Two Things You Should Know About Open edX Ginkgo - Appsembler

Two Things You Should Know About Open edX Ginkgo

As many of you know, edX announced this summer that their latest release, entitled “Ginkgo,” was available. This version has a number of improvements and changes, most notably in how learners will navigate through your Open edX courses. We want to make sure you and your courses will be ready!

As with any change that impacts the learner experience, it’s a best practice to communicate to your learners what this upgrade means, and update your course content accordingly. Below are descriptions of the two major changes, and how to get your courses ready for your learners:

1. No More Left Menu Bar

Probably the biggest change your learners will experience with Ginkgo is that the left menu bar will no longer be visible from every page in the course. Instead, to view the whole course outline learners must click the Course tab in the top navigation bar to view the whole outline.

Previous View of Course Outline in Left Menu Bar (Ficus version)

View of Course Outline in Left Menu Bar (Ficus)

New View of Course Outline on Course Page (Ginkgo version)

View of Course Outline in Left Menu Bar (Ginkgo)

Learners can also use the breadcrumb navigation at the top of each screen once they are viewing the course content to return to the Course page.

Breadcrumb navigation in Ginkgo

So what does this mean for your course design?

This navigation change was designed to encourage learners to focus on the content at hand, and to be less distracted by the left menu bar and wanting to “jump around” the course. Another advantage is you will have more space (width) on the screen for your content and learners will have potentially less scrolling to do.

For courses that have content laid out in a sequential manner, i.e. follow a “mastery” learning approach, you probably won’t need to change the content very much to adjust to the new navigation. However, for courses that follow a “modular” approach, where each section is designed to be a stand-alone learning section, you may want to add content at the end of each section telling the learner what topic is covered in the next module, as a reminder.

Depending on your course content, you may need to update the following areas:

  1. Navigation overview – If your course includes navigation instructions for learners, you may need to update any references to a left menu bar, clicking on a specific section or subsection name from within a unit, or replacing screenshots that include the left menu bar.
  2. Navigation instructions – If the content of your course includes navigation instructions like “Click Module 2 from the menu bar,” you will need to update them so there are no longer references to a menubar. Instead, you can tell learners to click the “Next” button to progress through the content, or use the breadcrumb navigation to return to the outline.

2. Home Page Combined with Course Page

Another major change in the Ginkgo release is the content from “Home” and “Course” are now combined into one page called “Course,” to provide learners a more centralized location to access key course information. As a result, you will have the following content on the Course page:

  1. One course update
  2. Course Outline
  3. Link to the learners’ bookmarks
  4. Link to course updates
  5. Important Course Dates
  6. Course Handouts

So, what does this mean for your course design? Note that only the most recent course update will appear at the top of the Course page, so if you have a very long update it will push the Course Outline further down the page, potentially requiring learners to scroll down to see the outline.

However, learners can “dismiss” a course update by clicking on the “x”’ that appears in the upper right corner of that update. To view all the course updates learners will need to click the link called “Updates.” Since this is a new feature it will be good to explain this functionality to your learners as part of a navigation overview, or a course update.

Also, the course handouts fall lower on the page, so you should remind learners where to find the handouts to make sure they don’t miss them, or consider adding more links to them from within the course, or on a custom page.

Message to Mobile Users: If your learners access your courses through a mobile device, the navigation is the same, with learners swiping left to advance through each page of the course, and clicking on back arrow to access the outline.

These are big changes in Ginkgo, but with advanced preparation in your course content, and clear communication to your learners, they will adjust quickly and reap the benefits of a simpler course design.

About the Author

Ildi Morris is an independent learning consultant with expertise in the edX platform, e-learning program and course development for both corporate and educational organizations. Prior to being an independent consultant, Ildi worked as Senior Manager, Training and Partner Enablement at edX; Director of Training at FIS; and as a Design Consultant for Convergys Learning Solutions. You can contact Ildi at or on LinkedIn.