Open edX Juniper Release

What is Juniper?

The Open edX platform is constantly evolving with the community working each day to make it easier for its users to create, distribute and manage their online courses. The Juniper release is the 10th named release of the Open edX Platform and according to them, it’s their largest yet. The previous release – Ironwood, was rolled out in January 2019, making Juniper span across January 2019 through May 2020.

What’s new?

The Juniper release tackles upgrades that can be traced across three categories of user experiences: learners, educators, and developers.

Let’s drill down on what’s new in each.

Learner Experiences

1. Course Experience

Course Outline Depth: For some time now, the course outline was shifted to rendering sections, subsections, and units. The resulting outline was long and provided detail that learners could navigate once in a subsection (aka the learning sequence). The course outline has been updated to once again show only sections and subsections. As a part of this change, Open edX made sure that graded subsections show an icon to better highlight that they are graded.

Graded Question Count: The course outline now highlights the number of graded questions included in a subsection. The additional information added to the outline will allow learners to understand at-a-glance and better plan for the effort of a given graded assignment or exam.

Here’s a comparison between the previous and the new course outline page.


Course outline from Ironwood



Course outline from Juniper


2. Learning Sequence Experience

Content iFrames & Security: The use of iframes here improves site security and code sandboxing, helping ensure stability for learners on the new application.

Responsive Sequence Bar: The learning sequence bar is now a bit smarter in how it responds to screen size and the length of learning sequences.


Educator Experiences

1. Course Authoring

In-Context Unit Naming: You can now quickly edit the name of a Unit page directly from the Studio Course Outline page. This speeds up course scaffolding and authoring in a quick edit page where changes are applied without needing an additional step for drafting or publishing.


Course overview from Ironwood



Course overview page from Juniper



Learning Sequence Navigation: The Unit page title area has been upgraded to add dropdowns that let you jump to other sections or subsections seamlessly.


Navigation from Ironwood



Navigation from Juniper



Educator Sequence Bar Navigation: A learner-facing sequence bar has been introduced on the unit page which allows authors to quickly jump to the unit page that precedes or follows the one that they’re currently authoring. Additionally, educators can create new units within this learning sequence bar. This update replaces the navigation links that were further down the page on the right sidebar of Unit pages.


Unit page with Ironwood



Unit page with Juniper


2. Content Blocks & Interactive

Problem Markdown Editor Learnability & Usability: Problem authoring can be time-intensive, especially as problems become more complex through hints, feedback, and explanations. Open edX updated the icons in the common problem markdown editor so that the name of the problem template is more obvious.

Problem Markdown Reference Sheet Visibility: Another set of changes relates to the markdown reference sheet, which will now be visible by default. As part of this change, the component editing modal window has become larger, ensuring the authoring space was not reduced with the addition of the reference sheet.


Common problem view with Ironwood



Common problem view with Juniper


3. Course Operations

Institutional Course Data Researchers: A new role has been created to provide more granular controls for the ability to download learner information through reports in the ‘Data Downloads’ tab. Once enabled, the role must be configured to see the ‘Instructor Dashboard’s Data Downloads’ tab.

Offline Report Download Age-Off: A change was introduced to the table of downloaded instructor dashboard reports that sought to limit the offline use and presence of learner data. After 90-days, downloaded reports are now removed from the list of report downloads and a summary of this policy change is described near the downloaded report area.


Data download page from Ironwood



Data download page from Juniper


Developer Experiences


About 55% of the Open edX platform is written in Python, meaning a large fraction of the code written over the past 8 years was reviewed and updated to support Python 3 as part of the Juniper release.


A major Juniper-release-defining upgrade to the platform was completed in service of upgrading the Open edX Platform and all its dependencies to support Django 2.2, which reached its end of life on April 1st, 2020.

Ready to use the Juniper Open edX release?

Every upgrade is meticulously thought-out to ensure the best experience for all Open edX users. Edly’s decades of experience with Open edX allows us to both drive and facilitate the implementation of these changes from start to finish. We’ve migrated all our clients’ solutions to this new and improved version and if you have any questions regarding the update or your platform, reach out to us at hello@edly.io.


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