5/5 - (3 votes)

Summary Summary

  • Industry: eLearning
  • Location: California, the US
  • Partnership period: August 2020 – Ongoing
  • Team size: 4 experts
  • Software product: A desktop application for instructors, a web application for students, a mobile application on iOS
  • Expertise delivered: Software development, support, maintenance, feature development, and enhancement, bug fixes, and improvements

Tech Stack

  • React
  • electron
  • TypeScript
  • WebRTC
  • web sockets
  • Node.js
  • jest
  • Google Cloud

Methodology, Tools

  • Scrum
  • Slack
  • Jira
  • Bitbucket

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Overview

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way we live our lives and forced the world to learn to operate remotely. For the Education industry, this shift has been very challenging, because even with the existing software for online communication, it was difficult to set up an effective learning process.

Experienced executives of technology companies saw an opportunity in this challenge. They founded a startup that is aimed to offer a superior learning experience for students and instructors by being an effective alternative to Zoom and Meet. The popular software for communications lacked control over the students and specific features for users that would allow a more effective educational process. The startup quickly captured the attention of the media, potential users, and tech experts. It raised nearly $15 million in investment to bring its virtual learning idea to life.

SPD Group joined the startup during an active phase of the global pandemic. The startup’s CTO and VP of Engineering contacted our team as a referral from our long-term client. We had never worked in the eLearning industry before, but found the idea fascinating and decided to help the fledgling eLearning company by providing them with the required software development from scratch.

Business Goals

The main business goal of this project is to develop software that will make the life of instructors easier and their efforts more effective by providing them with all the necessary tools for remote teaching. As for students, they are supposed to receive a superior learning experience. The standard video conferencing tools don’t have the capabilities for setting the roles of teachers and students, and every user has the same access privileges. The project focuses on eLearning and provides the following:

  • Built-in engagement drivers such as quizzes, polls, and content sharing.
  • Student activity tracking, both as individuals and as a group.
  • The ability of students to collaborate in small groups that can coexist within a larger class setting.
  • 1:1 learning experience and peer-to-peer instruction without interference from others.
  • Digital inclusivity for students with old devices or slow internet connection; the ability for the app to work with smart TV and a mobile phone.
  • Complete control of the learning process for the instructors.

This project was originally built for Stanford University, which is a source of top experts for the world’s leading companies. Therefore, along with the business goals, the project aimed to improve the learning process on the global level by leveraging the influence that Stanford University has on the IT industry. It aimed to deliver an inclusive digital learning platform that creates superior teaching and learning experiences and facilitates student success is the main mission of the entire project.

Technical Challenges

The main technical challenges for our project team include:

  • Working with the live video streaming technology.
  • Optimizing the application performance, especially for mobile devices.
  • Implementing a project for the eLearning industry is overall new to us, so there were numerous nuances to learn along the way.

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Solution

For implementing the project, we employed the Dedicated Development Team model.

Our team is led by a Delivery Manager and is working directly with a Tech Lead on the client’s side. We started our cooperation in August of 2020 with only one software developer. However, by the end of the month, our team had grown to include 4 experts due to an increased demand for delivery.

During the first six months, our team of mostly front-end developers was heavily involved in the software development process, including the development of new UI/UX components, and visualization of components for the application’s web and desktop versions. The desktop version was developed on electron and relies more on the streaming functionality that is covered by third-party experts and is intended to be used by instructors. Students use a simpler browser version of the app. The streaming component of the desktop version of the application was already developed, as well as its basic functions. Our team was responsible for developing the core features and integrating them with the service. We were also engaged in the expansion of the system’s functionality and adding new business logic. While working on the existing code related to the streaming functionality, we report all the issues to the client’s Tech Lead and optimize everything we can on our side.

In early 2021, our team began the development of the iOS mobile app from scratch. iOS was chosen because 95% of the mobile users in Silicon Valley prefer iPhones. The mobile app was planned to provide the core functionality of the desktop application. We started by implementing the most significant feature: streaming. In parallel, our team started adding screens.

Currently, we are focused on improving the streaming part of the service, optimizing and polishing the code as much as possible for every existing type of mobile device. The full optimization has not yet been achieved – the work is still in progress. However, each new version of the app is tested by User Acceptance Testing (UAT) groups that consist of 20–30 users, so the mobile app continues to improve.

Here are some screenshots of the mobile app’s interface:

Engageli Interface 1

Engageli Interface 2

Engageli Interface 3

Engageli Interface 3

Results

As of April 2021, the development of fully functional MVPs for the desktop and web apps is completed. Currently, the MVPs are in rigorous testing. The iOS version of the app is still in the early stages of intensive development, but we are already planning to start developing its Android version.

Our client is very satisfied with the progress of our team and they are looking forward to expanding their cooperation with us. Currently, we are looking to add two more full-stack developers. We expect to expand the team on our side to include 20+ experts by the end of 2021. This is a long-term project with ambitious goals for the future.

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