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Introducing our campus

Over 24 months ago we had the crazy idea of building our own digital learning platform – from scratch! This idea became a reality earlier this year when we launched the campus. The campus, as it stands today, is not only powering AdvantageLearn.com but also a number of partner schools and organisations. We are extremely excited at the opportunity to provide the technology backbone of so many online learning solutions and providers across the country. This article takes a quick look at the journey up to this point and what it means for us going forwards.

Why the campus?

We have been developing and managing online learning solutions since 2014. Over this time, we have largely leveraged open-source technologies (Moodle, WordPress) to deliver our digital solutions. This was hugely helpful for a number of reasons:

  • Cost: Initially, we sought out third-party providers to support our digital learning needs as a start-up business. This pursuit was quickly shut down when the price tag was magnitudes of our annual revenue. Using an open-course framework mitigated this.
  • Skills/experience: We were very green in the technical development space. At the time, using open-source technology meant that there were plug-and-play solutions out there which we could quickly leverage to get from A-to-B. We used this as the backbone while we built our internal expertise.
  • Community: Open-source technologies generally have large communities which you can lean on for help and guidance.

The problem with open-source technology is that it comes with a lot of technical bloat and eventually a ceiling in terms of usefulness in your context. We knew we needed to make the call and invest in our own technical solution by the beginning of 2019. The primary reasons for this were:

  • Customisation: Our business needs had expanded and matured hugely from when we were just starting. We had already torn down open-source frameworks and rebuilt them in any way possible to fit our needs. It no longer made sense for us to continue along that path.
  • Scalability: We had to make heavy customisation to our solutions because they were not able to handle increasing users. We were also limited in terms of the optimisations we could make to the open-source technology.
  • Adaptability: The technology landscape changes rapidly year on year. One of the limitations of open-source technology is that they are often slow-moving. We wanted the ability to leverage the latest technologies and adapt to them quickly.

So, at the beginning of 2019, we started to journey towards developing our own digital learning solution – The Campus.

What is the campus?

The campus, first and foremost, is a learning management system (LMS). It is designed to deliver and manage digital learning both fully online and in a blended-learning medium. We deliver a number of different variations of an online course at Advantage Learn: annual courses, open-access courses, high-intensive managed courses, and blended-learning courses. The campus was designed to deliver all of these variations at the quality we expect.

Dynamic LMS

We had complete control over the LMS design which gave us the opportunity to meet the needs of our other partner schools and organisations. In doing this, we were also able to explore new possibilities with digital learning delivery. We quickly realised that there was potential that our new digital learning solution could not just power more than just AdvantageLearn.com. The campus could have many use cases if we built it in a dynamic way to support our partners and new solutions as well.

Neo Series

Advantage Learn ran a #educatedontcontaminate COVID campaign in 2020 that opened our Maths Online offering for free. This resulted in 20’000 sign-ups and wide usage. We realised a massive need for schools and teachers to be supported with their blended-learning implementation during this campaign. Following this, we realised an opportunity to deliver our Maths content into dedicated school campuses when the campus reached a mature phase of development. That is when the Neo Series was born.

Powering 30+ campuses

The campus is now powering over 30 campuses across schools and organisations in a variety of different use-cases.

Let’s get technical

Deciding to develop your own software is one thing, deciding what to build it with is a different ball game! Navigating all the new technologies, languages, frameworks and tools is a minefield. Luckily our lead engineer, Jason, is a wizard when it comes to bleeding-edge technologies. He was able to provide us with a guiding light as we made decisions on which technologies to use.

The reality is that in any modern software application, there are countless technologies used across the full stack of the end solution. The core ones we use in the campus are:

  • Laravel: A PHP based web application framework that provides the tools and foundation on which to build an app – https://laravel.com/
  • Vue JS: A modern JavaScript framework that provides the tools towards building fast and extendable user interfaces – https://vuejs.org/
  • Inertia JS: A helpful layer between server-side and client-side frameworks. This helps bring them together to deliver a powerful SPA (single page application) – https://inertiajs.com/

These were all new technologies to the team, so it required a lot of up-skilling(and fast!), all while we developed the solution. We continue to discover and adapt to new technologies as they evolve.

Looking forwards

Although we are celebrating the launch of the campus, we feel the journey has just begun. It is an ever-changing solution, with ongoing fixes, improvements and new features. There have already been drastic tweaks and changes in the first 4 months of being implemented and we hardly expect it to slow down. We strive to make it the most helpful solution for our partners with excellent feedback from our team and valued partners.

Is your school or organisation interested in finding out more about the campus? Contact us at info@advantagelearn.com and learn how we can assist your digital learning needs.

This article was originally published on 26 May 2021

About the author
Chris Muller

As Director of Innovation & Technology and lead developer on AdvantageLearn.com, I'm the guy who panics the most when things go wrong with our site! Luckily this doesn't happen too often and I can spend most of my time tweaking and improving both AdvantageLearn.com and your learning experience with us :)

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