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Part of edX code.

XBlock Courseware Components build-status coverage-status

XBlock is a component architecture by for building courseware.

This is a pre-alpha release of the XBlock API, to gather input from potential users of the API. We like what is here, but are open to suggestions for changes. We will be implementing this shortly in the edX LMS.

This repo contains the core code for implementing XBlocks.


EdX courseware is built out of components that are combined hierarchically. These include components like the video player, LON-CAPA problems, as well as compound components like learning sequences. We are developing a second-generation API for these components called XBlocks. Although they're in a prototype stage, we like the API, and want to collaborate with others to develop them into an industry standard. This is our proposed API and specification for XBlocks.

How does this differ from existing industry standards like Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) and SCORM? On a high level, XBlocks is a Python language-level API, and it provides sensible defaults for things like storing data. XBlocks could be wrapped up in LTI, and one could make an LTI XBlock. The core reason to write an XBlock is that it is deployable. You can give us the code to an XBlock, and we can embed it in our courseware. LTI would require you to give us a virtual machine image which ran it.


This code runs on Python 2.7. If you prefer to use Python 3, there is a fork of XBlock that provides Python 3 support, but this fork is not yet supported by edX.

  1. Get a local copy of this repo.

  2. (Optional) Create and activate a virtualenv to work in.

  3. Install the requirements and register the XBlock entry points with (you may need to sudo this if you don't use virtualenv):

    $ pip install -r requirements.txt


To run the test suite:

$ nosetests

This will run:

  • Unit tests of the XBlock core and runtime.

To run the test suite under coverage:

$ coverage run -m nose

to execute the tests. Then to view the coverage report:

$ coverage report

See the docs for more info and options.

Style Testing

We use two tools - pylint and pep8 - to manage the code quality and style of all Python files in this repo. Our goal is to maintain zero reported pylint and pep8 violations at all times.

To run these tools on a single file:

$ pylint path/to/

$ pep8 path/to/

To run these tools on the whole project:

$ pylint .

$ pep8 .

We do not abide by all pylint and pep8 violations. You can check out which violations we ignore by viewing the contents of pylintrc and setup.cfg. Before making a pull request, you should ensure that your branch does not add any new quality violations by checking your code with these tools.

You can run these tests automatically before pushing code to github (and running the validation in Travis) by activating the pre-push script

cd .git/hooks ln -s ../../script/pre-push cd -

Using the XBlock-SDK

The XBlock-SDK exists in a separate repository. The SDK contains useful tools for developing your own XBlocks, such as a template XBlock generator, sample XBlocks that demonstrate XBlock functionality.

You can find it in its own repository:


The docs for the XBlock API is on Read The Docs: .

Reading the code

There are distinct layers to this code. In the docstrings, we've tried to make clear which layer the code lives in, though sometimes the lines are blurred:

  1. XBlock The sample XBlock code. This is the most important, it is the code that most third parties will be writing, and demonstrates the XBlock interfaces.
  2. Runtime The runtime code that we think will be common to all runtimes. This is the behind-the-scenes code edX will write to make XBlocks work. This layer may not be real code here, but we'll need to write real code to perform these functions.

Making your own XBlock

Making an XBlock can be as simple as creating a Python class with a few specific methods.

Instructions for constructing a new XBlock along with examples can be found in the XBlock SDK:


The code in this repository is licensed the Apache 2.0 license 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 may be asked to sign a Contributor Agreement.

Please refer to our contributor guidelines in the main edx-platform repo for important additional information.

Reporting Security Issues

Please do not report security issues in public. Please email


To package a new release:

  1. Update the version number in and xblock/

  2. Tag the commit to be released:

    git tag -a -m "XBlock version $VERSION" xblock-$VERSION
  3. Upload to PyPI:

    make package

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.

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