Picture of Tom Taylor
Adopting Adapt: non-technical users
by Tom Taylor - Friday, 14 August 2015, 12:49 PM

Hi all,

Tongue-twisting title aside, I thought I'd start a thread in here to get some feedback on how non-tech users have found getting to grips with Adapt (both authoring tool and framework).

CAVEAT: As mentioned in this page

Version 1.0 of the Adapt authoring tool will be the first official release aimed at non-technical end users. This will still take a while to deliver.

As anyone who follows the development of the tool will know, this is some way off. At this point, it requires a fair amount of technical prowess (and sometimes a lot of trial and error) to install and use. This is to be expected.

This being said, we want to make it as easy as possible for non-technical users to start using Adapt in the time running up to the v1.0.0 release. In this post in the technical forum, Sam Tsiu made a number of suggestions related to smoothing the somewhat bumpy ride that is setting up Adapt. Below are some of Sam's points (with my own additions):


The intimidation-factor of the set-up can be overwhelming. The tech forum is full of issues related to installing and configuring the prerequisites (in my opinion, this is unavoidable, but just stating the point here).

Building a course

When it comes to actually building a course, Sam noted that the key concepts used throughout the framework and the authoring tool (e.g. the content object/article/block/component model) can be confusing to anyone new. We have a Framework in five minutes page in the wiki, but this is unfinished, and could do with a lot of love.

Documentation is also lacking with regards to actually using the authoring tool - this is something which will be relevant post v1.0.0, and should be sorted soon. Mentioning any limitations with the tool in here would prevent further headaches for users who don't have the technical knowledge to debug.


As a non-native English speaker, Sam found it difficult to locate certain FAQ-type issues located in the forums, and suggests that we set up some localised 'getting started'-type documents with general tips/basic troubleshooting for non-english speakers (e.g. the FAQ in the wiki). 


I think the logical solution to most of Sam's issues is additional documentation. Are there any other improvements you'd like to see made that would allow early, non-technical adopters to start creating courses more quickly and smoothly? 

Any thoughts welcome 😊

Picture of x z
Re: Adopting Adapt: non-technical users
by x z - Wednesday, 26 August 2015, 8:47 AM

Hi Tom,

Sorry I didn't see rhis earlier.

Frankly, as much as I's like to be using Adapt, I won't even try it until (1) the Authoring tool is much more fully functional, (2) installation is easy and literally 'fool'proof,  (3) there are more  Authoring tool plugins and I don't have to figure out GitHub to install them, (4) updates don't bamboozle pre-existing work*, and (5) I can save/export what I've developed so I can get back to,previous iterations.

*(4) also seems often to be a problem when Moodle does a new release -- i.e. people have to scramble to fix their old stuff so it works properly or decide to stay with the older version. It would be breat if Adapt got ahead of this problem -- esp. when it comes to using the Authoring tool. 

I also want a way to integrate directly (without linking out) interactives and content developed using other HTML based software such as Hot Potatoes and the means to bundle Adapt modules into apps that will also work on all devices & don't need an LMS to make them work. I'm avoiding SCORM as it doesn't work in all platforms and prefer HTML. I've noted that although HTML5 is supposed to work across all devices, this is not always true for iDevices.

I'm not averse to upgrading my coding skills but installing and using the Framework seems so complicated (an example of my low level of 'techspertise': I have no idea what the command line is or where I'd find it) that the time I'd need to learn enough on my own by trial and error makes this just too daunting. 

So for now I'll wait and watch from the sidelines. Thanks for listening,


Picture of David Austin
Re: Adopting Adapt: non-technical users
by David Austin - Thursday, 22 October 2015, 9:41 PM

i agree with sue.. i tried to install today and didnt make it

Picture of Tom Taylor
Re: Adopting Adapt: non-technical users
by Tom Taylor - Wednesday, 28 October 2015, 10:21 AM

The installation process is something we've committed to improving; we're aiming to set up 'easy installers' for all major operating systems by v1.0. The bad news is, this isn't likely to be coming soon.

As the tool is server-based, it is a necessity for early adopters to have some knowledge of the associated technologies (general command line, git, node, mongoDB). I do however think that there are a few things we can do to the install script in order to make installing a bit easier, such as some better checks for dependencies, checking for database connections, etc.

I'd be interested in hearing where you encountered difficulties - please post a reply to this forum post if you are so inclined :)

Picture of sander van zijl
Re: Adopting Adapt: non-technical users
by sander van zijl - Monday, 28 September 2015, 8:18 AM

We have been working with the current version. And I can definitely confirm that it is geared towards the developer at the moment. So the tool now is more a help for a developer, than a tool for non developers.

A couple of things can be made easier in the authoring tool, from the experience I have with the tool.

  • being able to edit the theme (is planned for next version)
    • assign colors/fonts/background pictures etc.
    • edit the theme per component/block. so local theme settings can override the global theme settings
  • copy and paste articles/blocks/components between pages and/or courses
  • change left/right/center position of a component (you can move it to a new block, then move it back in the correct position, but that is more a workaround)
  • picture size guide/check when using a picture in a component
  • automatic picture resizing (for mobile/full versions etc.)
  • Create a quiz. so combine the question components in a quiz article that only shows the final result.
  • deleting assets. sometimes it is a trial and error what size assets should be used. I would like to be able to delete assets that are not being used.
  • add a "link to other section/page within the course" component.
  • Work as a team on a course, so you need to be able to lock a course for editing.
  • wysiwyg editor with formfactor size selection, so you can immediately see the result
  • multi language course development.
  • the classes box in the authoring tool can only be used with knowledge of what is inside the css file. this can be difficult if someone else is developing the css and/or plugins. I would remove this from the tool, or make options more clear.

We have also been checking out what you are doing at folder structure and code level.

  • Folder structure should be much more straightforward. No trying to find where exactly your course is located.
  • database and file combination can be confusing.
    • it might be better to use one directory per course, and each course has it's own database in that directory.
  • If people should work on a local installation than sharing courses should be easier between installations.
    • problems here are with media-assets that need to be copied. 
    • also plugins that are not available on the other system might be problematic
  • all plugins should be useable in the framework and in the authoring tool

And talking about documentation:

  • create a fast access page. or better: use your own tool to create some elearning about it. 
  • make it clear what is part of general adapt and what is developed by the adapt providers.
  • create a clear separation between authoring tool / framework

these are just some suggestions off course. the results we are getting at the moment are already very good and we would like to thank for making this possible.

unfortunately, we do not have the expertise (or most of us don't anyway) to really add technically to the development. My personal expertise stops at being able to read the code and make some minor adjustments.

Re: Adopting Adapt: non-technical users
by Sven Laux - Tuesday, 29 September 2015, 12:28 PM

Hi Sander,

I just wanted to say thanks for your detailed feedback. This is great to see and will help us get our priorities right going forward. Please keep this type of feedback coming, everyone!


Picture of Tom Taylor
Re: Adopting Adapt: non-technical users
by Tom Taylor - Tuesday, 29 September 2015, 1:51 PM

Hi Sander,

Thanks for your response, and continued support :) Regarding your queries:

  • Theme/CSS editing is on the extended roadmap. This feature should also hopefully make the _classes function a bit more useful for non-technical adopters (which is something we use very frequently at Kineo). On the note of _classes: we're also in the process of adding in-situ help (this may be in the form of tooltips), which should help to explain this to newcomers
  • Copy/paste is partially in, but still needs some work.
  • Deleting assets will be included in the next release (v0.1.2)
  • User management (i.e. multi-user) is on the extended roadmap. The original goal was for a server-based multi-tenanted authoring tool, and this is very much still the case for our v1.0 release (unfortunately it may be a long journey to get there).
  • There's an auto-fill function for course images allowing a single image to be used for all screen sizes.
  • The assessment will be fully supported in v0.1.2
  • With regards to authoring tool compatibility for plugins, this is the case for all core plugins. There are a few non-core plugins owned by the adaptlearning GitHub organisation, but we haven't committed to maintaining these.
  • The filesystem for the authoring tool isn't intended to be human-readable/navigable. Additionally, any course data stored on disk is temporary, and only used for output, so any files edited here will not persist to the database. The authoring tool has been designed to be an all-or-nothing.

I've also created a few new tickets referencing your other requests. If you could add any extra information you have on these, I'd be grateful.

I think that's the majority of your development-related points addressed, I'll let someone else deal with the rest :)

Picture of sander van zijl
Re: Adopting Adapt: non-technical users
by sander van zijl - Friday, 30 October 2015, 3:46 PM

Hi tom,

I have tried to enter some comments.I did not completely understand the JIRA page that you linked to.So to comment on the multilanguage part:


E-learning is perfectly suited to roll-out the training material all over Europe. So it would make sense to include something that would make it possible to translate a course. There are multiple levels of possibilities.

  1. On the lowest level, all text from a course can be exported to an excel file. After this is translated, it could be imported to create the course in another language.
  2. A better way of doing this, would be to be able to export the texts, and import the translations, with the ability to switch languages before publishing the course.
  3. even better would be to be able to change the language of the course after publication. maybe with a possibility to use the same language as the LMS.
  4. Top level would be if the adapt authoring tool offers both an export to excel possibility, as well as  a multilanguage editing mode.

Off course a base language needs to be definied when translations are not available for a certain text component. This still leaves the problem with other assets that need translating. I can imagine that it would be possible to add a selection box to a graphic that can be used to select wich languages belongs to the graphic. For each language you should be able to upload a new asset, or fallback to the standard.





Picture of Thomas Berger
Re: Adopting Adapt: non-technical users
by Thomas Berger - Monday, 2 November 2015, 4:40 PM

Hi Sanders,

thank you for sharing your thoughts about multi language support with the community. I agree with you about the importance of localizing E-learning courses. That’s why I think, that having a powerful way to handle multiple languages in Adapt will be a huge improvement for the Framework and of course for the Authoring Tool.

It would be great to have the possibility to export the text as a XLIFF or Excel file and be able to import the translated text to create a multi language course that does have a language selector or create a course for every language.

I think we also need a way to handle content / components that are only applicable for certain countries/languages.

We should also think about the role of the Authoring Tool. Of course it would be good to have a visual export and import wizard that walks the user through the process. But since the authoring tool is a server based tool, it would be also nice to let the translator access the course and translate it directly in the authoring tool. I think this will increase the quality of the translated text, because the translators are able to see the content as a whole and not on a paragraph by paragraph base.

If you are interested in this discussion I highly recommend you this threat: https://community.adaptlearning.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=871


Picture of Bola Owoade
Re: Adopting Adapt: non-technical users
by Bola Owoade - Thursday, 19 November 2015, 1:45 PM

I'm sure this has been echoed elsewhere but in the meantime having really good installation guidance in videos and probably an ebook would really help. I'm not a total tech newbie. I understand what MEAN stack (which you are using for the framework) is and can code a little. But I found the installation very painful and just gave up. I think if the installation issue is sorted out, a lot more people will adopt it. I remember way back when people first found out about Wordpress and Drupal, the installation process for these two technologies was not straightforward, but once that was sorted out people started using them en mass. This also applied to Moodle. I do believe the greatest barrier to Adapt becoming widely adopted and successful is the installation process. So in the meantime real clear videos which go step by step through installation on different platforms can help break down some of the barriers to using the system. I really want  to use it, but can't install it.

Picture of x z
Re: Adopting Adapt: non-technical users
by x z - Tuesday, 8 December 2015, 5:08 PM

This is my last kick at this can, but I wanted to reply to your post because I think what you're saying is bang on, Bola. You aren't the first to make similar points, & I thank you for taking the time to provide that feedback especially since you're walking away. 

I soooooooo wish the Adapt Builder was closer to becoming educator & designer- friendly so that I could use it to develop my open source basic skills learning modules. For now I'm still in 'wait & watch' mode, but I fear the time when I will try Adapt is a long way off and I'm close to withdrawing and revisiting in a couple of years. I have nothing useful to contribute to the community and can't use Adapt in its present iteration. 

Every time I read another email from someone who just gave up, I totally understand. When any tool turns out to be so complicated just to get out of its package & deployed, especially if headlined on its website as "an easy to use ... tool", newcomers who begin with optimism & vision but failed to get past that barrier end up feeling disappointed & even a little misled. As you said, they have the potential to be the application champions and a layer of community leaders who can further the discussion on use and provide support on issues associated with how the tool works. The fact that Adapt's technical forum is buzzing and its leaders' time absorbed in answering the same questions over & over, while the e-learning forum languishes, speaks volumes.

Within the Adapt community, there may be only a few who take the time to send the sort of feedback you did, but I suspect you represent a much larger group of disaffected potential users whose barriers participation are tending to be brushed aside as low priority -- the implication being we're not a suitable audience because we don't bring enough tech expertise to qualify as early adopters. This makes me want to shout that the developers are loosing sight of their own mission statement and ought to hold off adding so many beautiful new branches and foliage to the top of their young tree and devote more time to feeding its roots. 

To the developers: this can be hard feedback to hear, and I apologize for being less than tactful. You've taken on a massive task, and I deeply appreciate your work.


Picture of Brian Quinn
Re: Adopting Adapt: non-technical users
by Brian Quinn - Tuesday, 8 December 2015, 6:10 PM

Hi Sue,

I appreciate the frank feedback, but I think there's an important distinction here between 'easy to use' and 'easy to install'.  As a comparison that was mentioned on this thread, Wordpress is easy to use, but for some it's not always going to be easy to install.

In saying that, we have made major efforts in the most recent versions of the authoring tool to make things easier for educators and designers who want to use the authoring tool by supporting Vagrant.  This takes the pain out of installing and configuring MongoDB, and the other pre-requisites.  You can find more information here:

This was a feature implemented specifically for potential users, those who might "kick the tyres".  It was one of the main features in v0.1.4, and was definitely not a low priority.

We have in the past and will continue to take on board feedback, bugs, and enhancement requests from non-technical end users.




Picture of jPablo Caballero
Re: Adopting Adapt: non-technical users
by jPablo Caballero - Wednesday, 9 December 2015, 7:45 PM


Aside from the fact that being 'easy to use' is not the same as being 'easy to install', as Brian said, I'd like to point out something else about the 'difficulty' of installation, and the seemingly opposing sides of technical vs non-technical users.

In this thread, Moodle, Wordpress and Drupal have been mentioned as examples of tools that have experienced mass adoption after the installation process has been 'sorted out'. I'm really not sure that's the case. Looking at the installation instructions of those three tools, I see there are still a number of steps (and concepts) which could be difficult for non-technical people. I think the mass adoption of those tools has happened because of many other different factors, and should not be linked exclusively, to the installation process. There are free or extremely cheap hosting providers that provide "one-click" installation of these (and other) popular web apps. Maybe this has had an impact on their popularity/mass adoption. But this doesn't mean that the installation of those tools has been sorted out, it means that somebody is offering the 'service' of installing those tools automatically for you. Technically, this can be done with the Adapt Authoring tool too.

What I think is that the Authoring Tool is still seen as a 'typical' Authoring Tool, so people expect it to be as easy to install as others (think about Storyline: you download a file, double-click, and it's installed). But this is not the case, it is a web app (in that sense, the 'comparison' to Moodle, Drupal or Wordpress, is correct). It's meant to be installed on a server, it has other big components around it (database, language/runtime environment, etc.). I wonder how many non-technical people install Worpress, Moodle, or Drupal just on their own computer... yet that's what people want to do with the Adapt Authoring Tool, and they get frustrated.

Don't get me wrong, I think that there's a lot of room for improvement in the Adapt installation, and -for instructional designers- it's pretty understandable that they want to install the tool on their own computer... just to be able to author content themselves.

But let's not forget that the vision here is to have one authoring tool for a group of people, sharing resources, being able to work on the same course at the same time... allowing clients to review things (all this are planned features, afaik). In this sense, the Adapt AT will be far more powerful and flexible than the popular authoring tools we're used to. It shouldn't be too surprising that the technical environment is more complex too, and therefore the installation will be more involved as well.

As has been mentioned, efforts are being made to make installation easier. I personally think that videos and instructions for each platform are not as effective as automation solutions (like Vagrant or Ansible). I usually automate installs and server configuration with Ansible, and this allows me to effectively to install a whole server environment with one command... yet I don't think it's really a solution that non-technical people could use directly.

Even if the Adapt AT installation were very easy, if it is going to be used as intended (on a server, by a group of people), there will be some tasks that will have to be done by technical people: once you're talking about a shared server, you need to take care of networking, security, backups, scaling... and those are technical tasks, and some of them can be complex. Just like with Moodle, for example. You can do an easy 'one-click install' in one of the free/cheap hosting companies, but a serious Moodle installation on a server will require technical maintenance tasks done by technical people.

I'm not part of the core development team or anything, I'm just a community member/contributor... it may seem that I'm 'defending' the 'technical' side, but that's not really the case. Having both formal education and experience on the technical side (computer science) and the non-technical one (Instructional Technology) I understand the frustration that is reflected on some messages of this thread.

From the technical point of view, this is a major effort, and as one reads more and tries to understand where things are, it's clear the people/companies behind Adapt know the importance of creating a tool that non-technical people can use. I don't think that the Adapt Community considers non-technical people as low-priority at all. I don't agree at all with the statement that one can be mislead by the wording on the site. It's very clearly stated that versions prior to 1.0 require the assistance of technical people.

If what Sue says "... we're not a suitable audience because we don't bring enough tech expertise to qualify as early adopters" is really the way that many people feel... then maybe, we, as a community, should try to do something about it, because they shouldn't feel brushed-off as low-priority. Those people who feel that way are not/should not be, expected to bring tech expertise to the community... (that's the role of tech-inclined community members).

Maybe it's just about writing clearer documentation, so there's no doubt that we're still in a development phase. Maybe it's about finding a way so that technical people can provide an installation of the Authoring Tool to non-technical people who want to check it out (but still, they have to be conscious that the software is in development, and therefore not full-featured, and there are also cost considerations associated with this)... I'm not sure, but to me "tech vs. non-tech" fights are not productive. In my experience (in e-Learning development environments) the best results were achieved when we worked in teams where each member contributed their expertise.

Or maybe for some, it's just a matter of waiting, and for others, to keep going. Some may decide to not try to use the tool now and wait and see in a few moths. That's fine.⋅

Regarding Sue's message specifically, I don't really understand when you say "the developers are loosing sight of their own mission statement and ought to hold off adding so many beautiful new branches and foliage to the top of their young tree and devote more time to feeding its roots. ". If you are referring to the vision statement on the front page of the Adapt Community site, I don't see what it is that makes you say that they're losing sight of it. I'm not sure -in that sentence- what you consider superfluous vs. essential.

And also, pardon my frankness too, you're saying that you're not technical, that you have nothing to contribute, but yet you're complaining that the e-Learning forum is languishing.

If the technical forum is buzzing and the e-Learning forum is languishing

  1. the project is in a development phase, and tech people are contributing, and
  2. maybe non-technical people could contribute a little more on the e-Learning/instructional design side (or more generally, on anything non-technical).

Even those who can't get to use the authoring tool, know what can be done with it (there are examples of content created with Adapt). What kind of data/course usage would you like to track? How would you design content for Adapt: what components would you use for different types of content (verbal knowledge, concepts, procedures...), what other components would you want to have available? I think that non-technical people can contribute a lot... but that's just my opinion.


Picture of Brian Quinn
Re: Adopting Adapt: non-technical users
by Brian Quinn - Tuesday, 8 December 2015, 5:46 PM

Hi Bola,

Out of curiosity, did you attempt the Vagrant Installation or the Server Installation (outlined here: https://github.com/adaptlearning/adapt_authoring/blob/master/README.md)?  As of v0.1.4 the Vagrant scripts should work, although there may be an issue with Windows 10 right now.  I'd encourage anybody not comfortable with aspects of the technical installation to follow the Vagrant steps.  It shouldn't take more than 20-30 minutes.

As Tom has said, we're a bit away from version 1.0 right now. I agree that installation videos on different platforms would help, but you're talking at least three different videos for Windows alone, (Window 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 7), then OS X and Unix.  With the amount of contributors we have at present that is going to be a challenge.  



Picture of Bola Owoade
Re: Adopting Adapt: non-technical users
by Bola Owoade - Tuesday, 8 December 2015, 12:50 PM

Thanks Tom, I think you will find that the lack of documentation can be solved once people are more comfortable installing the tool. While the tool currently seems to be aimed at technical users, you will find that the audience that can really carry the tool forward are instructional designers. Once people can install the tool easily then they will start writing hand-outs, developing how-to videos and even writing books about it. That's what happened to tools like Moodle. So if the installation can be sorted out and people can play around with the tool and see how good it is, people will naturally create documentation for it.

Picture of Steven Swanepoel
Re: Adopting Adapt: non-technical users
by Steven Swanepoel - Wednesday, 16 December 2015, 6:27 AM

The installation process is a beast, no doubt. The documentation has improved since the last time I was here and gave Adapt a crack. My first obstacle back then was not knowing the difference between the framework and the authoring tool. The distinction much clearer now. 

Fast forward a few months, after 6 hours and several attempts I have finally managed to install it. Unless you have got a decent IT-related head on their shoulders, I predict much frustration.

Not because of the instructions, the steps are fine for the most part and are okay enough to follow. Its the small individual differences that make the difference. My issue was a proxy server. Most people who are doing this from work will have to navigate issues like that.

This page saved me more frustration when I was getting an error running: npm install -g adapt-cli 


I wish I could trace back that what I did to help fellow wannabe-Adapters however I did so many things in so many different ways I wouldn't know which helped and which didn't.


Good luck