Open edX Cypress release features
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Photo "Lone Cypress" by Anita Ritenour

Great new features in the Open edX Cypress release

It seems like only yesterday that we were talking about the Open edX Birch release, with features like Student Cohorts, Notes, and Prerequisites. Well, when something has lots of talented people working together to make it better, progress happens quickly! So today we are excited to discuss the “Cypress” release of Open edX.

Birch to Cypress upgrade at no cost to you!

One of the benefits of being an Appsembler customer is that your Open edX site is automatically upgraded to the latest version of Open edX, so you can take advantage of the latest features without having to pay costly migration fees.

Due out this week, Cypress builds upon many of the features of Birch, but it also introduces many new ones. Open edX will now feature greater functionality for students, as well as well as content creators. Here are some of the most important features that Cypress will add to Open edX:

  • Student Profiles – Students now have the ability to learn more about one another. A student profile displaying info about the students fosters community and improves learning outcomes.
  • Bulk Enrollment – Using the e-commerce function in Open edX, organizations can now purchase multiple seats in a course, allowing entire teams to be enrolled simultaneously.
  • Bookmarks – Learners are able to bookmark any courseware page they wish. The bookmarks are viewable on the learning sequence or on a separate My Bookmarks page.
  • Searching – Students can now search entire Open edX courses or their entire catalogue of courses (active and archived) for specific search terms. These searches return everything from course titles and descriptions to text and video transcriptions. See our help article on the new search features.
  • Content Licenses – Course authors now have the ability to specify the licensing options of their content, from All Rights Reserved to various Creative Commons licenses, indicating how it may be reused or repurposed.
  • LTI Provider – Improved interoperability through deeper LTI implementation.

That’s just the beginning! See the full list of Cypress features in the official Open edX release notes. We’ve also summarized some of these new features below:

Certificate Templates

Now, you can create a single certificate configuration to serve as the template for all variations of certificates you may have available on your Open edX course (From “honor code” to “verified”and everything in between)

Learners can now use badges as a way to share their achievements of the Open edX courses they have completed. Enable badges to allow learners to show off their accomplishments when they receive their certificates.

Custom Courses

Custom courses are a way for you to repurpose an existing course’s content for a new group of learners. It’s an easy way to reuse some or all of an existing course’s content to tailor content to subsets of students, and even assign different due dates to different student groups. This is a feature that our partner Jazkarta built for MITx so that MIT can repurpose their MOOC courses for courses offered to residential enrolled students.


Students now have the ability to learn more about one another. A student profile displaying info about the students fosters community and improves learning outcomes. 

Student Notes

Students can now highlight text and make notes as they move through a course, then go back and review their notes later in the content body or on a separate Notes page.

Make notes on course content, add tags, and find all your notes in one place.

how to add notes and tags screenshot

Highlight text, and add comments.

screenshot highlight text and add notes

View and organize your notes all in one central location.

screenshot how to find notes

Add Hints and Feedback to Problems

Open edX now gives the ability to provide hints and specific feedback to learners based on their answers to problems. This new mechanism provides course authors a way to creatively help their learners learn.

Help learners by explaining why they might think to select a wrong answer.

screenshot multiple choice

Help learners work through problems with hints.

Polls and Surveys

Course authors now can gather more information about their learners by adding polls and surveys to their courses. Both can be configured to show or hide results from learners after each has been completed.

Poll learners and see the results instantly.

screenshot of poll

Gather information from your learners with surveys.

screenshot of survey

Third Party Authentication including Shibboleth/SAML

To enhance sign-in options for your users, you can enable third party authentication between institutional authentication systems and your implementation of Open edX. After you enable third party authentication and integrate with SAML or OAuth2 identity providers, users can register and sign in to your Open edX site with their campus or institutional credentials.

Shibboleth/SAML SSO support is now integrated into third_party_auth (TPA), so you can enable third party authentication between your other authentication systems and Open edX. See the technical spec for a lot more background and discussion. Here’s how to set it up, or if you’re an Appsembler customer on our Enterprise plan, this is a service that we can set up for you.

LTI provider

Open edX now functions as an LTI provider, making integration with any on-campus LMS easy. Once enabled, any unit of edX courseware can be embedded in an LTI-compliant campus LMS. Content can be enabled at the subsection, unit or component level. Phil McGachey from Harvard explains the LTI provider in greater detail.

In previous versions of Open edX, course teams could use Studio as a tool consumer: course teams could set up an LTI component to embed external tools, such as learning applications and textbooks, into an edX course.

Now, course teams can identify content from their edX courses to embed with other content on their campus systems. Teams can specify the course units, videos, and graded and ungraded problems that already exist in an edX course for launch within a campus LMS such as Blackboard or Canvas. Student scores for graded content are transferred to the campus system.

Authentication between the campus system and the edX system that provides the content can be configured either to anonymously provision students or to prompt for account creation.

That’s a wrap!

That’s quite a lot that’s new! At Appsembler, we tip our cap to the entire Open edX team and community that contributed to this release!