Client: Zuyd University of Applied Sciences
Zuyd Hogeschool is a university located in three cities in South Limburg. Employees at Zuyd work on three core tasks: training fourteen thousand future professionals in more than forty bachelor and master programmes, developing training courses and training for professionals, and conducting research on behalf of companies and institutions.
In order to better facilitate students, teachers and employees, Zuyd Hogeschool began to develop a new digital learning and working environment (DLWE) in 2012. In this environment, Zuyd wants to be able to access the various applications using a uniform procedure, so that users have direct access to their content and applications. Convenience is very important here, for example by using ‘single sign on (SSO)’. The user only needs to log in once to access all the applications. However, it is also important to think about being able to use the application on different devices. Finalist was asked to collaborate with Zuyd Hogeschool to fulfil the brief; from target group analysis, software architecture to realization.
We started with a target group analysis, to fully understand the user needs. We then started work on the architecture, mapping out the application landscape and drawing up a standard for the applications that would be part of the DLWE. In addition, a number of basic principles were established, such as the adoption of the Open Education Data API and integration with SurfCONEXT. Based on a number of sessions, we arrived at a widely supported target architecture document. This document outlined the architecture, preconditions, principles, and was to serve as the basis for the realization phase.
The architecture consists of 3 layers. The first layer contains all source systems, such as OSIRIS, Planon and Blackboard. These systems are accessed via the second layer, following the open standards. This intermediate or integration layer translates specific services to standard apis, including the Open Education Data API. The third layer then unlocks the applications for the user. For this, we deployed Hippo CMS. Hippo is also used as a content repository for the university and offers excellent editorial possibilities. The described architecture also allows access through other technologies, such as iOS, Android or Windows app.
All steps from design to implementation were carried out in a close partnership of cooperation. Finalist's vast sector knowledge in the field of education made it possible to switch quickly. Due to the Agile development methodology, throughout the development process, the coordination between Finalist and Zuyd Hogeschool was fine-tuned with regard to the functionality being developed. Finalist enjoys working very closely with clients, which is what happened in this case. Our close collaboration helped us to arrive at the essence more quickly, gain support and make it clear where the added value could be found. We deployed Agile for the realization of the project, so we were able to make best use of the knowledge that was available within both Finalist and Zuyd.
A lot was achieved in a short time. A technically advanced application has been implemented, offering a lot of relevant functionality to all users of the DLWE. Various target groups are already using the system. They are presented with relevant content and customized applications. The editors can use the Hippo CMS to focus content on specific groups, and the user can indicate his/her interests. Moreover, the user can organize their own home page, so the most relevant information is always clearly presented. For example, students can go to their home page and immediately view their calendar, their latest grades and specific announcements, whereas a teacher may prefer to see an overview of tests that still need to be checked.