Open edX

Description Updated
Mar 17, 2023

OpenEdX is an open-source learning management system (LMS). The platform allows administrators to create digital courses for online and remote learning.


    Program Implementation Guide

    What need does it fill

    OpenEdX is a useful tool for remote learning and workshops. Particularly when it is not possible to conduct an in-person training, OpenEdX provides a good alternative. As opposed to a one-time workshop, OpenEdX allows for an administrator to create a number of different online courses over time, allowing participants to take them at their convenience, and for new users just joining to catch up on the previous content. It also allows for customizations and features like issuing certificates for completing certain courses.

    Language for proposals/General pitch of the tool

    OpenEdX is an open-source product that provides a cheap and easy way to perform online trainings. In-person trainings can be expensive, difficult to coordinate, and sometimes not possible due to various circumstantial factors. When in-person trainings are not the best option, OpenEdX provides a cheaper, easier way to transmit important information to partners, in a way that allows for greater reach, and to continue conducting trainings over a longer period of time.

    Budget for implementing

    Because the application is an online learning platform and quite substantial, the hosting for the site can cost $150-$300 a month (for smaller use cases, it may be possible to use a slightly cheaper hosting configuration). For internal teams, the NDI tech team can help cover some of these costs depending on the situation. 

    Technical capacity required

    There are several ways to get OpenEdX. Certain organizations offer full hosting of the applications. Appsembler’s Tahoe is a simplified version of OpenEdX that they host. The OpenEdX platform is open-source, and so it can also be hosted by anyone with the proper technical skills. Given the complexities of the application itself however, even for those with technical backgrounds NDI still recommends looking into contracting a vendor to help provide support for the application. A list of OpenEdX vendors with various skillsets can be found here. NDI can provide advice to internal teams on selecting a vendor or providing support. NDI also has an internally hosted instance of OpenEdX, and in certain cases can provide internal teams with a copy of the application to use.

    Level of effort to implement

    Implementing the platform will require a staff member to spend time learning and gaining expertise in using the platform, particularly in course creation. Teams should plan to dedicate a fair amount of time to this.

    Contextual Considerations:


    OpenEdX is fairly secure and is suitable for environments with higher than normal cybersecurity requirements, but it is not specifically designed as a privacy tool. Considerations can be made to protect users, such as disabling the need for them to create accounts on the site to take courses.


    OpenEdX is at least partially translated into dozens of languages, including close to full translation into Arabic, French, and Spanish. The full list of languages and the percentage of the tool that has been translated can be found here.

    Availability of Support/Sustainability, communities supporting the tool, public documentation, etc

    A large amount of documentation is available here.

    Additional information/materials

    • A non-NDI affiliated demo site is available here
    • A course for learning more about OpenEdX can be found here
    • Technical documentation can be found here

    Case Study - Online Learning for Latin American Regional Innovation Network

    For organizations working on civic and voter education, the internet provides the potential to reach a vast audience with useful information. Particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, distance learning became more valuable than ever – and sometimes the only way to reach people isolated in their homes. However, organizing and managing virtual courses isn’t easy, and can be very expensive, as the Red Innovación team learned. Red Innovación is a virtual platform and community focused on the exchange of political and social experiences in Latin America and the Caribbean. Over the past decade, Red Innovación has facilitated spaces for communication and dialogue between civil society organizations, political and social leaders, and experts from across Latin America. Red Innovación had been working with a distance learning platform called Canvas, but managing it was becoming increasingly cumbersome and expensive. Working together, NDI’s DemTech team and Red Innovación identified OpenEdX as a possible solution to their problems.

    OpenEdX is a powerful learning management system, initially created and used by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Since its founding in 2012, OpenEdX has been used by a wide range of organizations, from major corporations such as IBM and Microsoft to national governments. According to their statistics, OpenEdX has hosted over fifty thousand courses and fifty-five million learners. As free, open-source software, NDI was able to host and manage OpenEdX for the team, getting away from the need to pay for per-user fees, and permitting them to have as many students as they could host. The platform has since been used by additional NDI programs. For those who can not or do not want to manage an OpenEdX platform themselves, there are a range of partners who can provide hosting for a fee which will scale by the number of students. Costs can range wildly, from $50 to hundreds of dollars per month, depending on the size of the courses in the system. 

    At any given point in time Red Innovactión may have dozens of different courses available, from small intense seminars with 20 students to large lectures with five hundred participants, all managed through OpenEdX. Courses can have videos, slide shows, text, audio, live broadcasts, or a range of other methods of sharing information. The platform also can facilitate quizzes and evaluations, and provides a survey for post-class feedback. Many people value the credentials that can come with education, and so NDI worked to improve the open-source OpenEdX software to provide elegant certificates personalized with their information for those who successfully completed a course. Distance learning with OpenEdX has been a tremendous success for Red Innovación, hosting over twenty-five thousand students from across the Latin America and Caribbean region and providing practical knowledge to far wider audiences than ever would have been able to gather for in-person trainings in conference rooms.

    Contact us for additional information about OpenEdX. Also check out Appsembler Tahoe, a service designed for newcomers to OpenEdX that provides a scaled down version of the platform with full hosting, onboarding, and professional support (pricing starts at $500 per month)