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XBlock SDK build-status coverage-status

This repository consists of three main components to assist in the creation of new XBlocks:

  • a template-based generator for new XBlocks (found in the prototype directory)
  • sample XBlocks that can be the basis for new XBlock work (found in the sample_xblocks directory)
  • Workbench runtime, a simple runtime for viewing and testing XBlocks in a browser (found in the workbench directory)


This code runs on Python 3.5 or newer.

  1. Install standard development libraries. Here's how you do it on Ubuntu or Debian:

    $ sudo apt-get install python-dev libxml2-dev libxslt-dev lib32z1-dev libjpeg62-dev

    Note: Debian 10 needs libjpeg62-turbo-dev instead of libjpeg62-dev.

  2. Get a local copy of this repo.

  3. Create and activate a virtualenv to work in.

  4. Install the requirements and register the XBlock entry points:

    $ make install
  5. Run the Django development server:

    $ python runserver
  6. Open a web browser to:


Alternatively, you can build and run the xblock-sdk in Docker (we are using docker-compose which can be installed as explained at

After cloning this repository locally, go into the repository directory and build the Docker image:

$ make docker_build

or manually run

$ docker-compose build

You can then run the locally-built version using the following command:

$ make dev.up

or manually run:

$ docker-compose up -d

and stop the container (without removing data) by:

$ make dev.stop

or manually run:

$ docker-compose stop

Note, using:

$ make dev.down


$ docker-compose down

will shut down the container and delete non-persistant data.

On the first startup run the following command to create the SQLite database. (Otherwise you will get an error no such table: workbench_xblockstate.)


$ docker container exec -it edx.devstack.xblock-sdk python3.8 migrate

You should now be able to access the XBlock SDK environment in your browser at http://localhost:8000

You can open a bash shell in the running container by using:

$ make app-shell


$ docker container exec -it edx.devstack.xblock-sdk bash


If using Docker, all these commands need to be run inside the xblock-sdk container.

Testing is done via tox to test all supported versions:

  1. Create and activate a virtualenv to work in.

  2. Run just unit tests via tox:

    $ tox

For each supported version of Django (currently 1.8 and 1.11) this will run:

  • Integration tests of XBlocks running within the workbench.
  • Individual tests written for the demo XBlocks

To run the unit tests in your virtualenv you can use:

$ make test

To run all tox unit tests and quality checks:

$ make test-all

To run just the quality checks:

$ make quality

You can test XBlocks through a browser using Selenium. We have included an example Selenium test for thumbs that uses Django's LiveServerTestCase. It runs as part of the test suite as executed by the above command.

To update and view test coverage:

$ make coverage

See the docs for more info and options.

Using the workbench

When you open the workbench, you'll see a list of sample XBlock configurations (scenarios). Each will display a page showing the XBlocks composited together, along with internal information like the "database" contents.

The workbench database defaults to a sqlite3 database. If you're using devstack, you may want to set WORKBENCH_DATABASES to point to your MySQL db.

If you want to experiment with different students, you can use a URL parameter to set the student ID, which defaults to 1:

Different students will see different student state, for example, while seeing the same content. The default student ID contains only digits but it is not necessary to limit student IDs to digits. Student IDs are represented as strings.

Making your own XBlock

Making an XBlock involves creating a Python class that conforms to the XBlock specification. See the sample_xblocks directory for examples and the XBlock tutorial for a full walk-through.

We provide a script to create a new XBlock project to help you get started. Run bin/workbench-make-xblock in a directory where you want to create your XBlock project. The script will prompt you for the name of the XBlock, and will create a minimal working XBlock, ready for you to begin development.

You can provide scenarios for the workbench to display: see the sample for an example, or the xblock/ file. The scenarios are written in a simple XML language. Note this is not an XML format we are proposing as a standard.

Once you install your XBlock into your virtualenv, the workbench will automatically display its scenarios for you to experiment with.

If you are interested in making an XBlock to run for your course on, please get in touch with us as soon as possible -- in the ideation and design phase is ideal. See our XBlock review guidelines for more information (note that this is not needed for XBlocks running on your own instance of Open edX, or released to the wider community).

Example XBlocks

Included in this repository are some example XBlocks that demonstrate how to use various aspects of the XBlock SDK. You can see a more detailed description of those examples in the README located in that repository:

There is a rich community of XBlock developers that have put together a large number of XBlocks that have been used in various contexts, mostly on the edx-platform. You can see examples of what that community has done in the edx-platform wiki.


The code in this repository is licensed under version 3 of the AGPL unless otherwise noted.

Please see LICENSE.txt for details.

How to Contribute

Contributions are very welcome. The easiest way is to fork this repo, and then make a pull request from your fork. The first time you make a pull request, you will be asked to sign a Contributor Agreement.

Please see our contributor's guide for more information on contributing.

Reporting Security Issues

Please do not report security issues in public. Please email

Mailing List and IRC Channel

You can discuss this code on the edx-code Google Group or in the #edx-code IRC channel on Freenode.