Blog post:

Cool features and benefits of Appsembler’s Open edX SaaS offering

As we’re continuing to work on developing our fully SaaS-ified (SaaS – Software as a Service) Open edX offering – building new features, fixing bugs and reacting to suggestions from our private beta testers (thanks for those guys – you are amazing!), we thought it would be great to share some of the coolest features and benefits that our shiny new product offers. We really put a lot of thought and effort into the UX, UI and underlying code to make it as smooth and easy as possible for a customer to sign up, set up their Open edX site, add some branding, add a few staff users so they can start authoring courses and start changing the content of menus, footer, index page and other static pages. And all that in minutes. Yup – minutes. Not days or not even hours. Forget spinning up VM-s, editing theme code, days of work – and all you wanted was a regular Open edX site that actually looks like your brand owns it. You do it yourself, and you basically can start signing up during your lunch break and access your LMS before the break ends! But wait – what am I doing? This deserves a subtitle:

 

You can spin up your site in minutes

 

We have created a quick and smooth signup wizard that allows you to spin up your new site yourself. It has a number of steps that ask you to enter your information, confirm your email, select your subdomain at *.edx.appsembler.com, add your company logo, and choose some basic fonts and colors. And that’s it – after you give that information you get to the last screen of the wizard where we provide you with links to your Open edX LMS, Studio and our powerful Dashboard.

 

We provide you with a Dashboard for customizing and administrating your site

 

 

While our Signup wizard is impressive and a vital element of SaaS-ifying Open edX, it’s not the centrepiece of our offering. That honor belongs to our Dashboard, which we internally refer to as AMC – Appsembler Management Console. It’s a React powered modern web app that’s connected to our multi-tenant Open edX instance, an app that gives you control over your site. While this blog post isn’t intended to contain any technicalities, we must emphasise that it’s architecture is built to be modular and scalable – meaning it’s options list will continuously expand.

 

You get easy staff user administration

 

 

One of the Dashboard’s modules is Users, which allows you to add or remove staff users to your Open edX site. When you add a new user here, an email with an activation link will be sent to that user. When clicked, it leads the user to a page which just asks to enter and repeat a chosen password. And that’s it – that user is now created and granted access to your sites Dashboard, Studio and LMS. You can also remove users, reset passwords, and we have planned to add User tiers as well, some of which would allow just course authoring, while others would allow certain levels of site administration. An extremely nifty feature for large organizations where it would be very useful to have users that can do site branding, but not view Billing or User management.

 

 

Brand your site – add/change your logos, colors and other basic visual aspects of the site

 

 

Everyone wants their Open edX site to look and feel like it belongs to their brand, not generic. The Dashboard allows you to make sure that is the case yourself. You can add logos, a favicon, set global primary and secondary colors of the theme and even go into details picking specific colors and sizes for specific theme elements. Just check out the video above to see how easy and flexible it is.

 

 

Change global font settings for your site

 

 

If you don’t like the default theme font – no problem. We enable you to go and change the primary font family by just selecting from a list of pre-selected Google Fonts (more fonts will be added). We also added something called Accent font family, which you can select and then use for headlines, calls-to-action or other elements when editing your site’s public pages (more on that cool feature later in this post). You can also set default font sizes, line heights and font weights for different general heading styles, paragraph etc.

 

 

Add or remove menu items to header and footer, change footer content

 

 

This is one of the most often received requests we got when it comes to basic site customization. “Can we please add these items to header?”, “Can we please remove these items from footer?”, “Can you please change the copyright text in footer?”, … Now you can do all of that yourself – easily and intuitively.

 

 

Use a completely new content management system to transform your index page and other public pages to whatever content and design you’d like

 

 

This is one of the most challenging features we built into our Dashboard. It spans our app codebase, theme codebase and the edX platform code. But – we felt like our users would really appreciate having this, and so far our beta testers responses pretty much confirmed our estimate! You can select a page from the list of 16 different editable pages of your site and put the content you’d like in a layout you’d prefer. Or simply disable the page if you don’t need it.

We devised a layout/content element system that gives you an extreme amount of flexibility in creating your site layouts. Layouts are basically nothing but container that can have a certain amount of columns inside of them that you can put other elements in to. Of course, you can also put a layout inside other layouts’ column, allowing you to create all sorts of column systems. Content elements include Heading text, Paragraph text, HTML Content block (a WYSIWYG editor block), Call-to-action button, Image, or a button that pops up a YouTube video of your choosing. Of course, we’ll continue to expand the amount of available elements and we’ll definitely use our customers feedback for ideas!

All elements (both layouts and content) have their options – options like padding, margins, background color, background image, font sizes, font families and weights, alignments… So what you get is really flexible!

And speaking of the grid – it’s fully flex-based, so alignments really work amazing and the grid is flexible and responsive.

 

 

While this post stops listing the features here, it’s not nearly the end, since we’re working on building even more features that can prove valuable to our customers when using their Open edX site. We’re always keeping our eyes and ears open, so if you have some suggestions about features that would solve common issues with Open edX administration, please let us know in comments! Of course, we’re not only looking for suggestions – we also encourage you to leave any questions or comments you have in our comment section, and we’ll make sure we answer!

 

End of post.
  • Matjaz Gregoric

    Nice work, this looks very impressive! I am especially interested in the theming functionality. Is any part of the theming process open sourced or do you have any plans to upstream it?