- web sockets
- Google Cloud
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed 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 existing software for online communication, it was hard 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 be an effective alternative to Zoom and Meet and offer a superior learning experience for students and instructors. 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 investments to bring its virtual learning idea to life.
SPD Group joined the startup during an active phase of the global pandemic. The CTO and VP of Engineering contacted our team as a referral from our long-term partner. We have never worked in the eLearning industry before, but found the idea fascinating and decided to help with software development from scratch.
The main business goal of this project is to offer custom software to make the life of instructors easier and their efforts more effective, providing them with all the necessary tools for remote teaching. As for students, they should receive a superior learning experience. Standard video conferencing tools don’t have options for setting roles of teachers and students, and every user has the same level of access. The project is different because it offers eLearning focus by providing the following:
- Built-in engagement drivers such as quizzes, polls, and content sharing
- Student activity tracking, both individually and as a group
- The ability of students to collaborate in small groups that can coexist within the larger class settings
- 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 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 leading companies in the world. Meaning, along with business goals, the project has a vision to improve the learning process at the global level, due to the influence that Stanford University has on the IT industry. Delivering an inclusive digital learning platform for superior teaching and learning experiences that optimizes student success is the main mission of the entire project.
The main technical challenges for our team include:
- Working with the live video streaming technology
- Performance optimization for the application, especially for mobile devices
- In general, working with the eLearning industry is new to us, so there were numerous nuances to learn on the way
To achieve the business goals of the project, our team joined on the basis of the Dedicated Development Team model. We are working directly with a tech lead, with a delivery manager Tymur Mustafa on our side. We started our collaboration in August 2020 with only one software developer. However, by the end of the month, our team expanded to 4 experts due to increasing demand for delivery.
In the first six months, our team of mostly front-end developers was heavily involved in a software development process, including new UI/UX components, connection, and visualization of components for web and desktop versions of the application. The desktop version was developed on electron and relies more on the streaming functionality, which is covered by the third party experts and aimed at use by instructors. The students use a simpler browser version of an app. The streaming component of the desktop version of an application was already developed, as well as raw functions. Our team was responsible for introducing the core features and their integration with the service, while also expanding the functionality and adding new logic. Working with already written code for the streaming part, we report all the issues to the tech lead and optimize everything we can on our side.
In early 2021, our team started 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 be able to provide the core functionality of the desktop application. We began with implementing the biggest feature: streaming. Simultaneously, our team started to add screens.
At the moment, we are focused on improving the streaming part of the service, optimizing and polishing the code as much as possible for any mobile device. The optimization has still not been achieved–the work is in progress. However, every version goes through User Acceptance Testing (UAT) groups of 20–30 users, and the mobile app continues to improve.
As of April 2021, the fully functional MVP for desktop and web app is complete and is currently in the phase of rigorous testing. The mobile version of an app for iOS is still in the early stages of intensive development, but a version for Android is already in our plans. Our partner is very happy with the progress of our team and is looking to expand it. Currently, we are looking to add two more full-stack developers and expect to grow the team on our side to 20+ experts by the end of 2021. This is a long-term project with ambitious goals for the future.