NDA: E-Learning Platform

Our client is a mother of many children, who study at home, asked us to rebuild an outdated web application for creating, editing and publishing educational projects. The overall goal was to deliver a cloud-based solution with an intuitive interface, that would be able to boost productivity while learning at home.

Client’s background

Our client has been teaching her children at home for a long time and at some point, she realized that in spite of all the efforts, time and money invested in the learning process, her kids didn’t remember much at the end of the school year. She started searching for a better and cheaper way to cement their knowledge, and finally came across the idea of writing down and illustrating interesting content while working with the material.

When she made sure that her approach really helped children retain information she decided to share her experience with other distant learners online. Her initiative resulted in launching

  • a website with a large collection of pre-formatted templates for downloading and printing out
  • a web app for working with templates on the computer

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The challenge

E-learning platform proved to be in demand among home-educated children, yet it quickly became obsolete. When the client reached out to us, the app no longer met her requirements for functionality and interface design.

We were provided with a list of essential features along with mockups which gave us a general concept of the educational approach. Our major challenge was to redo everything almost from scratch and revitalize the idea through the latest technologies.

The task was complicated by client’s previous negative experience with outsourcing. Because of communication gaps, she had wasted a lot of money on redoing things with other companies. To minimize the number of iterations and avoid miscommunication, we put more focus on project management and ensuring better clarity.

Importance

In the USA around two million children between the age of 6 and 17 are studying at home. Home-based learning is also widespread in South Africa (up to 100,000 children) and Canada (over 60,000 children). In the UK the number of home educators has risen by 40% in three years, reaching 48,000 children.

The main reasons that so many families choose to study at home are:

  • religious views
  • bullying concerns
  • a desire to educate a child in a unique self-paced manner
  • dissatisfaction with the level of education at school
  • health problems

Our Approach

First phase - assessment

We gained access to the old app, so we could estimate the project, taking into account new requirements. We appointed a project manager who provided the client with a detailed scope, timeline, and budget sheets. Thereafter, the PM ensured prompt feedback, effectiveness, and transparency throughout all software development flow.

Second phase — UI/UX design

We invited our partners to design a multi-user interface for both students and teachers. Overall, designers created easy-to-navigate UI with convenient workspace and a lot of dynamic elements arranged in a plain structured manner.

Third phase — building an MVP

Once the design was ready and approved, we proceeded to develop an MVP with key functions. During this phase, we had regular sync-up meetings to show demos, make clarifications and keep the client in the loop, which helped her stay connected to the team when developing and integrating the crucial elements.

Our primary task was enabling the MVP to efficiently work with pdf files. We considered several SVG and Canvas libraries, and even started to build a PDF editor using quick-editor. Unfortunately, the technology had performance issues and lacked out-of-the-box functionality. Thus, we opted for Fabric.js, an HTML canvas library with a rich ecosystem of ready-to-use solutions, which streamlined the development process and reduced the time to market.

Fourth phase — developing and testing a full version

As soon as the client checked the MVP, our team set about moving the application to the cloud for further development, testing, and production. We opted for Amazon Web Services (AWS) because of the following advantages:

  • optimum price-quality ratio
  • strict security measures
  • vast suite of available services
  • flexible testing and development environments
  • ability to serve an increasing number of users and handle heavy traffic after release

We’re still working on the custom e-learning system and its first release is scheduled for the last week of February 2019, with further updates in March-April.

The project

This e-learning management system assists home educating in teaching children, from the youngest ones to twelfth-grade students, in a creative and enjoyable way. It provides users with all the necessary tools for design of multi-page pdf projects on any topic they study.

When searching for information and images, writing texts and arranging elements on a page, children solve several basic educational tasks:

  • They cement what they learn — without strategies that help to retain knowledge, students lose about 56% of information within one hour, 66% within one day, and 75% within six days.
  • They dig deeper into the topic.
  • They develop independent learning skills.
  • They become more self-motivated and truly engaged in the learning process.

This online learning platform enables home-educating parents

  • to create and manage student groups (of up to ten students)
  • to share pictures, templates, and projects
  • to monitor students’ progress
  • to unlock motivation in their children

Main Functionality

Teacher and student accounts

The app features two login options — one for teachers and one for students. A new user signs up as a teacher and then registers up to ten students. Students receive their login information (username and password) from the teacher. After signing in, they can edit general info and change account settings.

The teacher acts as a group administrator. While students can create and edit new projects as they wish, only the teacher has the authority to distribute templates and projects to students as well as delete projects permanently (students may only move them to trash).  

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Image and template libraries

Users can import images and pdf templates for projects from their computers or use licensed templates provided by the elearning system (this option is available for Pro members only).

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Admin panel

The admin panel with interactive elements allows users to search for projects by tag or title, as well as arrange them by title, size or last modified time.  Here teachers can move or copy projects to students’ accounts.

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Workspace for creating multi-page projects

The convenient workspace is designed for creating and editing multi-page educational projects. Among other things, users can

  • upload new pictures to the library, drag them to the project page, and change their size
  • add colorful borders around images
  • use clip art images from the clipart library
  • work with text (choose fonts and type of alignment, change size and color, create marked lists and columns, etc)
  • add project tags

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Layers panel

The layers panel lets users see all elements of the current page, switch between them, and delete or hide any image or text section.

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Handwriting practice worksheets

The elearning platform enables students and teachers to create and print out handwriting practice worksheets with regular or primary lines.

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Downloading PDF files

After completing the project, users can download it as a PDF file and then print it out to be presented in a group/class.

PDF files created in this e-learning system can be imported back for further editing. The app automatically recognizes the document structure, retaining all layers and separating elements.

Involvement

Duration: August 2017 - ongoing

Team:

  • Project manager
  • UI/UX designer
  • Front-end developer
  • Back-end developer
  • Full stack developer
  • QA engineer
  • DevOps engineer

Contract type: Fixed price

Project investment: from $50,000 to $199,999

Technologies & Integrations

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Angular 5
  • PrimeNG
  • Fabric.js
  • Node.js
  • Koa.js
  • PostgreSQL
  • Sequelize
  • ImageMagick
  • ExifTool
  • Puppeteer

Project type: Cloud-based web application

Industry: Education Management

Country: USA

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