The importance of open online courses at OSCON 2014

Open source communities start to buzz about edX

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Open source software is hugely important to us here at edX, since it's what we do all day, every day. Two weeks ago, the O'Reilly company hosted their annual OSCON convention in Portland, Oregon—a convention focused on open source software. Of course, we had to be there. So, my edX colleague James Tauber and I packed our bags and headed to Oregon for a week of learning and teaching to meet wonderful people, and to get excited about open source. We even gave a presentation about edX!

I got to talk to a lot of different people, and many of them hadn't yet heard about edX, nor did they know much about MOOCs in general. However, once I started explaining, people were eager to know more. Lots of people were excited to hear about the free online courses, and I saw a few frantically writing notes to themselves to go check it out when they got back home.

Most people were interested in the course content available at Others were very happy to hear that is written in Python, and I'm hoping that they'll end up contributing to our project! As we continue to add more and more amazing courses to, like the Introduction to Linux course, I'll bet that more people will end up investigating our software, too.

In addition to having conversations in the hallways, we also did more structured networking events. OSCON encourages attendees to organize informal gatherings of people based around a specific topic; these gatherings are called BoFs (pronounced "boffs"), which is short for "Birds of a Feather." We organized an edX BoF, and several people showed up; some attendees were simply curious about who we are and what we do, others wanted to get involved in our open source project, and some were already experienced at running their own Open edX instance and wanted to meet others doing the same thing. The conversation flowed through many different topics and lasted for several hours, and everyone left excited and full of ideas about new ways that the project could grow and improve.

Finally, on the last day of the convention, James and I gave a presentation about Open edX: what it is, how it works, and how the community can get involved. The presentation was very well received—we had a ton of questions at the end, and people really wanted to know more about where edX is going and how they could help. Our presentation was one of very few that focused on education, and you could tell that the people in the audience were hungry to find out more. We made several good connections, got some good feedback about what our community wants, and gave out hundreds of edX stickers, too.

OSCON was a lot of fun, but it's also very important. Events like OSCON give us a chance to connect with the people in our community and talk to them one-on-one: to find out what they want out of edX and to help them get involved with making that happen.

The fact that so many people we met wanted to learn more was encouraging—it means that our community is only going to grow, and grow rapidly. We plan on attending more tech conferences in the future, and to spread our mission of educating a billion students online, but we can't do it without your help.

If you know of other conferences where you want to see edX attend and talk to us to learn more, don't hesitate to contact me at We can't go to every event, but we are committed to making our open source community happy, healthy, and successful. Also, edX is hosting an Open edX Technical Conference in Cambridge on November 18 and 19. If you're interested in learning more about our open source project, you should join us—we'd love to see you there!

Originally posted on the edX Blog. Reposted with permission.

About the author

David Baumgold - David Baumgold is a developer advocate working for edX in Cambridge, MA. He loves Python and Javascript, and he's a firm believer in the open source philosophy. He's been programming since 2006, but likes to get out from behind the computer and actually talk to people, as well. He genuinely believes that, as long as everyone continues to communicate and share, everything will all work out alright in the end, somehow.