’s brainstorm some talk topics to prepare for the next Open edX conference.

This will be a multistep process:

  1. Post all your ideas for talks: this should provide a large pool of topics we can filter out.
  2. Each one would pick a topic and submit a proposal.
  3. Each member picks another member’s talk proposal to review.

We should get started on this ASAP to start preparing the talks for submission In January. Tickets to block/log time coming soon. Subtasks created to block time and scheduled for sprint 263.



Anatomy of a Micro Front End seems like it’d be a good topic to cover.


@paulo @Fox Thanks! I would suggest posting at least a few different ideas, especially in the current phase (1), which is a brainstorm of all talks we can think of, whether we would present them ourselves or not. It’s meant to help everyone else get more ideas, and have a big pool of talks to pick from.

A few ideas on my side:

  • "So you want to become a core contributor?" Presentation of the core contributor program (what it is, who is part of it, what is done with it), with a focus on advertising it to people who aren’t core contributors currently, hopefully motivating a few people to start contributing more to become a core contributor themselves. Presenting also the advantages for companies to have core contributors among their employees. Maybe this talk could be a collaboration with @sarina ? That would bring back good memories from past conferences to prepare another talk together :stuck_out_tongue:

  • "Learning from open source communities" Open edX is one of many open source communities. What can we learn from others? Through a review of other large open source projects and of the literature on the topic, we identify where the Open edX project differs compared to the established practices, and what we can all do to improve our community.

  • "Building collaborative classes - Borrowing from open source practices" For educators willing to build a more collaborative environment in their online courses, we present a few of the recognized best practices in open source. Many open source communities have successfully mastered many of the challenges related to building collaborative online projects. Their experience can provide a useful perspective to those looking to develop a different kind of engagement with their students. To not have students just consuming a course to pass it, but contributing to building and improving it too, for the benefit of everyone’s knowledge.

I might also experiment with using Secure audience engagement tool | Poll Everywhere in a talk this year, it can make the experience more involved. I had also suggested it to Ned last year, ideally they would make it a conference tool, and people will already be familiar with it before the talk.

PS: Also I’m making this thread public, as there shouldn’t be anything confidential in there (?) – those are after all talks we mean to present in public :) And this way we can also more easily involve other community members, for ideas of talks to collaborate on?

PS2: Here is the link to the 2020 brainstorm thread, which went unused: https://forum.opencraft.com/t/2020-open-edx-conference-talks-topics-brainstorm/403 - maybe we could actually also make that one public? Let me know if there are any objections, otherwise I’ll make it public in a few weeks.


It would be nice if someone can pick up the topic of site configuration customizations and the other “not well-known” customizations possible on Open edX instances. This topic was approved after the internal team review for the cancelled 2020 conference.

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Grove - Open edX on Kubernetes - A talk on how Grove manages the deployment of Open edX instances using GitLab CI, Tutor, and Kubernetes.


There is also PigeonHole for live audience activities that look pretty cool. :slight_smile:

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I’d be happy to collaborate on this! It’s been far too long :smile:

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A few more talks that would be good to do:

How to cut an Open edX Release: It’s my understanding that we were in charge of one of the recent releases. This seems like a good topic to speak on, as we’re the first team to do it outside of edX themselves.

Alternative E-learning Business Models: I don’t know that we’d actually be the best team to do this presentation, but it’s becoming more and more clear to me that selling individual courses is becoming less popular than other models based on subscriptions or what have you. I’d like to learn more about how teams have created sustainable e-learning platforms using other means than direct course sales.

Beyond XBlocks: @braden has spoken in the past about a possible replacement for XBlocks that could be made. It would be interesting to cast a vision for what this could look like and get more people interested in it.


I would be happy to talk about something along those lines.

A few ideas from my side based on what I’ve learned:

  • Building your own MFE
    A brief intro on how to set up your own MFE from scratch. The next steps you can take to get it up and running and how to configure it’s integration with the platform.
  • A look at the new discussions features in Open edX
    Discussions can now support LTI-based providers, and the new MFE also comes with a number of new features. This will go over the new development in this area.
  • Anatomy of an MFE (+1 to @Fox’s suggestion)
    The technologies and components that make up an MFE. Where frontend-platform, frontend-build etc fit it.

A few ideas with a bit of a UX slant:

Don’t let the interface get in my way
I think Samuel touched on some interesting issues in this comment about keeping the UX of e-learning platforms simple. I especially like this part: “Smart”. I don’t want a smart interface. I want a dumb, consistent interface. No autoplay, no popups, no clickjacking, no arcane icons, no scroll hijacking." There could be something in this regarding the fact that learners are there to learn, not to be “wowed” (read: distracted) by a “fancy” interface.

Avoiding distractions when learning online: for those of us without a zen state of mind
Some facets of our digital life are destroying our ability to concentrate. What do we do about it? Are there any tools that could be used to block notifications and other distractions while learners are going through a course?


Here are more ideas I’d find interesting:

  • Import and export formats in Open edX: what data can be imported and exported (courses?, grades?, users? settings? messages? certificates?), and how: through CSV, APIs, custom export formats, …
  • Upgrade paths for long version upgrades: how to deal with upgrading a server through different Open edX releases at the same time
  • Open edX extensibility for beginners: how do the recent architecture changes regarding APIs and microfrontends affect Open edX customization: is it easier or hander for a beginner to develop new features?
  • Replacing MongoDB by a SQL storage: after this PR
  • Experiences in „Core contributor“: results achieved by OpenCraft and others during the time it has been part of the program
  • Future of „Insights“ and analytics in Open edX: after „Insights“ gets deprecated
  • How grading works in Open edX: types of grades (persistent or not, XBlock or not, etc.), how are they computed and updated, how to build complete grade reports, and what problems can appear. Also including the advanced grading options
  • New ORA features: (ORA v3, BB-2429 etc.)
  • Review of several simple XBlock used by clients

I won’t attend the conference, so I won’t propose any of these topics; feel free to rewrite them or mix them with other ideas.


Here’s more!


  • LTI in the Open edX platform: focus on the technical aspects of the current implementation on LTI in the platform, how it works and how to use the APIs, what are it’s limitations, etc.
  • Building marketing website for the Open edX platform: where to start, which APIs to use, how the platform is currently structured for this, etc. This would be a great talk if we can find an edX/tCRIL insider with context on their marketing site to review/co-author the talk.
  • How to become an Open Source contributor: A talk about the mooc-floss course (CC @jill).


  • LTI Workshop: building an LTI tool and integrating it with the Open edX platform.

That’s it for now. I’ll add more ideas as they come up.

Some more ideas with a UX spin:

UX State of Mind: Designing better Open edX themes
I’ve been working on the new OpenCraft Open edX theme, and have found it very interesting comparing existing online learning experiences to how users want their learning experiences to behave. I’ve also found it quite surprising that there is a lack of quality Open edX themes out there. So this sparked an idea for a talk: we need to be more mindful of how online experiences affect the learning process. For effective and efficient online learning experiences we can’t just rely on superior technology, we also need superior interfaces. This talk could focus on tips to design easy-to-use, intuitive, consistent, and accessible Open edX themes to create positive learning environments.

Designing effective learning interfaces for all ages
When designing effective online learning experiences we need to take into account that different age groups have different needs. Interfaces for young adults (eg. 20 to 35 yrs) vs older adults (eg. 36 to 55 yrs) might require slightly different UX considerations, and UX designers need to be sensitive to this fact. This talk could focus on UX best practices when designing learning interfaces for different age groups / wider age groups (here’s an interesting age related example from UX hotshots :wink: Nielsen Norman Group “young adults are error prone when using interfaces. They often click first, and ask questions later”.

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There’s some great ideas here already!

I don’t have a lot of additional suggestions, but one topic that the community might be interested in is flexible course authoring, i.e., Content Libraries and Editing (BD-14). It would be nice to get an overview of where that project is currently at, what use cases it already supports, and which ones it will enable in the future.

Since BD-14 is a blended project, a talk on it could be done in collaboration with people that have been involved in it on edX’s side?

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Great job brainstorming, everyone :).

I tried to think of other ideas I’d be interested in presenting but they’re all listed here already!

I’m late to the party on this thread, and so feel the same way!

But here’s my :+1:s on other people’s ideas, and some thoughts:

  • Core contributor program (1, 2):

    As founding members of the program, we should definitely talk about this, and collaborate with some of the other members. It would be cool if we could collaborate with edX on this, now that tCRIL owns the codebase, since (I assume) edX will become core contributors too?

  • UX for online learning (1, 2):

    Hugely valuable talk ideas, and since UX design seems to be an uncommon skillset in the community, I’m sure many people would appreciate a chance to learn about it from experts.

  • Grove - Open edX on Kubernetes (1):
    Yes! This is the future of production deployment, so we should spread the word.

  • Discussion LTIs and MFE (1):
    This is a much-anticipated feature, and so we should present on it and get the word out!

  • Flexible course authoring and content libraries (1):

    This is another foundational feature but one that’s still relatively unknown, so I’m sure people would like to hear about it and find out where it’s heading.
    I know LabXchange are migrating away from the platform this year, but since it was founded on blockstore and content libraries content, maybe we could discuss that too?

  • Platform extensibility (1) + LTI (2) and/or MFEs (3, 4):
    I’ve given a few talks on this, but it’s continually evolving, so is always worth a look in. Maybe we could do an overview of the various extension options, and an in-depth section on MFEs and/or LTI?

    Maintainably Extending Open edX would be a good place to start for the overview of extensibility options (see slides).

    I also did an LTI Workshop back in 2016, but that was v1.1 and we’re up to v1.3 now, so it could surely use an update.

    And since we’ve come such a long way with MFEs, I think an in-depth look and pointers for where to start developing would benefit a lot of people.

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Here are few more ideas:

  • Teams: Focus on how they can be used, how to configure them, not so well known features of teams, comparison to cohorts.
  • Master’s track for courses: When to use it, how to update course, features that are only available to master’s track courses.
  • Periodic reports generation: Benefits of periodic reports, types of reports available, how to deploy/enable the required django app, how to configure report generation.
  • Progress bar (yet to be upstreamed): Benefits, how to deploy/enable it, how it works.
  • Integrating open edX with shopify

We already have a large list of topics! I tried to think of additional ideas, but can’t think of anything that would be worth of a talk and hasn’t been mentioned already.

I am personally most interested in these topics:

  • MFEs - how they work, their benefits, how to theme them, how to customise them, how to make your own from scratch.
  • Grove - what it is, how it works, planned features, release timeline
  • Removal of Mongo - motivation, progress, timeline

I don’t really have any other ideas since you already did an amazing job but talking about the MFEs and Grove would be my favorites (even if I don’t have any experience with these subjects).