Blog post:

Introducing Taxoman – A Better Way to Discover Open edX Courses

How do your learners discover the online course that is right for them? When you have only a few courses available, it’s usually not an issue to navigate across your course offerings. But when you start to offer multiple courses, especially for a given category or curriculum, then effective course discovery can be a challenge.

Open edX has an existing feature for course discovery, but it is limited in functionality as it has a limited set of facets for refining a search (e.g. “org”, “mode”, and “language”) and does not support customized facets.

This course discovery interface is unique to Open edX; it is not used by, which uses a proprietary solution for course discovery.


Vertical Search

Vertical search, also known as “guided navigation” or “faceted search,” is a type of search that filters content into a hierarchy of categories or facets, formally called a taxonomy.  Taxonomies differ from general purpose search, which treats content uniformly.  If you’re shopping online and browsing across different product categories, then you are using a taxonomy. The same human factors that drive effective product discovery also apply to online education.

A number of our customers have expressed a need for improved course discovery.  This need is driven by the nature of these organizations’ course offerings.  In particular, they have a need to provide product and service-specific courses for customers, partners, and employees.  As their course offerings grow, so does the challenge for their users to find relevant courses.

Since Open edX does not provide faceted search, this leaves an important functional area unfulfilled. This is where Taxoman enters the picture.

Taxoman for Customized Course Discovery

At Appsembler, we’ve built a taxonomy manager named ‘Taxoman’ which empowers our customers to customize their students’ course discovery experience.

First, a brief explanation of how Taxoman got started. To better serve our customers, we initiated a feature development model called “Sponsored Feature Development.” This program provides participating customers the opportunity to fund and shape new features as a collaborative effort. Now, a common enhancement can reduce support costs and complexity, especially when upgrading to newer versions of Open edX.

Taxoman provides two key aspects:

  1. Taxonomy Manager, an administrator interface to enter and edit custom facets, and to associate specific facet values to courses
  2. Custom facet filtering in the LMS’s course discovery interface, which learners can use to narrow their course searches

Taxoman enables organizations to create and manage their own custom course discovery for course authoring.  It is a layered IDA (Independently Deployable Application) on top of Open edX, comprising a user interface, a REST API back end, and custom search extensions.

Here is the Facets Editor panel of Taxoman. In this interface, an organization’s administrators can select, add, remove, and edit facets and facet values.

The Taxoman Courses Editor lets an organization’s administrators link and unlink specific facet values to courses.

Here is what the students would see in the course discovery: They can view custom categories (facets) and select specific values on which to filter:

As you can see, with Appsembler’s Taxonomy manager, it is easier than ever for your learners on Open edX to discover new courses across multiple offerings.

Want to learn more about Appsembler’s “Sponsored Feature Development” program, or get a hands-on demo of our out-of-the-box Open edX solution? Contact us to get in touch.


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