Have you ever considered how much digitalization changed the course of utilizing the material for studying purposes? Reading books has been one of the major learning tools for years. Students worldwide would spend countless amounts of money to purchase the necessary materials to pursue their future careers. The situation has changed drastically since the demand for electronic versions has grown. Regardless of whether you are an avid reader or read for the sake of learning, the majority of people prefer e-books over the printed ones.
Today, students of one of the leading European educational institutions get an opportunity to learn utilizing a unique platform that enables them to have not only a digital copy of their textbooks but also audio. Moreover, they can proceed with listening to the given material from the exact same place where they stopped reading. Additionally, students can try to pass the tests based on the covered materials. Sounds great, doesn’t it? In the article we are showcasing the product in detail, analyze its key features and explain how the Agiliway development team contributed to it.
Key requirements and challenges of developing the e-books platform
The concept of creating a platform that doesn’t have lots of alternatives in the European educational sector seemed exciting and challenging at the same time. The initial task was to develop a solution that would be available for both Android and iOS, easy to maintain and user-friendly. At the same time, the system is rather complex with advanced functionality and a high-security level to avoid access to unauthorized users.
The scope of requested functionality comprised of the following:
- reading books on a smartphone and marking chapters that are already covered;
- listening to the audio version of the same materials, continue listening from the same place a user stopped reading and vice versa;
- completing a short test after each chapter. When a student answers a question and it’s not correct, the app gets them back to the topic, so that they can revise what they missed;
- passing a complex test to estimate a student’s level of knowledge.
To create a platform that covers all the requirements, the software development team analyzed all the technical aspects and produced the solution that utilizes technologies suitable for multiple operating systems as well as customized certain parts of the stack to cater to the needs of our client and the target users.
Approaches and technological stack for implementing the e-learning solution
Although the goal of developing the e-learning solution was to transform printed books into digital copies to simplify the educational process, it is crucial to think few steps ahead to remain on TOP of the niche. Not only text but also audio today is necessary since people usually prefer one of these more. Having options is what attracts users. But giving them more than they expect is what makes them fancy the product. Creating such a complex educational tool is aimed to succeed owing to meeting the expectations of a large audience.
Step 1. Reducing the size of the digital copies
As the textbooks provided to the development team were PDFs, these files were divided into each chapter as a separate piece. Next, the pieces were encoded utilizing Base64 which allows saving storage space and simplifies further use of these files. Since the platform is built with React Native, the React-pdf library was picked as a tool to decode the documents into the system.
The challenging part in this step was handling nonstandard texts in the books, like formulas, tables, or integrals. To solve this, a variety of animation libraries was used to ensure the accuracy of the information.
Step 2. Configuring files to enable further testing after covering the materials.
One of the unique features of the platform is an opportunity to test learner’s knowledge after covering a chapter or the whole textbook. For this purpose, the development team generated several types of tests based on thorough research and analysis of the existing testing types. When sitting a test and failing to answer a question, a user is switched back to the page where the answer is. This proved to be more effective than just showing the correct answer. This feature aims at enhancing the learning process and focusing on details.
Step 3. Resizing audio files and establish a connection between the cloud and the device.
The initial challenge was to resize audio files as these are stored in the cloud. Secondly, when a student decided on continuing working with the book through audio not reading, the application connects to the requested file in the cloud and runs the track. We customized React Native Track Player library to make it operate smoothly on both iOS and Android without any flaws. One of the key features is that a user can always proceed with listening to the audio right from where they finished reading and vice versa.
Implementation of the e-learning system for an educational institution carries some major gains for the organization itself as well as for its students. The initial goal was to make textbooks available on a smartphone and the option of audio along with it. This feature allows more opportunities to study when traveling to or from school, walking, etc. Secondly, it is more convenient to use an app than carry a book everywhere you go. Thirdly, you can listen when your eyes get tired or when you cannot read at all. This platform creates equal opportunities for people with different disabilities or ways of perception of information. It is common knowledge, that some people prefer listening to reading, and vice versa to process the information and learn it.
Another important aspect is the social contribution of the university to its staff. Teachers are given a special code that allows them a free download of the books
Current learning trends give impetus to organizations worldwide to work on multiple options where learners can choose whether they go for printed materials or their digital version. Growing demand for unique e-learning solutions leads to the development of outstanding products.
The use of the combination of reading, listening, and practicing materials enhances the studying process and boosts performances at classes and tests through complex training and user-friendly design.