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This article may be of interest to companies looking for dedicated software developers for eLearning industry projects, especially when there are problems such as an outdated code base or a shortage of affordable qualified workforce.

 

Here is an example of effective cooperation between a large outsourced software development company and an established EdTech business – Learning Pool. 

 

For over two years, Onix has been assisting Learning Pool in building educational content and technology for international customers in the public and private sectors. Now, we would like to share our experience and insights on the cost-effective building of robust eLearning solutions.

According to Brandessence market research, the eLearning market value reached USD $309.25 billion in 2021. Expected to grow at a CAGR of 23.7%, it may reach $1,370.56 billion by the end of 2028.

 

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Growing demand paired with an uneven distribution of specialists worldwide can make it challenging to hire experienced developers that can deliver the right product on time and within budget in the face of fierce competition and ever-growing consumer expectations. EdTech companies of all shapes and sizes increasingly view outsourcing and outstaffing as viable solutions. 

 

If you consider these options, this eLearning software development success story may provide valuable insights and help you make the decision. 

 

The Background Story

 

The client and their business needs

Learning Pool is a corporation/joint-stock company founded in 2006. Its board of directors consists primarily of trust and venture investors and owners of the affiliated companies. There are several international branches, each with its own EdTech B2B products.

 

These products include but are not limited to:

 

  • Learning Management Systems (LMS)
  • Learning Experience Platforms (LXP)
  • a Learning Record Store (LRS)
  • an open-source framework that enabled responsive eLearning
  • agile learning content development tools
  • hundreds of off-the-shelf e-learning modules
  • award-winning custom educational content

 

With nine offices around the UK and USA, Learning Pool counts 1,500 corporate customers and 5.1 million active learners worldwide. 

 

Entities as diverse as Amway, Birmingham City Council, Choice Support, Domestic & General, InterContinental Hotels Group plc, NES Fircroft, Supercell, Quality Improvement Clinic, Sky, Villeroy & Boch, and WaterAid cite multiple benefits and impressive results of Learning Pool’s eLearning software implementation.

 

When Learning Pool and Onix-Systems connected, they were running projects with million-dollar budgets but also with 5-10 years of history and wanting technical upgrades and improvement. Combined with the company’s rapid growth and a significant influx of customers at that time, this required an extra workforce. Since opening new offices and recruiting staff quickly in the UK and USA was impractical, they decided to delegate several tasks to an offshore team.

 

 

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How the cooperation began

Learning Pool’s CTO Mark Lynch and Onix’s Business development team met on an IT job platform.

 

The cooperation started with three full-stack web developers and a PM who acted as Learning Pool’s eyes and ears in Ukraine. They quickly established a relationship with an existing UK team, understood the details of their project, and proceeded with proper development right away. Soon, two more full-stack developers joined them. 

 

From the start, Learning Pool expected Onix developers to become members of the existing team with its own processes, rules, and management that had been formalized over fifteen years.

 

An Agile development process similar in both companies played a significant role:

 

  1. The Product Owner works with the business and customers to create basic high-level tasks.
  2. A Tech Lead and senior developers jointly analyze these tasks and describe what needs to be completed within the task.
  3. The task card moves to the Kanban development board.
  4. Upon execution, at least two other developers must approve the code.
  5. Then, the task is tested twice, goes to the staging branch, and is tested again.
  6. Finally, the task moves to Production.

 

Some details were new to us, however, such as constant pair programming and comprehensive documentation of everything for the sake of new team members. Limiting coding to 5 hours per day ensures there is enough time for meetings, reviews, planning, etc. 

 

It took Onix’s employees less than a month to adapt, while friendly communication, a sense of humor, and assistance of the management on both sides helped them integrate into the wider team. Each team that joined Learning Pool’s projects subsequently took less time to onboard.

 

 

Learning Pool’s software engineers were reviewing all the code written by our programmers and quickly noticed that it was clear and written to a very high standard. After a month of work, Onix developers also began to review Learning Pool’s code.

 

After two months, Learning Pool assigned AAA-level tasks to Onix programmers. After three months, one engineer became a senior developer and was assigned to work with Production. Our specialists started attending the planning calls and advising on complex structure implementation. Learning Pool appreciated their advice on alternative methods, new processes, and more.

 

Thus, the first group’s continuous hard work, high-quality code, and a fresh approach to development tasks during the first three months convinced Learning Pool’s leadership to hire more specialists from Onix.

 

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Onix’s Role in Learning Pool’s eLearning Software Implementation

Learning Pool is an extensive system containing multiple projects that are independent yet work together to ensure excellent performance and commercial success. 

 

Learning Pool is unique in the market because it provides an entire configurable eLearning ecosystem to its customers. Their integrated eLearning platform is called Stream Learning Suite. It provides a range of products that can be connected and work together seamlessly thanks to Learning Pool’s business killer feature, a unique system called Experience (X) API.

 

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Each module within the suite can be used separately or in combination with others, providing an end-to-end method to deliver learning while supporting the customer’s growth, adapting, and scaling to any learning scenario or business need. 

 

Altogether, Onix’s team was involved in five projects within this product ecosystem, each posing an extensive scope of work. Our work consisted of comprehensive software development, i.e. writing code, maintenance of existing features, building new features, code refactoring, testing, analysis, study, as well as technical and business planning and any other client requirements.

 

The three largest projects we worked on include:

 

Project #1

A large data warehouse collects diverse information and data, analyzes, and arranges it in a specific format to deliver it to users at the right time. It also aggregates data from other services and projects, which makes it a universal tool for handling large volumes of data or statistics.

 

There was a need to save time for people who make decisions and build & collect reports. The result is an automated system that considers thousands of aspects and analyzes and builds reports according to the secret logic.

 

Smart visualization can be considered its “killer feature.” Data can be visualized in multiple formats, hundreds of different graphs or tables, enabling decision-makers to quickly make balanced decisions and draw lessons without delving into the context of some issues.

 

Project #2

Another project can be called Netflix in the world of eLearning – a video, audio, and text content hosting and streaming service with elements of machine learning. 

 

This system supports education in anything for anyone anytime. AI​​/ML elements ensure that users always get the right offer during the course selection. The more people use the app, the better the system understands what to offer each user and how to do it compellingly.

 

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There are also tests that guarantee that a user taking a course has mastered the material for sure. The system monitors the learning progress of each person and prevents them from advancing if they failed a test or did not complete the required successive steps.

 

Onix’s team is completely integrated into Learning Pool’s development process and knows all ins and outs of these projects. In the past six months, we also have been increasingly involved in a third one.

 

Project #3

This US-based subsidiary of Learning Pool is a big eLearning course marketplace for enterprises. Users can purchase or, being authors, create various online courses, manage learners and groups, track their activities, communicate, run reports, receive payments, etc.

 

Numerous LMS developers have been working on this system for twenty years. Its logic and architecture are extremely complex, handling numerous user categories, languages, regions, content formats, video uploads, payment methods, etc., while the visual design is out-of-date. Still, the system is commercially successful, being a monopoly on the US market.

 

 

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Onix’s Contributions to Learning Pool’s Applications Development

Onix’s software engineers worked on these systems together with Learning Pool’s large internal team. Still, we can say that over two and a half years, a lot was implemented or improved with the help of our engineers.

 

When the client gives us a business model and goals, we think it all over together with their engineers during regular online meetings and bi-weekly retrospectives, help choose the best methods of implementing an idea, and finally build the right technical solution together.

 

The projects’ tech stack had been formed by market trends and tested and proven by time over the last 20 years. Legacy code thus posed a major difficulty.

 

Proposed solutions

Some of the improvements we have proposed and realized on the above projects include:

 

  • some aspects of the database organization
  • solving a payments-related problem in the Production of Project #2 improved the end-users’ experience
  • update to the Material UI on Project #2, which took 4,000 lines of code to make
  • using TypeScript on a large scale
  • optimization of queries that were not originally designed for the current number of users
  • phase-out of SCSS
  • rewriting outdated elements
  • fully covering the projects with tests

 

All suggestions were intended to improve time-efficiency, decrease the effort and cost of adding new functionalities, and facilitate the application scaling and delivering clean, high-quality code.

 

The team had to make changes using extreme caution. All projects within Stream Learning Suite are connected through various services and threads. An incorrect change in one might cause a bug in another that no one would be able to explain. We are proud to say that none of these types of mistakes were made. Moreover, the team has helped to speed development and task execution without compromising quality.

 

Project review and tidying up

Due to the numerous previous iterations and changes to the codebase, the team had to work on the prevention of potential memory leaks and optimize other project aspects. One specific task led to over 2GB of RAM being reclaimed, which involved updates to over 1,000 files.

 

One senior developer at Onix reviewed the entire Project #1 and fixed every leak. The task took two months to complete into production.

 

Another senior developer also structured the existing code of Project #2 and improved the format of code writing. 

 

Rewriting the query builder

The complete rewriting of the query builder on Project #1 required both major improvements to the UX and removing large amounts of technical debt. The task required an in-depth understanding of the functional requirements for all types of filters the builder creates.

 

Dashboard grid update

Numerous objects and visual elements of the dashboard were rearranged, and the entire code was rewritten to ensure the page’s flawless performance.

 

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Testing

Covering the projects Onix has worked on with unit tests is arguably our greatest achievement so far. The programmers have been writing unit tests and automatic tests since the beginning of the cooperation. Now we add tests to every pull request.

 

Something breaks every hour – even on the most time, effort, and money-consuming projects. With a 70% code coverage by unit tests, we can quickly find out what went wrong.  

 

Updated technologies

Since some of Learning Pool’s products entered the market 5 or even 20 years ago, the number of clients and end-users has grown dramatically. To keep delivering efficient solutions, prevent certain issues from occurring, and be prepared for the future, they needed technology changes. These had to be made carefully so as not to disrupt the customers’ business processes or the learners’ experiences, not to mention possibly damaging business relations or the company’s hard-earned reputation.

 

Here, Onix’s experts leveraged their skills in moving large projects onto new versions of the technology. They have updated virtually all technologies employed in the above projects:

 

  • Currently, we are working on migrating an entire project to the latest version of Node.js 14.
  • We are also supporting an old and complex product written on PHP 2.2, making improvements to some blocks. Complete migration to the latest PHP version may take 12 months or more.
  • Gradual migration of other product cores from PHP 5 to Laravel and PHP 8 took six months to perform.

 

We cooperate not only on web development projects but also in cross-platform and native mobile development, as well as creating bots and designs.

 

Technologies behind Learning Pool’s Projects

Generally, while working with Learning Pool, we have used nearly all the latest technologies that can be found in the market. 

 

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Namely, in the two major projects mentioned above, the following tech stacks were employed:

 

 

Front-end development:

Framework: React with TypeScript

 

Testing: Jest

 

Third-party libraries:

 

Back-end development:

Frameworks: Express, Laravel 5.8

 

Databases: MongoDB, MySQL

 

Production and development runtime tool: PM2

 

Caching tool: Redis

 

Testing: Mocha, Supertest

 

HTTP-server: Nginx

 

Container platform: Docker

 

Search engine: Elasticsearch

 

Third-party libraries:

 

Results and Prospects

Having worked with Learning Pool for over two years, we have become tightly integrated into their teams’ work. 

 

eLearning product development is truly a never-ending process. While the amount of work on two older projects may decrease soon, Project #3 will likely require more attention and resources.

 

The collaboration between the internal and offshore teams continues smoothly, team members understand each other clearly, discuss all proposals openly, and collectively make decisions. 

 

Learning Pool’s achievements during this period are impressive, including multiple awards and an unprecedented uptick in investments.

 

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Wrapping up

The popularity of eLearning keeps growing. High tuitions, busy schedules, lack of personalization in traditional educational institutions, the exponential growth of knowledge, increasing recognition of online certificates, and even the recent pandemic drive people towards online learning and training. Other factors contributing to its popularity include the proliferation of smartphones, growing computing power, and other developing technologies.

 

EdTech companies are on top, but ambitious projects call for innovation and expert execution. If eLearning app developers are unavailable locally or too expensive to hire, outstaffing or outsourcing projects to agencies like Onix may prove to be both wise and cost-effective.

 

Onix’s specialists have considerable experience building educational applications for the web, mobile devices, and even virtual reality. A couple of VR training simulators or a mobile eLearning app development case study on our website can give you an idea of the many projects we have realized.

 

From the cooperation with Learning Pool,  our developers have gained immense knowledge and experience working with Learning Management Systems, Learning Experience Platforms, and Learning Record Stores. Onix’s LRS and LMS developers have worked with nearly all technologies in the market, successfully transfer large systems onto new versions of programming languages, and can run large web applications, such as online courses, locally on smartphones.  

 

eLearning comes with huge optimization issues, and we are always ready to help. Please don’t hesitate to contact Onix if you need to optimize and facilitate the software development process or improve your product’s architecture.

 

Our company can provide more than dedicated software developers for eLearning industry. 

 

  • Onix’s designers can create excellent user experiences, interfaces, animations, and other visual content.

 

  • Our QA experts are experienced with test automation and performance testing essential for eLearning products.

 

  • AR and VR experts are ready to suggest ways to enrich your offering with innovative immersive learning experiences.

 

 

Do you need help with improving your eLearning experience? Are you ready to scale your business? Did you envision a new EdTech product for your company or the world? Onix is here to help! Maybe the next educational app development success story will be yours.

Written by:
Dmytro  Durach

Dmytro Durach

CEO at Onix-Systems

Development of top-notch web apps, startup launching, and effective product management.

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Mila  Slesar

Mila Slesar

Writer