8.1. Exercises and Tools

You can add a wide variety of different types of exercises and tools to your course outline. By default, a core set of exercises is available for you to add to your course. There are also numerous additional exercises and tools that you can review and add to your course.

The level of support that edX provides for each tool varies. The description of each exercise and tool indicates the level of support: full, provisional or no support.

Exercises and tools with provisional support might lack the robustness of functionality that courses you build using edX require. Exercises and tools with no support are not maintained by edX, and might be deprecated in the future.

8.1.1. Introduction to Exercises and Tools

“Exercises and tools” is a general way to refer to the robust variety of content that you can integrate into an online course. The graded and ungraded assessments in your course use different types of exercises or problems, while various tools deliver different types of course content. Software developers use the XBlock component architecture to contribute new exercises and tools to the Open edX platform and provide new and varied options for reaching learners.

  • You might need to explicitly enable an exercise or tool that you want to use in your course. For more information, see Enable Additional Exercises and Tools.
  • After you enable an exercise or tool for use with your course, when you add a component to a unit, that exercise or tool might be listed as an Advanced, HTML, or Problem option for the component.

The topics in this section describe different exercises and tools. Information about how to enable specific exercises and tools is provided, followed by examples and step-by-step instructions for how you use Studio to add components to your course. For many of the exercises and tools, when you add a component Studio presents a template for you to use as a starting point for your work. XML examples and descriptions of the attributes, tags, and elements that you can use in an XML editor are also provided.


When you create problems, you must include labels for accessibility. Accessible labels generally include the text of the main question in your problem. Instructions for adding labels appear in the page for each individual problem.

8.1.2. General Exercises and Tools


In addition to the following exercises and tools, Open edX offers the Notes tool. The Notes tool allows learners to highlight and make notes about what they read in the courseware. This tool is not available for courses on edx.org.

Type Description Support
Annotation Problem Annotation problems ask students to respond to questions about a specific block of text. The question appears above the text when the student hovers the mouse over the highlighted text so that students can think about the question as they read. Provisional support
Calculator Tool The calculator tool is available for every course through the course advanced settings. When the calculator tool is enabled, it appears on every courseware page. Learners can enter input that includes Greek letters, trigonometric functions, and scientific or e notation in addition to common operators. Provisional support
Conditional Module You can create a conditional module to control versions of content that groups of students see. For example, students who answer “Yes” to a poll question then see a different block of text from the students who answer “No” to that question. Provisional support
Custom JavaScript Problem Custom JavaScript display and grading problems (also called custom JavaScript problems or JS Input problems) allow you to create a custom problem or tool that uses JavaScript and then add the problem or tool directly into Studio. Full support
External Grader An external grader is a service that receives student responses to a problem, processes those responses, and returns feedback and a problem grade to the edX platform. You build and deploy an external grader separately from the edX platform. An external grader is particularly useful for software programming courses where students are asked to submit complex code. Provisional support
Google Calendar Tool You can embed a Google calendar in your course so that students see the calendar in the courseware. You can use a Google calendar to share quiz dates, office hours, or other schedules of interest to students. Full support
Google Drive Files Tool You can embed a Google Drive file, such as a document, spreadsheet, or image, in your course so that students see the file in the courseware. Full support
Google Instant Hangout Tool You can add the ability for students to participate in instant hangouts directly from your course. With instant hangouts, students can interact through live video and voice, share screens and watch videos together, and collaborate on documents. Provisional support
IFrame Tool IFrames allow you to integrate ungraded exercises and tools from any Internet site into an HTML component in your course. Provisional support
LTI Component LTI components allow you to add an external learning application or non- PDF textbook to Studio. Full support
Office Mix Tool You can embed interactive lessons created from PowerPoint files so that learners can experience them directly in the courseware. Full support
Open Response Assessments In open response assessments, students receive feedback on written responses of varying lengths as well as image files that the students upload. Open response assessments include self assessment and peer assessment. Full support
Oppia Exploration Tool You can embed Oppia explorations in your course so that learners can interact with them directly in the courseware. Full support
Poll Tool You can include polls in your course to gather learners’ opinions on various questions. You can use the Poll Tool in Studio. Full support
Poll Tool for OLX You can run polls in your course so that your students can share opinions on different questions. You can use this type of poll only in OLX, not Studio. Provisional support
Problem with Adaptive Hint A problem with an adaptive hint evaluates a student’s response, then gives the student feedback or a hint based on that response so that the student is more likely to answer correctly on the next attempt. These problems can be text input or multiple choice problems. Provisional support
Problem Written in LaTeX If you have a problem that is already written in LaTeX, you can use this problem type to easily convert your code into XML. No support
Qualtrics Survey Tool You can import surveys that you have created in Qualtrics. The survey appears inside an IFrame in your course. Full support
Survey Tool You can include surveys in your course to collect learner responses to multiple questions. You can use the Survey Tool in Studio. Full support
Text Input Problem In text input problems, students enter text into a response field. The response can include numbers, letters, and special characters such as punctuation marks. Full support; mobile-ready
Word Cloud Tool Word clouds arrange text that students enter - for example, in response to a question - into a colorful graphic that students can see. Provisional support
Write-Your-Own-Grader Problem In custom Python-evaluated input (also called “write-your-own-grader”) problems, the grader uses a Python script that you create and embed in the problem to evaluates a student’s response or provide hints. These problems can be any type. Provisional support
Recommender RecommenderXBlock can hold a list of resources for misconception remediation, additional reading, and so on. This tool allows the course team and students to work together to maintain the list of resources. For example, team members and students can suggest new resources, vote for useful ones, or flag abuse and spam. Full support

8.1.3. Image-Based Exercises and Tools

Type Description Support
Drag and Drop Problem In drag and drop problems, students respond to a question by dragging text or objects to a specific location on an image. Provisional support
Full Screen Image Tool The Full Screen Image tool allows a student to enlarge an image in the whole browser window. This is useful when the image contains a large amount of detail and text that is easier to view in context when enlarged. Full support
Image Mapped Input Problem In an image mapped input problem, students click inside a defined area in an image. You define this area by including coordinates in the body of the problem. Provisional support
Zooming Image Tool Zooming images allow you to enlarge sections of an image so that students can see the section in detail. Full support

8.1.4. Multiple Choice Exercises and Tools

Type Description Support
Checkbox Problem In checkbox problems, the student selects one or more options from a list of possible answers. The student must select all the options that apply to answer the problem correctly. Full support; mobile-ready
Dropdown Problem Dropdown problems allow the student to choose from a collection of answer options, presented as a dropdown list. Unlike multiple choice problems, whose answers are always visible directly below the question, dropdown problems don’t show answer choices until the student clicks the dropdown arrow. Full support; mobile-ready
Multiple Choice Problem In multiple choice problems, students select one option from a list of answer options. Unlike with dropdown problems, whose answer choices don’t appear until the student clicks the drop-down arrow, answer choices for multiple choice problems are always visible directly below the question. Full support; mobile-ready
Multiple Choice and Numerical Input Problem You can create a problem that combines a multiple choice and numerical input problems. Students not only select a response from options that you provide, but also provide more specific information, if necessary. Provisional support; mobile-ready

8.1.5. STEM Exercises and Tools

Type Description Support
Chemical Equation Problem Chemical equation problems allow the student to enter text that represents a chemical equation into a text box. The grader evaluates the student’s response by using a Python script that you create and embed in the problem. Full support
Circuit Schematic Builder Problem In circuit schematic builder problems, students can arrange circuit elements such as voltage sources, capacitors, resistors, and MOSFETs on an interactive grid. They then submit a DC, AC, or transient analysis of their circuit to the system for grading. Provisional support
Gene Explorer Tool The Gene Explorer (GeneX) simulates the transcription, splicing, processing, and translation of a small hypothetical eukaryotic gene. GeneX allows students to make specific mutations in a gene sequence, and it then calculates and displays the effects of the mutations on the mRNA and protein. Provisional support
Math Expression Input Problems The more complex of Studio’s two types of math problems. In math expression input problems, students enter mathematical expressions to answer a question. These problems can include unknown variables and more complex symbolic expressions. You can specify a correct answer either explicitly or by using a Python script. Full support
Molecule Editor Tool The molecule editor allows students to draw molecules that follow the rules for covalent bond formation and formal charge, even if the molecules are chemically impossible, are unstable, or do not exist in living systems. No support
Molecule Viewer Tool The molecule viewer allows you to create three-dimensional representations of molecules for students to view. No support
Numerical Input Problem The simpler of Studio’s two types of math problems. In numerical input problems, students enter numbers or specific and relatively simple mathematical expressions to answer a question. These problems only allow integers and a few select constants. You can specify a margin of error, and you can specify a correct answer either explicitly or by using a Python script. Full support; mobile-ready
Periodic Table Tool An interactive periodic table of the elements shows detailed information about each element as the student moves the mouse over the element. No support
Protex Protein Builder Tool The Protex protein builder asks students to create specified protein shapes by stringing together amino acids. No support

8.1.6. Mobile-Ready Problem Types

Learners can read and submit answers for the following types of problems while they use the edX mobile app.

Questions that have other problem types do not appear in the edX mobile app. Instead, a message appears with a link to open the applicable problem component in a web browser.