OpenEDU: An open source Drupal distribution for higher education

OpenEDU is a pre-configured Drupal 8 implementation that is specifically built for higher education institutions.

When organizations are able to save time and money during development, they are able to devote more resources to strategic and innovative initiatives.

The ability to jumpstart development and extend invaluable resources is especially important to institutions of higher education. OpenEDU is a pre-configured Drupal 8 implementation that is specifically built for higher education institutions. It enables universities to accelerate the development of sites by providing a “kickstart” set of features.

OpenEDU is a community-driven initiative developed in partnership with ImageX and Acquia. Open source solutions provide higher institutions with a completely different way of operating, in comparison to their proprietary counterparts. With Drupal, not only do you have access to documentation, but you also have access to the code that makes it work. The ability for higher education organizations to own their platform, free from expensing licensing fees or restrictive vendor-lock in, establishes a more open starting point for building digital experiences.

The partnership with Acquia and building on top of the Lightning distribution allowed our team to focus on the higher education feature set," said Brent Wilker, Vice President of ImageX. "Having a best in class framework to support the distribution will mean more time can be spent adding features for the schools that use the platform.

What is OpenEDU?

Drupal distributions remain a growing opportunity because they allow organizations to build on top of existing features, modules, and distributions instead of needing to recreate them.

The OpenEDU framework leverages an emerging capability in Drupal called hierarchical distributions, which allow you to build distributions on top of one another. An advantage of hierarchical distributions is that it enables organizations to customize Drupal for specific industries by simplifying the building and maintenance of distributions.

OpenEDU extends the functionality of Acquia Lightning, a distribution framework that accelerates the process of building authoring experiences through the four functional areas of Drupal authoring, including layout, workflow, preview and media. Lightning helps authors build Drupal 8 sites and applications fast, and produce rich content that is delivered seamlessly across all digital channels.

OpenEDU extends Lightning’s out-of-the-box functionality and provides higher education institutions with an efficient and cost effective solution for managing their digital properties with Drupal 8.

What is available out-of-the-box?

OpenEDU provides institutions with a base platform for Drupal 8 development, while maintaining the flexibility needed to support an organization's custom needs.

OpenEDU lowers the continuous maintenance of your digital platform by offering functionality right out-of-the-box, in addition to ongoing support and updates. Out-of-the-box OpenEDU equips institutions with the following features:

  • Pre-built components for programs, courses and profiles: OpenEDU is outfitted with ready-made content types so institutions can quickly create and manage universally required pages. This reduces initial setup costs as department pages, news articles, course catalogs or faculty profiles are readily available and easy to create and manage.
  • Content workflows and governance: In addition to preconfigured content types, improved content workflows and governance capabilities enables any individual, regardless of technical expertise, to interact with their Drupal site. This empowers any institution to manage their sites more effectively.
  • Easy-to-use, responsive layouts: Leveraging the strengths of Lighting, digital teams can take advantage of the four functional areas of authoring including, Layout, Workflow, Preview and Media.
  • Powerful admin and user profiles: With Drupal 8’s improved permission controls, institutions can easily govern editing access across sites to moderate content creation and management. This enables allows university experts to create content in Drupal without sacrificing brand consistency.

OpenEdu takes advantage of peer review

The goal of OpenEDU is to spark a community-driven initiative that provides institutions with the flexible accelerator needed to build exceptional digital experiences for their students, faculty and alumni.

In collaboration with ImageX and Acquia, over a dozen higher education institutions, spanning across the United State and Canada, have partnered in piloting the OpenEDU distribution. These partnering universities formed a Steering Committee to provide feedback on the sector’s needs.

The steering committee advised on features and capabilities that were integral to the success of higher education digital teams. With the help of the Steering Committee, the OpenEDU team was able to prioritize features and fine-tune a product roadmap. This invaluable industry insight has influenced the next generation of extensible features, which includes:

  • Content moderation available for subsections of departments
  • Standardizing out-of-the-box widgets that can be adapted by global users
  • Seamless integration with third-party solutions
  • Comprehensive “site owner” documentation

These features will be available to organizations, starting September 30, 2017.

Take your site to the next level

Today, any institution can take advantage of OpenEDU to build a powerful platform for their digital properties. OpenEDU lowers the barriers to entry when adopting Drupal 8 and offers a cost efficient solution to manage a cohesive network of university sites.

With OpenEDU, institutions won’t be hampered with the burden of starting from scratch or expensive proprietary licenses. Instead, universities can reinvest the time saved during development into strategic activities, such as improving content, optimizing design, and developing custom features.

If you want to learn more about OpenEDU or are curious to see a demo, please contact us or feel free to download it directly from

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