TOC Meeting Notes - 2024-02-13


The Technical Oversight Committee met on Feb 13, 2024 with the following members in attendance:

  • @Edward Zarecor (Axim) 

  • Ferdi Alimadhi (MIT)

  • @George Babey (2U)

  • Nacho Despujol (Instructor Representative, UPV)

  • @Régis Behmo (Operator & Core Contributor Representative, Edly)

  • Virginia Fletcher (2U)

  • @Xavier Antoviaque (User/Learner representative, OpenCraft)


  • Anant Agarwal (2U)

  • Dustin Tingley (Harvard)


The TOC members discussed the development of privacy-preserving educational research platforms, with a potential project partnership and funding for Open edX. They also shared updates on Open edX adoption and community involvement, and strategies to improve the long-term sustainability and extensibility of the platform. The board members discussed challenges and strategies for maintaining open-source repositories, including identifying which repositories to maintain and which to deprecate, the need for maintainers, and the impact of breaking changes in non-maintained repositories. They emphasized the importance of transparency and fairness for maintainers in open-source projects.

Recording and transcribing meetings in Massachusetts

  • The meeting being transcribed by Otter to facilitate the note-taking, the group discussed the importance of notifying participants that a meeting is being recorded, and Xavier Antoviaque agrees to check if Otter or Zoom has a setting for this.

  • The group discusses the ideal notification method, including the use of a pop-up window or a screen with a clear notification.

Privacy-preserving educational research platforms

  • An opportunity to partner on a project to develop privacy-preserving educational research platforms, with a potential implementation and improvements being contributed to the platform through it. However, concerns were raised about whether the project aligns with the organization's strategic goals given past experiences with similar projects. Questions remain about the likelihood of the project gaining enough traction within the educational research community to become a standard.

  • Discussions also covered whether participating in the grant could become a distraction from more critical investments for the platform and the implications of ongoing maintenance after the grant-funded work is complete.

  • Potential benefits include API development, improved personalized learning, and positioning the platform for better research.

  • Participants agreed that detailed next steps would be needed to better assess the project's potential contribution to the platform.

Platform Maintenance and Sustainability

  • The initiative to call the community for help maintaining the Open edX platform was mentioned

  • 2U introduced a list of repositories that it proposes to maintain going forward. The goal is for 2U to remain an active partner in the community while balancing resources between 2U business priorities and community maintenance.

  • Discussion ensued about clarifying “maintenance” definitions and considering the implications of the proposed maintainership transitions on both the community and 2U business operations.

  • It was suggested to list the actual maintainers, making clear who is responsible for each repository.

  • 2U deployment method may shift from deploying from the Open edX master branch to allowing reviews before deploying community contributions. The community will still benefit from 2U testing edge cases and scalability early, before features make it to a named release.

Making open edX platform more extensible

  • A discussion arose about the fact that the core should be smaller, but evaluating what's core is hard due to technical debt and missing APIs. 

  • It was noted that a forcing function to work outside core could reveal gaps in plugin archetype and missing APIs. The forcing function of a review process can help ensure that new features and changes are aligned with the platform's overall direction and goals. A phased approach to transitioning to a model where new employees don't get automatic core contributor labels was suggested.

  • It was agreed that the core should work as a platform where plugins can contain the business logic specific to each organization.

  • The board discussed the need to expand and improve the plugin mechanism in the codebase to cover all use cases. It was suggested to open up a conversation or a proposal in Discourse or on the wiki.

Consortium proposal

  • To help sharing the load of maintaining and developing the project, while keeping the platform sustainable, a proposal for a consortium was shared. This was recognized as a large topic that still requires extensive review and should receive feedback from more stakeholders before moving forward.

Open, reusable course material

  • The topic of open/reusable course material for Open edX was brought up,  but time ran out to discuss it. To be continued on the forum and by email.

Action Items

  • Xavier to check if Otter has a setting to warn participants about recording/transcription prior to the meeting

  • Axim to send a proposal for transitioning 2U developers to core contributors rather than direct commit access, as well as reviewing 2U roles, access and permissions.

  • Régis to open a discussion on the forum about open course material, and share the link with the TOC mailing list.

  • Régis to investigate the state of Open edX extensibility and propose improvements to existing mechanisms, leveraging the work of other contributors

  • George to share the list of repositories 2U will maintain with Feanil and the maintenance working group once it is approved internally

  • Ed/Axim will meet with the participants to the privacy-preserving educational research platform project