Appsembler has been active with the Open edX Community for several years now. Whether they’re organizing meetups, participating in working groups, or going that extra mile to work on easy installation and containerizing options, Appsembler has become an integral part of the Open edX ecosystem. Nate Aune, Founder and CEO, shared some of his thoughts about Appsembler with us.

Can you tell us a bit about Appsembler and the work you’ve been doing?

Appsembler is solely focused on providing outstanding Open edX technical services: we don’t work with any other platform. We like to say, “We take care of the tech stuff so you can focus on education.”

While we specialize in providing Open edX solutions for corporate learning, we have higher ed customers as well. Our customers are using Open edX for employee training, customer/partner training, professional development, continuing education, blended learning and MOOCs. Our customers include Microsoft, New York Institute of Finance, Open University, MIT Sloan School, Penn State, InterSystems, and Cloudera, to name just a few.

We provide implementation, integration, customization, managed hosting, training, and support. We’ve been developing on Open edX since it was open sourced in 2013, so we’ve amassed a lot of expertise in hosting, developing, and integrating Open edX with other systems (like Salesforce, Marketo, and SSO) that our customers are already using.

Additionally, we provide customers with advanced Open edX capabilities such as SCORM and virtual labs for software training.

At the conference we’ll be giving a sneak preview of our Appsembler Management Console (AMC), a self-service tool to make it really easy to get started with Open edX and customize the look-and-feel using only your browser (no coding experience necessary!).

A photo of the Appsembler team, featuring seven men in matching shirts containing the Appsembler logo.

What are you working on right now?

One of our customers, Intersystems, wanted to enhance their online courses with student lab environments, where learners can get hands-on experience with the software, and conduct exercises in a real-life environment.

So we built a virtual software labs service that provides an easy way our customer to create these lab environments, and embed them inside their Open edX courses for student use. We’re using some cutting edge technology called Docker to spin up these environments in Linux containers, and run them for as long as the student needs the lab environment.

We’ll be showcasing this virtual labs service at the conference, so if you’re interested in checking it out, read more on our blog and stop by our booth for a demo!

What exciting things are happening at Appsembler?

We’ve heard from so many companies and organizations all around the world who want to use Open edX but get stuck when trying to deploy or customize it. We’re hoping to help with that by building the Appsembler Management Console (AMC).

Our goal is to provide a “batteries included” experience for Open edX, so all of the XBlocks and other capabilities (e-commerce, analytics, certificates, badges, etc.) are already enabled. AMC will provide a dashboard where you can activate features with a push of a button, as well as customize your site theme and other settings. We hope that AMC will lower the barrier to entry, and remove these obstacles so more organizations can enjoy all that Open edX has to offer.

We’re excited to be demoing an early version of AMC at the conference, so if you’re going to be there, please stop by our booth to see it in action! We’d love to get your feedback and ideas on what features you’d like to see, or problems you’d like to see fixed. In the meantime, you can read about AMC on our blog.

Can you tell us a bit about the future of Appsembler?

We truly believe that education can change the world for the better, and our company’s mission is to empower educators with the technology to make online learning more accessible and engaging.

Just as Linux disrupted the computing industry, we think that open source tools like the Open edX platform can disrupt the educational technology industry. We want to lead the charge for more open and accessible tools that are developed collaboratively within a community of practitioners.

Our company is growing quickly with a team spread across five time zones. We plan to be providing Open edX services for a very long time, participating in the conferences and hack days, and listening to our customers’ needs to drive our product roadmap.

How does Appsembler fit into the Open edX community?

I had an early start with Open edX because I worked at edX as a consultant during the time that the software was being open sourced and made publicly available. Not long after, I collaborated with Stanford on a gap analysis report entitled “Making Open edX a Thriving Open Source Project.” Thankfully, many of the recommendations in this report have since been implemented.

One of the projects that we’ve worked on with edX and the rest of the Open edX community is the containerization of Open edX, to make it easier to test and deploy the platform. Open edX is a complex stack, and splitting it up into separate independently deployable services has been challenging but also very rewarding, especially trying to get it running on Google’s Kubernetes container orchestration platform.

Another project that we’re working on right now for a customer is building a SCORM XBlock. We’re really excited about making this available because there are a lot of organizations who have content in SCORM but haven’t been able to use Open edX because it’s lacking SCORM support. This XBlock will finally give Open edX native SCORM capabilities and make it a more attractive platform for those with existing content in SCORM!

I’ll be giving a lightning talk at the conference about the SCORM XBlock, but if you want to get a sneak peek of it, I’ve published a blog post with some screenshots.