We’re excited that OpenCraft is coming back to Open edX 2016 as a sponsor! They have been working on the Open edX project from the very beginning of its open source publication. They are one of the major hosting, development, and support providers specializing in the platform. They have made hundreds of contributions to the platform and its plug-in ecosystem, developing many core Open edX features, such as Content Libraries and Third Party Authentication, as well as many interactive XBlocks exercises, including Drag and Drop v2, Problem Builder, and Group Work.
We are also excited to share that OpenCraft has just announced a new self-service hosting service for the Open edX platform. This service will make it easier to host your own Open edX instance, without requiring technical knowledge or the help of consultants. Open edX 2016 attendees can be among the first to try this new hosting service by signing up for a beta test at the conference.
Xavier Antoviaque, the founder of OpenCraft, was happy to answer a few questions we had about this new service and their current work.
What are you working on right now?
A lot of projects! For example, we are working with the analytics team at edX on improving Insights; we are finalizing a new version of the Drag and Drop exercise (XBlock) for McKinsey Academy and edX (which will be included in Eucalyptus, the next stable version of Open edX); we are working on improvements to the Peer Instruction tool we developed for HarvardX and John Abbott University – and many more.
We are also running and maintaining numerous production instances of Open edX – including those for Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Duke University, and St Gallen University.
What are you most excited about?
We’re most excited about our upcoming self-service hosting platform for Open edX – named OpenCraft.Hosting.
We have been deploying and managing production instances of Open edX for years now, and it has become a very routine operation for us. At the same time, instance setup is still pretty difficult for newcomers to the platform. Instructors without technical backgrounds have to hire consultants like us to do it
for them, or join an existing instance like edx.org. These options can be expensive and selective, limiting who gets access to teach with Open edX. There ought to be an easier way! So we decided to come up with one.
Tell us a bit about your plans for the future of OpenCraft
We would like to make it simple for everyone to set up their own Open edX production instances. We’re working toward a solution that would allow anyone to get going with just a few clicks and only the expense of the hosting itself, eliminating the need for consultants to do the setup. (Yes, putting ourselves out of business, too. : ) )
We will be opening registrations for the beta test of OpenCraft.Hosting during Open edX 2016. If you want to know when that happens, enter your email at OpenCraft.Hosting or come see us at the conference in the demo area by Bishop Auditorium.. Attendees of the conference will be able to register first.
Can you tell me a bit about OpenCraft’s role in the Open edX community?
One of our strengths is showing that it is possible to develop features that answer specific client needs, while producing at a level of quality that allows these features to be contributed to the main project. We work hard to ensure that everything we make at OpenCraft is something we’re proud to share with the Open edX community.
Practically speaking, our approach leads to lower long-term maintenance costs for our clients, as it’s easier to upgrade when changes are contributed to the main Open edX code base: it minimizes the time needed to keep these features and XBlocks working with each new Open edX named release (Dogwood, Eucalyptus, etc.). For the Open edX community, it means that every time someone hires us, the whole community benefits from it.
This is part of the beauty of the open source model: it rewards behaviors that are positive for the community as a whole, and provides a competitive advantage to actors who contribute.
What are OpenCraft’s specialties?
We specialize in Open edX! : ) The project is the sole focus of the company, and this undivided attention is what enables us to have the most extensive expertise about the platform on the market, outside of edX.
With Open edX, no matter what the project is, chances are that we already have experience on most of its aspects. Some of the work we do the most often includes:
- Development of custom functionalities and exercises (“XBlocks”)
- Deployment, configuration, and hosting of an edX production instance (and its additional services, such as Insights or e-Commerce/Otto)
- Customization and theme of the production instance
- Integration of courseware MOOC content
… as well as pretty much anything you can dream of doing with Open edX. : )
If you have any project, or any comment/question about the upcoming OpenCraft.Hosting service, don’t hesitate to write!
The faces of OpenCraft: Xavier Antoviaque, Braden MacDonald, Eugeny Kolpakov, Jacek Bzdak, Jill Vogel, Matjaz Gregoric, Omar Khan, Sven Marnach, and Tim Krones.