Digital Frontiers Institute’s (DFI’s) vision is to bridge human capacity gaps in developing markets by allowing students the opportunity to acquire the foundational knowledge and understanding of digital financial services.
DFI is a non profit online training academy based in South Africa and has, since its inception in 2015, trained students from more than 1000 organisations from over 107 countries world-wide.
In 2017 DFI already had a functional learning management system (LMS) for its online teaching and learning but with disparate administration systems. No integration existed between the student administration or information system (SIS) and Campus (the LMS) and they were struggling with scalability and the reliability of their systems. From a student’s perspective, processes were cumbersome and communication and analytical reports to assist students falling behind were difficult to act on.
OPENCOLLAB was tasked with the improvement of DFI’s student administration system and to devise a seamless Campus teaching and learning experience for the administrators, lecturers and students.
A customised version of OPENCOLLAB’s ajourney.opencollab – one system that provides clients with a unified experience focussed on a great student journey for typical administrative and learning tasks – were found to be the best fit for DFI’s requirements. OPENCOLLAB’s proposal seemed attractive due to their experience with open source technology stacks, their adaptive and agile approach to projects as well as their portfolio of clients in the post-secondary institutions such as the North-West University, Unisa, Wits and many others since 1999. The customised open source learn.opencollab part of ajourney.opencollab was a great fit for DFI’s pedagogical requirements.
From the requirements analysis session up to the implementation of Phase 1 of ajourney.opencollab took only five months. Phase 2 followed shortly after and entailed customisations to the enrol.opencollab (SIS) part of the solution to also include corporate agreements and scholarships, amongst other functionalities.
DFI students reside in remote and rural areas all over the world and need to be able to download learning content to engage with it in an offline mode. Phase 3 (already commenced) is the development and implementation of Campus offline to address these core issues.
According to Mr Paul Hobden, Chief Operating Officer of DFI, the biggest advantages of implementing ajourney.opencollab are that all administrative and learning processes are now more integrated and efficient, they have the ability to scale better and the institution is in a much better position to meet customers’ needs: An excellent student experience in one single solution.
From an administrator’s and lecturer’s perspective, it is much easier to set up curriculums, facilitate online payments, roll out courses to Campus and engage in personalised coaching and mentoring with students. Custom integrations with Xero for accounting purposes and Tableau for data analysis has automated many previously tedious processes and allows for better gauging of student and financial performances and reporting in general.
The main challenge throughout the project thus far has been the tight timelines, adding a lot of pressure on the development team, but due to excellent project management and communication about what was feasible to deliver and the OPENCOLLAB team’s dedication to get to the bottom of issues; DFI only have accolades for the team!
In hindsight DFI realises that there are plugins in the open source solution that they would have selected differently or customised less, but that’s perfect sight which no-one ever has when embarking on a project of such a scale.
Phase 4 will entail the addition of more administrative functionalities, the upgrading and automation of student communication and to add some sophistication with regards to the data available for reporting purposes.
OPENCOLLAB wishes to thank Mr Paul Hobden, Chief Operating Officer from DFI for his contribution in writing this case study.