Open edX development

In addition to running Open edX in production, Tutor can be used for local development of Open edX. This means that it is possible to hack on Open edX without setting up a Virtual Machine. Essentially, this replaces the devstack provided by edX.

The following commands assume you have previously launched a local Open edX platform. If you have not done so already, you should run:

tutor local quickstart

In order to run the platform in development mode, you must answer no (“n”) to the question “Are you configuring a production platform”.

Note that the domain and its subdomains all point to This is just a domain name that was setup to conveniently access a locally running Open edX platform.

Once the local platform has been configured, you should stop it so that it does not interfere with the development environment:

tutor local stop

Finally, you should build the openedx-dev docker image:

tutor dev dc build lms

This openedx-dev development image differs from the openedx production image:

  • The user that runs inside the container has the same UID as the user on the host, in order to avoid permission problems inside mounted volumes (and in particular in the edx-platform repository).

  • Additional python and system requirements are installed for convenient debugging: ipython, ipdb, vim, telnet.

  • The edx-platform development requirements are installed.

Since the openedx-dev is based upon the openedx docker image, it should be re-built every time the openedx docker image is modified.

Run a local development webserver

tutor dev runserver lms # Access the lms at
tutor dev runserver cms # Access the cms at

Running arbitrary commands

To run any command inside one of the containers, run tutor dev run [OPTIONS] SERVICE [COMMAND] [ARGS].... For instance, to open a bash shell in the LMS or CMS containers:

tutor dev run lms bash
tutor dev run cms bash

To open a python shell in the LMS or CMS, run:

tutor dev run lms ./ lms shell
tutor dev run cms ./ cms shell

You can then import edx-platform and django modules and execute python code.

To collect assets, you can use the openedx-assets command that ships with Tutor:

tutor dev run lms openedx-assets build --env=dev

Sharing directories with containers

It may sometimes be convenient to mount container directories on the host, for instance: for editing and debugging. Tutor provides different solutions to this problem.

Bind-mount from the “volumes/” directory

Tutor makes it easy to create a bind-mount from an existing container. First, copy the contents of a container directory with the bindmount command. For instance, to copy the virtual environment of the “lms” container:

tutor dev bindmount lms /openedx/venv

This command recursively copies the contents of the /opendedx/venv directory to $(tutor config printroot)/volumes/venv. The code of any Python dependency can then be edited – for instance, you can then add a import ipdb; ipdb.set_trace() statement for step-by-step debugging, or implement a custom feature.

Then, bind-mount the directory back in the container with the --volume option:

tutor dev runserver --volume=/openedx/venv lms

Notice how the --volume=/openedx/venv option differs from Docker syntax? Tutor recognizes this syntax and automatically converts this option to --volume=/path/to/tutor/root/volumes/venv:/openedx/venv, which is recognized by Docker.


The bindmount command and the --volume=/... option syntax are available both for the tutor local and tutor dev commands.

Manual bind-mount to any directory

The above solution may not work for you if you already have an existing directory, outside of the “volumes/” directory, which you would like mounted in one of your containers. For instance, you may want to mount your copy of the edx-platform repository. In such cases, you can simply use the -v/--volume Docker option:

tutor dev run --volume=/path/to/edx-platform:/openedx/edx-platform lms bash

Override docker-compose volumes

The above solutions require that you explicitly pass the -v/--volume to every run or runserver command, which may be inconvenient. Also, these solutions are not compatible with the start command. To address these issues, you can create a docker-compose.override.yml file that will specify custom volumes to be used with all dev commands:

vim "$(tutor config printroot)/env/dev/docker-compose.override.yml"

You are then free to bind-mount any directory to any container. For instance, to mount your own edx-platform fork:

version: "3.7"
      - /path/to/edx-platform:/openedx/edx-platform
      - /path/to/edx-platform:/openedx/edx-platform
      - /path/to/edx-platform:/openedx/edx-platform
      - /path/to/edx-platform:/openedx/edx-platform

This override file will be loaded when running any tutor dev .. command. The edx-platform repo mounted at the specified path will be automatically mounted inside all LMS and CMS containers. With this file, you should no longer specify the -v/--volume option from the command line with the run or runserver commands.


The tutor local commands loads the docker-compose.override.yml file from the $(tutor config printroot)/env/local/docker-compose.override.yml directory.

Common tasks

Setting up a development environment for edx-platform

Following the instructions above on how to bind-mount directories from the host above, you may mount your own edx-platform fork in your containers by running either:

# Mount from the volumes/ directory
tutor dev bindmount lms /openedx/edx-platform
tutor dev runserver --volume=/openedx/edx-platform lms

# Mount from an arbitrary directory
tutor dev runserver --volume=/path/to/edx-platform:/openedx/edx-platform lms

# Add your own volumes to $(tutor config printroot)/env/dev/docker-compose.override.yml
tutor dev runserver lms

If you choose any but the first solution above, you will have to make sure that your fork works with Tutor.

First of all, you should make sure that you are working off the open-release/maple.1 tag. See the fork edx-platform section for more information.

Then, you should run the following commands:

# Run bash in the lms container
tutor dev run [--volume=...] lms bash

# Compile local python requirements
pip install --requirement requirements/edx/development.txt

# Install nodejs packages in node_modules/
npm install

# Rebuild static assets
openedx-assets build --env=dev

To debug a local edx-platform repository, add a import ipdb; ipdb.set_trace() breakpoint anywhere in your code and run:

tutor dev runserver [--volume=...] lms

XBlock and edx-platform plugin development

In some cases you will have to develop features for packages that are pip-installed next to edx-platform. This is quite easy with Tutor. Just add your packages to the $(tutor config printroot)/env/build/openedx/requirements/private.txt file. To avoid re-building the openedx Docker image at every change, you should add your package in editable mode. For instance:

echo "-e ./mypackage" >> "$(tutor config printroot)/env/build/openedx/requirements/private.txt"

The requirements folder should have the following content:


You will have to re-build the openedx Docker image once:

tutor images build openedx

You should then run the development server as usual, with runserver. Every change made to the mypackage folder will be picked up and the development server will be automatically reloaded.

Loading custom edx-platform settings

By default, tutor settings files are mounted inside the docker images at /openedx/edx-platform/lms/envs/tutor/ and /openedx/edx-platform/cms/envs/tutor/. In the various dev commands, the default edx-platform settings module is set to tutor.development and you don’t have to do anything to set up these settings.

If, for some reason, you want to use different settings, you will need to define the TUTOR_EDX_PLATFORM_SETTINGS environment variable.

For instance, let’s assume you have created the /path/to/edx-platform/lms/envs/ and /path/to/edx-platform/cms/envs/ modules. These settings should be pretty similar to the following files:

$(tutor config printroot)/env/apps/openedx/tutor/lms/
$(tutor config printroot)/env/apps/openedx/tutor/cms/

Alternatively, the files can import the tutor development settings:

# Beginning of
from .tutor.development import *

You should then specify the settings to use on the host:


From then on, all dev commands will use the mysettings module. For instance:

tutor dev runserver lms

Running edx-platform unit tests

It’s possible to run the full set of unit tests that ship with edx-platform. To do so, run a shell in the LMS development container:

tutor dev run lms bash

Then, run unit tests with pytest commands:

# Run tests on common apps
pytest common
pytest openedx

# Run tests on LMS
export DJANGO_SETTINGS_MODULE=lms.envs.tutor.test
pytest lms

# Run tests on CMS
export DJANGO_SETTINGS_MODULE=cms.envs.tutor.test
pytest cms


Getting all edx-platform unit tests to pass on Tutor is currently a work-in-progress. Some unit tests are still failing. If you manage to fix some of these, please report your findings in the Tutor forums.