SportsGate LearnOnLine Platform

Challenge
SportsGate is an ambitious innovator in the UK market of technology solutions for sports and education. Having foreseen the swift rise in the importance of the role technology will play in teaching sports, the company purchased the rights for LearnOnLine COMunnicate product from the Trades Union Congress who originally developed it for their facilities in 45 FE Colleges. After the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency mandated over 32,000 UK schools to deploy school-wide e-learning systems by the end of 2010, SportsGate aspired to turn the obsolete product, formally launched by the Secretary of State for Education, David Blunket, into a highly-successful modern commercial platform that would be used by a broad range of British educational institutions, independent sports associations and National Governing Bodies to teach sports to the XXI-century generation of the UK citizens. In line with its long-term goal to achieve the dominant position in this rapidly growing market, the board has voted for the full reengineering of the former system. The new product would have modern functionality allowing for the effective user engagement, customized educational courses set-up and management, role-based security, mobile support, social networking, targeted promotions, educational progress tracking, metrics analysis and control. Additionally, if would allow for seamless integration with the legacy systems already used by many colleges, sports associations and their technology partners. The company contracted ESI to perform the continuous iterative development of the next generation of its flagship LearnOnLine platform.

Result
ESI provided SportsGate with cost-effective high-end outsourcing services that enabled the company to pursue its ambitious goal of winning the UK market with a rich multi-purpose scalable e-learning product. Rapidly evolving from its beta-stage, the LearnOnLine platform has recently started gaining momentum as SportsGate began coming out of stealth mode by attracting visible clients among major UK colleges and sports associations. Piloted by Wye Valley College and Blackpool Collegiate, the system received high reviews for the measurable increase of course completion rates, student engagement, course satisfaction and exam performance. Very soon SportsGate built an incredible pipeline of customers, including such visible organizations as Irish Football Association, British Gymnastics, UK Sport, UK Amateur Rowing Association, England Basketball, Royal Life Saving Society, Rugby Football Union, and many others. Partially due to the high attention ESI engineers gave to the interoperability aspects of the product, SportsGate easily partnered with First Sports International, WorldPay and FixturesLive to further broaden system capabilities catering to an even wider range of clients needs. Currently the company is working on a bold 10-year strategy of reaching to all UK schools, sports associations, and National Governing Bodies.

Action
As with any consumer-facing product targeted at the youth segment, the key to market success were rapid iterations in response to the feedback gathered from end-users. SportsGate closely interacted not only with the school students but also with their professors, coaches, parents, school superintendants, and as much as 11 National Governing Bodies. Additionally, a tight cooperation with several technology partners was important to ensure seamless integration of the new product with the existing systems used by several colleges and sports associations. To consistently meet the frequently changing product requirements, ESI set up the development process in a highly iterative manner using a combination of AGILE (Scrum) and XP (eXtreme programming) project management methodologies. In particular, ESI

  • Assigned a dedicated project manager who coordinated gathering product requirements, wrote the technical specifications, oversaw the development, directed third-party system integration and Quality Assurance.
  • Picked up an engineering team with the right skill-set from its existing pool of IT professionals with 5-10 years of experience in Consumer Internet space, backend architecture, and database design.
  • Created clear project management processes based on a mix of Agile (Scrum) and XP (eXtreme programming) methodologies adapted for the project dynamic nature.
  • Maintained regular voice communication with client-side senior executives and business development professionals.
  • Kept the client constantly informed about the emerging project threats and risks. Provided regular progress tracking, project status updates, and dependency assessments.
  • Established a centralized repository for change request management to make sure every client request, as well as every bug found by the Quality Assurance team, were taken care of in order of its priority with regard to the available time and resources.
  • Organized continuous Quality Assurance of incremental improvements to ensure that the system modifications and extensions were properly tested and were released according to the desired schedule.

Product Highlights

  • Rich instruments for online course set-up, configuration, management, impact tracking, and performance analysis, which could be adapted to the custom needs of a broad variety of educational institutions and sports associations.
  • Secure role-based multi-layered access control.
  • Possibility to manage complex organizational hierarchies of students, classes, faculty, and administrators, sharing membership in multiple groups and in a variety of roles.
  • Easy-to-use wizards for seamless creation of new courses using existing educational materials.
  • Possibility to monitor individual course progression and to produce targeted recommendations for improvement.
  • Customizable Records of Achievement for further participation encouragement.
  • Sophisticated Content Management Engine.
  • Workshop Monitoring tools for collection of demographic information and assessment of workshop usefulness and impact on participants.
  • Competition Management Toolkit allowing designated users to set, conduct, track and analyze a variety of internal and intercollegiate sports events.
  • Opinion Polling Engine for custom market analysis activities, competition tracking, and events performance measurement.
  • Personal calendars with the possibility for targeted broadcasting of important appointments and events.
  • Private and shared diaries and notebooks.
  • Consumer behavior monitoring and analysis.
  • Controlled online chat, internal e-mail, and SMS messaging.
  • Mobile access via major handheld devices.
  • Secure conference sessions and virtual classrooms.
  • Role-based SMS support for secure authentication, event notification, and purchase confirmation.
  • Credit Purchase Integration toolkit enabling small sports associations and colleges to easily and securely accept payments for their memorabilia, products and services through Internet or mobile phone without the necessity of establishing a separate merchant account.
  • Evidenced learning compliance for organizations to provide audit trails and evidence that users fully read and understood certain information before they engaged in the proposed activities.
Technologies and Tools Used
- Microsoft ASP.NET 2.0, C#; AJAX-based User Interface; JavaScript, HTML, CSS
- Microsoft SQL Server 2000
- Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 SP1; DotNetNuke™ Open Source Web Application Framework
- Borland Starteam; Microsoft Project
"Since 2001, we have had the pleasure of working with Effective Solutions following problems with UK based software builders and experiencing the work of many other software companies. Since then we have received unparalleled support and dedication to work that we have not experienced elsewhere. We are pleased to confirm that Effective Solutions has carried out build work reliable and effectively. Their attention to resolving problems that any software build experiences has been excellent and in each case the finished software has been remarkably stable and efficient in production operation. Their work rates have allowed us to build products that were unaffordable elsewhere."
Vanessa Garstin
SportsGate Limited, Director
"Over many different projects with Effective Solutions, we have not experienced any problem with time or cost overrun that has been so common elsewhere. Where we requested it, project management and progress monitoring systems, and de-bugging processes were carried out efficiently. We have no hesitation in recommending Effective Solutions whose breadth of skill base with various code formats is beyond any we have experienced elsewhere."
Vanessa Garstin
SportsGate Limited, Director