Challenge

Infinitas operating companies create an impressive array of educational resources that are used in homes, primary schools, secondary schools, further education colleges, industrial and military institutions globally. Their products span interactive software, online learning, e-books, audio books and printed text books, many of which are market leaders in their field.

Infinitas Learning had identified the need for digital transformation within its services and products and contracted DCSL GuideSmiths as their software development partner.

Solution

As part of a large-scale team augmentation project, DCSL GuideSmiths supplemented Infinitas Learning’s in-house teams with skilled individuals to deliver three key business applications:

Content distribution platform

As part of this transformation, they looked to centralise all learning material provided by their operating companies within a unique and bespoke content distribution platform. DisCo (Distribution of Content) is the platform driving these transformational activities. DisCo aims to be the core platform for learning material through which all Infinitas Learning’s portfolio products, generated by content editors can be managed and distributed to customers. These customers are the teachers and students who are going to access and interact with learning content such as books, exercises, courses, etc.

As in most software development situations, the DisCo platform faces an input – output problem: the learning material that DisCo has to deal with are what we refer to as packages and they come in a DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture) xml format. Those packages are the ones that the DisCo platform is in charge of digesting, translating and exposing in a modern (JSONish) way. The solution provided by DisCo is microservices based in order to foster the encapsulation of responsibilities and give each piece of the platform architecture a well defined goal like:

  • Content translation
  • Content provision
  • Digestion monitoring etc.

The challenges solved by DisCo are:

  • Xml to Json translation, using an in house version of the portable text approach
  • Content storing, splitting up the content into minimal, rearrangeable entities called particles stored across relational and non relational DBs
  • Content querying and retrieving, taking advantage of search engines capabilities, etc.

The process used during the development of the solution is an agile one, the client is always in close contact with DCSL GuideSmiths and the team are always able to quickly change direction and redirect the aim according to the client’s needs.

DisCo is still an ongoing project but most of its capabilities are already in place. The client has been provided with a solid and robust content management and delivery platform that is heavily monitored both on the performance and on the business side in order to let them manage it as much as possible.

We went from releasing every few months to multiple releases per day. I would recommend DCSL GuideSmiths to any prospective client.

Clifton Cunningham, CTO, Infinitas Learning

eCommerce platform

As part of their digital transformation plans, Infinitas Learning had identified the need to develop a new eCommerce platform in order to offer their products online; one eShop for every one of its business units. Due to the digital transformation process where Infinitas Learning is involved, the goal of this project is also establishing a template to set up all of these new eCommerce platforms with as much as possible reusable code and resources, in the shortest possible time. Technically, the goal is setting up a common back office, and a customisable eCommerce web. The end users are teachers and students that are going to purchase learning content such as books, exercises, courses, etc.

Infinitas Learning - eCommerce platform
Infinitas Learning - eCommerce platform

The solution can be split into two topics, frontend and backend. The frontend consists of a web application supported by a CMS. In order to improve the SEO features, the web app uses Server Side Rendering. The backend is composed by several services responsible for feeding the frontend with data and integrating with different third parties:

  • Contentful – This is the CMS used to manage the dynamic content
  • Swell – This third party covers all the eCommerce functionalities
  • Klopotek – This is a client third party that provides the eShop the products catalog in xml format. This data is consumed everynight in order to update the eShop databases
  • Azure Search Engine – The search features are based on this resource, which is also used to generate suggestions or support the autocomplete functionalities

The client has an eCommerce platform already working on production and is close to having a common pool of resources and code used to set up new eShops on the rest of its business units in a short term and with optimised costs.

eLearning platform

Infinitas Learning also needed to develop an eLearning platform for Noordhoff, one of their operating companies, in order to expand their business from a traditional educational system to a digital one. This platform was intended for higher education students and teachers.

Infinitas Learning - eLearning platform
Infinitas Learning - eLearning platform

The DCSL GuideSmiths team used agile methodologies and worked everyday with the client providing feedback and expertise in every step of the project, working with cutting-edge technology to provide a scalable and performant solution. The team created a microservice architecture to divide the business logic in different services in order to provide better performance, scalability and self organised teams.

The website is now live and available for three schools and more than 200 students, and is integrated with Infinitas Learning’s payment system of choice.