Getting started

First of all, thank you for your interest in contributing to Kolibri! The project was founded by volunteers dedicated to helping make educational materials more accessible to those in need, and every contribution makes a difference. The instructions below should get you up and running the code in no time!


Most of the steps below require entering commands into your Terminal, so you should expect to become comfortable with this if you’re not already.

If you encounter issues:

  • Searching online is often effective: chances are high that someone else encountered similar issues in the past

  • Please let us know if our docs can be improved, either by filing an issue or submitting a PR!


Theoretically, Windows can be used to develop Kolibri, but we haven’t done much testing with it. If you’re running Windows, you are likely to encounter some issues with this guide, and we’d appreciate any help improving these docs for Windows developers!

Git and GitHub

  1. Install and set up Git on your computer. Try this tutorial if you need more practice with Git!

  2. Sign up and configure your GitHub account if you don’t have one already.

  3. Fork the main Kolibri repository. This will make it easier to submit pull requests. Read more details about forking from GitHub.

  4. Important: Install and set up the Git LFS extension.


Register your SSH keys on GitHub to avoid having to repeatedly enter your password

Checking out the code

First, clone your Kolibri fork to your local computer. In the command below, replace $USERNAME with your own GitHub username:

git clone$USERNAME/kolibri.git

Next, initialize Git LFS:

cd kolibri  # Enter the Kolibri directory
git lfs install

Finally, add the Learning Equality repo as a remote called upstream. That way you can keep your local checkout updated with the most recent changes:

git remote add upstream
git fetch --all  # Check if there are changes upstream
git checkout -t upstream/develop # Checkout the development branch

Python and Pip

To develop on Kolibri, you’ll need:

  • Python 3.6+ (Kolibri doesn’t currently support Python 3.12.0 or higher)

  • pip

Managing Python installations can be quite tricky. We highly recommend using pyenv or if you are more comfortable using a package manager, then package managers like Homebrew on Mac or apt on Debian for this.

To install pyenv see the detailed instructions here Installing pyenv.


Never modify your system’s built-in version of Python

Python virtual environment

You should use a Python virtual environment to isolate the dependencies of your Python projects from each other and to avoid corrupting your system’s Python installation.

There are many ways to set up Python virtual environments: You can use pyenv-virtualenv as shown in the instructions below; you can also use Virtualenv, Virtualenvwrapper Pipenv, Python 3 venv, Poetry etc.


Most virtual environments will require special setup for non-Bash shells such as Fish and ZSH.

To setup and start using pyenv-virtualenv, follow the instructions here Using pyenv-virtualenv.

Once pyenv-virtualenv is installed, you can use the following commands to set up and use a virtual environment from within the Kolibri repo:

pyenv virtualenv 3.9.9 kolibri-py3.9  # can also make a python 2 environment
pyenv activate kolibri-py3.9  # activates the virtual environment

Now, any commands you run will target your virtual environment rather than the global Python installation. To deactivate the virtualenv, simply run:

pyenv deactivate

(Note that you’ll want to leave it activated for the remainder of the setup process)


Never install project dependencies using sudo pip install ...

Environment variables

Environment variables can be set in many ways, including:

  • adding them to a ~/.bash_profile file (for Bash) or a similar file in your shell of choice

  • using a .env file for this project, loaded with Pipenv

  • setting them temporarily in the current Bash session using EXPORT or similar (not recommended except for testing)

There are two environment variables you should plan to set:

  • KOLIBRI_RUN_MODE is required.

    This variable is sent to our pingback server (private repo), and you must set it to something besides an empty string. This allows us to filter development work out of our usage statistics. There are also some special testing behaviors that can be triggered for special strings, as described elsewhere in the developer docs and integration testing Gherkin scenarios.

    For example, you could add this line at the end of your ~/.bash_profile file:

    export KOLIBRI_RUN_MODE="dev"
  • KOLIBRI_HOME is optional.

    This variable determines where Kolibri will store its content and databases. It is useful to set if you want to have multiple versions of Kolibri running simultaneously.

Install Python dependencies

To install Kolibri project-specific dependencies make sure you’re in the kolibri directory and your Python virtual environment is active. Then run:

# required
pip install -r requirements.txt --upgrade
pip install -r requirements/dev.txt --upgrade
pip install -e .

# optional
pip install -r requirements/test.txt --upgrade
pip install -r requirements/docs.txt --upgrade

Note that the --upgrade flags above can usually be omitted to speed up the process.

Install Node.js, Yarn and other dependencies

  1. Install Node.js (version 18.x is required)

  2. Install Yarn

  3. Install non-python project-specific dependencies

For a more detailed guide to using nodeenv see Using nodeenv.

The Python project-specific dependencies installed above will install nodeenv, which is a useful tool for using specific versions of Node.js and other Node.js tools in Python environments. To setup Node.js and Yarn within the Kolibri project environment, ensure your Python virtual environment is active, then run:

# node.js, npm, and yarn
# If you are setting up the release-v0.15.x branch or earlier:
nodeenv -p --node=10.17.0
# If you are setting up the develop branch:
nodeenv -p --node=18.19.0
npm install -g yarn

# other required project dependencies
yarn install

Database setup

To initialize the database run the following command:

kolibri manage migrate

Running the server

Development server

To start up the development server and build the client-side dependencies, use the following command:

yarn run devserver

This will take some time to build the front-end assets, after which you should be able to access the server at

Alternatively, you can run the devserver with hot reload enabled using:

yarn run devserver-hot


Running the development server to compile all client-side dependencies can take up a lot of system resources. To limit the specific frontend bundles that are built and watched, you can pass keywords to either of the above commands to only watch those.

yarn run devserver-hot learn

Would build all assets that are not currently built, and run a devserver only watching the Learn plugin.

yarn run devserver core,learn

Would run the devserver not in hot mode, and rebuild the core Kolibri assets and the Learn plugin.

For a complete reference of the commands that can be run and what they do, inspect the scripts section of the root ./package.json file.


Some functionality, such as right-to-left language support, is broken when hot-reload is enabled


If you get an error similar to “Node Sass could not find a binding for your current environment”, try running npm rebuild node-sass

Production server

In production, content is served through Whitenoise. Frontend static assets are pre-built:

# first build the assets
yarn run build

# now, run the Django production server
kolibri start

Now you should be able to access the server at

Kolibri has support for being run as a Type=notify service under systemd. When doing so, it is recommended to run kolibri start with the --skip-update option, and to run kolibri configure setup separately beforehand to handle database migrations and other one-time setup steps. This avoids the kolibri start command timing out under systemd if migrations are happening.

Separate servers

If you are working mainly on backend code, you can build the front-end assets once and then just run the Python devserver. This may also help with multi-device testing over a LAN.

# first build the front-end assets
yarn run build

# now, run the Django devserver
yarn run python-devserver

You can also run the Django development server and webpack devserver independently in separate terminal windows. In the first terminal you can start the django development server:

yarn run python-devserver

and in the second terminal, start the webpack build process for frontend assets:

yarn run frontend-devserver

Running in App Mode

Some of Kolibri’s functionality will differ when being run as a mobile app. In order to run the development server in that “app mode” context, you can use the following commands.

# run the Python "app mode" server and the frontend server together:
yarn run app-devserver

# you may also run the python "app mode" server by itself
# this will require you to run the frontend server in a separate terminal
yarn run app-python-devserver

This will run the script located at integration_testing/scripts/ There you may change the port, register app capabilities (ie, os_user) and make adjustments to meet your needs.

When the app development server is started, you will see a message with a particular URL that you will need to use in order to initialize your browser session properly. Once your browser session has been initialized for use in the app mode, your browser session will remain in this mode until you clear your cookies, even if you’ve started your normal Kolibri development server.

[app-python-devserver] Kolibri running at:

Editor configuration

We have a project-level .editorconfig file to help you configure your text editor or IDE to use our internal conventions.

Check your editor to see if it supports EditorConfig out-of-the-box, or if a plugin is available.

Vue development tools

Vue.js devtools (Legacy) is a browser plugin that is very helpful when working with Vue.js components and Vuex. Kolibri is using Vue 2, so be sure to find the “Legacy” plugin as the latest version of the extension is for Vue 3.

To ensure a more efficient workflow, install appropriate editor plugins for Vue.js, ESLint, and stylelint.

Sample resources and data

Once you have the server running, proceed to import some channels and resources. To quickly import all available and supported Kolibri resource types, use the token nakav-mafak for the Kolibri QA channel (~350MB).

Now you can create users, classes, lessons, etc manually. To auto-generate some sample user data you can also run:

kolibri manage generateuserdata

Linting and auto-formatting

Manual linting and formatting

Linting and code auto-formatting are done by Prettier and Black.

You can manually run the auto-formatters for the frontend using:

yarn run lint-frontend:format

Or to check the formatting without writing changes, run:

yarn run lint-frontend

The linting and formatting for the backend is handled using pre-commit below.

Pre-commit hooks

A full set of linting and auto-formatting can also be applied by pre-commit hooks. The pre-commit hooks are identical to the automated build check by Travis CI in Pull Requests.

pre-commit is used to apply a full set of checks and formatting automatically each time that git commit runs. If there are errors, the Git commit is aborted and you are asked to fix the error and run git commit again.

Pre-commit is already installed as a development dependency, but you also need to enable it:

pre-commit install

To run all pre-commit checks in the same way that they will be run on our Github CI servers, run:

pre-commit run --all-files


As a convenience, many developers install linting and formatting plugins in their code editor (IDE). Installing ESLint, Prettier, Black, and Flake8 plugins in your editor will catch most (but not all) code-quality checks.


Pre-commit can have issues running from alternative Git clients like GitUp. If you encounter problems while committing changes, run pre-commit uninstall to disable pre-commit.


If you do not use any linting tools, your code is likely fail our server-side checks and you will need to update the PR in order to get it merged.

Design system

We have a large number of reusable patterns, conventions, and components built into the application. Review the Kolibri Design System to get a sense for the tools at your disposal, and to ensure that new changes stay consistent with established UI patterns.

Updating documentation

First, install some additional dependencies related to building documentation output:

pip install -r requirements/docs.txt
pip install -r requirements/build.txt

To make changes to documentation, edit the rst files in the kolibri/docs directory and then run:

make docs

You can also run the auto-build for faster editing from the docs directory:

cd docs
sphinx-autobuild --port 8888 . _build

Now you should be able to preview the docs at

Automated testing

Kolibri comes with a Javascript test suite based on Jest. To run all front-end tests:

yarn run test

Kolibri comes with a Python test suite based on pytest. To run all back-end tests:


To run specific tests only, you can add the filepath of the file. To further filter either by TestClass name or test method name, you can add -k followed by a string to filter classes or methods by. For example, to only run a test named test_admin_can_delete_membership in kolibri/auth/test/

pytest kolibri/auth/test/test_permissions -k test_admin_can_delete_membership

To only run the whole class named MembershipPermissionsTestCase in kolibri/auth/test/

pytest kolibri/auth/test/test_permissions -k MembershipPermissionsTestCase

For more advanced usage, logical operators can also be used in wrapped strings, for example, the following will run only one test, named test_admin_can_delete_membership in the MembershipPermissionsTestCase class in kolibri/auth/test/

pytest kolibri/auth/test/test_permissions -k "MembershipPermissionsTestCase and test_admin_can_delete_membership"

You can also use tox to setup a clean and disposable environment:

tox -e py3.4  # Runs tests with Python 3.4

To run Python tests for all environments, use simply tox. This simulates what our CI also does on GitHub PRs.


tox reuses its environment when it is run again. If you add anything to the requirements, you will want to either delete the .tox directory, or run tox with the -r argument to recreate the environment

Manual testing

All changes should be thoroughly tested and vetted before being merged in. Our primary considerations are:

  • Performance

  • Accessibility

  • Compatibility

  • Localization

  • Consistency

For more information, see the next section on Manual testing & QA.

Submitting a pull request

Here’s a very simple scenario. Below, your remote is called origin, and Learning Equality is le.

First, create a new local working branch:

# checkout the upstream develop branch
git checkout le/develop
# make a new feature branch
git checkout -b my-awesome-changes

After making changes to the code and committing them locally, push your working branch to your fork on GitHub:

git push origin my-awesome-changes

Go to Kolibri’s GitHub page, and create a the new pull request.


Please fill in all the applicable sections in the PR template and DELETE unecessary headings

Another member of the team will review your code, and either ask for updates on your part or merge your PR to Kolibri codebase. Until the PR is merged you can push new commits to your branch and add updates to it.

Learn more about our Development workflow and Release process

Development using Docker

Engineers who are familiar with Docker can start a Kolibri instance without setting up the full JavaScript and Python development environments on the host machine.

For more information, see the docker directory and the docker-* commands in the Makefile.

Development server

Start the Kolibri devserver running inside a container:

# only needed first time
make docker-build-base

# takes a few mins to run pip install -e + webpack build
make docker-devserver

Building a pex file


The easiest way to obtain a pex file is to submit a Github PR and download the built assets from buildkite.

If you want to build and run a pex from the Kolibri code in your current local source files without relying on the github and the buildkite integration, you can run the following commands to build a pex file:

make docker-whl

The pex file will be generated in the dist/ directory. You can run this pex file using the production server approach described below.

Production server

You can start a Kolibri instance running any pex file by setting the appropriate environment variables in your local copy of docker/env.list then running the commands:

# only needed first time
make docker-build-base

# run demo server
make docker-demoserver

The choice of pex file can be controlled by setting environment variables in the file ./docker/env.list:

  • KOLIBRI_PEX_URL: Download URL or the string default

  • DOCKERMNT_PEX_PATH: Local path such as /docker/mnt/nameof.pex