Head in the Clouds with Adapt
On July 2nd I was able to join in on the beta testing of Reclaim Hosting’s new experiment, Reclaim Cloud. If you haven’t been following Jim Groom’s or Tim Owens’ blogs about Reclaim Cloud, they recorded a Reclaim Today episode about it. What’s different about this Reclaim Today recording is that it was done with Jitsi, an open source alternative to Zoom. Interestingly, I hadn’t hear of Jitsi until all the privacy and security issues starting surfacing this spring with the sudden emergency move to remote learning (I use the term loosely here). For some more explanations, I encourage you to check out Tim’s introductory videos to the platform:
Upon seeing and hearing about this new service, I could immediately see its appeal. I’ve been with Reclaim since maybe 2015, and I’ve always stuck with the shared hosting. This account gave me access to cPanel, domain options, one click install applications, and even tools that I could go further with. One recent branching out from my typical one-click WPMS install was installing Lychee. I didn’t realize I could modify the PHP running on a specific subdomain so I found an older version of Lychee and “manually installed” it. I wrote about that at the time. There have been a few times where I ran into the ceiling with shared hosting though. Exactly the use case that Jim and Tim talk about, I needed MongoDB and some other elements in place in order to try out some elearning development tools. This was the perfect chance to try things out with more flexibility that I had imagined I could get into.
Cue the rude awakening about what I thought a manual install was. I am laughing at myself now. So, I started with Reclaim Cloud, got the account set up, and started following the Authoring Tool install instructions. The big draw to the authoring tool is that it provides you a graphical interface to create learning courses. Adapt also has just the framework available, which you can install on a local machine, but then you need to be more comfortable with creating courses via code rather than other inputs you might be used to. You might think about them like coding a website with Bootstrap vs having WordPress. The authoring tool only runs on servers though, so here we go. I spun up and tore down so many environments I bet the activity record for me looks pretty funny. Installing the authoring tool requires access to commandline, which I had never used before. Reclaim Cloud makes accesses command line super easy and clear, but like a foreign language, you gotta know what you’re doing. I also discovered that my approach to following instructions is not really the best way. Initially, you need to have four things in place to install adapt authoring: git, node.js, MongoDB, and grunt. That was a big hurdle until I found in the documentation how to check each. So I spun up the environment (selecting node.js, and mongdb) and then spun my wheels trying to figure out how to get git and grunt installed. Doh! Turned out they came with the package.
Once I figured that out I managed to follow the instructions until I got stuck with an error at step 4. Long story short, Tim came to the rescue and now there’s a one click installer. Maybe once I get a better handle on Adapt itself I’ll head back to command line. For now, I am grateful for Tim and the installer. Side note here, I recall David Wiley’s keynote presentation at OER 18, a talk where he was asked to be provocative. One of the things he mentioned was about the days of compiling his own code, and while open source is very important that it is more important to make tools usable to the widest possible audience (I’m paraphrasing). I think Reclaim has often struck a great balance between providing simple easy to use access to tools and letting them get under the hood. Reclaim Cloud takes it to the next level.
JR, why do you care about this particular tool so much? I first heard about Adapt on the Dear ID podcast by Kristin Anthony (still my favourite Instructional Design related podcast to-date). Up until that point I had really only encountered elearing tools like iSpring, Captivate, Articulate, Lectora, etc. All of these tools are quite expensive (especially when you’re a grad student or someone just getting started in ID). Many of the older tools use the slide metaphor. Some, like iSpring, even started out (and I think remain) a PowerPoint plug-in. So fair enough, you want to make click-through elearning, or use a tool that most anyone would be familiar with, PPT is the way to go. But if you want to get away from that then you need to be able to create websites. Adapt changed the way elearning could be presented, then use a vertical architecture they refer to as ABC: article, block, component. So, on a long page where you scroll you have an article which is like a large container. Within that you can have blocks and in each block is a component. A component might be text, a picture, a video, a slider, an assessment, etc. This is all fully responsive. If you have ever used RISE360 by Articulate, you are familiar with this kind of framework. But it’s open source. This might strike the balance between paying hundreds of dollars a year for a licence to paying for the hosting and being able to build up your own version with a little know-how.
The base version of Adapt is pretty basic, it doesn’t even come with the Vimeo or YouTube components, but they seem easy enough to install. So from here I can begin to try some things out. It’s interesting seeing what the base version is like, as I had gotten a few demos through elearning companies that used Adapt as their framework. Again, once you go with them you’re stuck with pretty expensive annual bills and a little less control than you might want. But maybe that’s worth the price tag for many people. I’m just happy to have this option.