Magazine / Agile Software Factory Dec 16, 2021 11:15:00 AM

Digital Learning and application development: the challenges of universities in 2021

The latest Covid-19 emergency accelerated the technological transformation of universities, making it crucial to adopt ways of Digital Learning. For universities, the matter meant to completely redesign the organization of teaching, introducing new ways of accessing training and digital tools for a quality student experience.

Applications are the center of the university revolution because they allow the development of Digital Learning innovatively: the key is to go beyond the concept of distance learning – i.e. simple lessons to be attended remotely, live-streamed or on-demand – and to create different study and learning experiences, based on new collaboration tools and enriched with features helping teachers and contributing to the engagement of students.


Redesigning the new normal through applications

The explosion of the pandemic has triggered a race for universities towards the rapid implementation of solutions for Digital Learning, and stimulating the adoption of cloud solutions to buffer the emergency. Now the challenge for 2021 will be to consolidate the technological assets acquired through coherent strategies. aimed at the new university normality, which provides for the combination of face-to-face and online teaching.

The ability to develop tailor-made digital learning applications is essential in order to accelerate the implementation of effective projects, in line with both the strategic plans of universities and the real needs of users (students, but also the teaching staff and university staff).

The support of specialized partners, highly skilled in the latest application development techniques – from cloud-native architectures to Agile methodologies – is essential to get and maximize the success of software development initiatives in the university environment. By working closely with the various departments of institutes, external professionals can provide the University with an Agile Software Factory, which organizes and manages application projects over short, medium and long-term time horizons.


Implementing effective digital learning

Simplifying the definition provided by the HR Innovation Practice Observatory of the Politecnico di Milano, the term "Digital Learning" indicates an integrated platform of channels and tools such as video courses, webinars, social media, mobile apps, online tutors, collaboration technologies and so on. Those allow personalized and more effective training courses.

In short, it is a multichannel educational offer that facilitates teaching and learning experiences: professors can count on a series of technologies to share content, interact with students and carry out teaching activities more efficiently and effectively. Students can use their learning materials in the most convenient ways and times, maximizing results.

In 2021, the challenge for universities is to consolidate digital learning platforms, integrating applications already implemented and enriching the package with new features. The aim is to offer technical support to new training needs, and enable the management of flexible teaching so that institutes can adapt quickly to future directives against the pandemic.


The Agile approach within universities

Speed is the keyword guiding the development of applications in support of Digital Learning. In this perspective, Agile methodologies represent the way to targeting winning projects, to accelerate software lifecycle management and to align applications to user needs, with a primary focus on experience.

The Agile framework prescribes an iterative and incremental approach. The development process is organized in short and repetitive sprint cycles. Each sprint has as its objective a small improvement of the software (increase), which is immediately released and used by users. In the event of an error or inefficiency, users can promptly notify the developers, who will intervene accordingly. We then proceed in the sequence of sprints, arriving, increment after increment, at the definitive release of the software, according to the feedback received.

Within the Digital Learning scenario, the agile approach therefore serves the possibility of meeting the demands of fast delivery, ensuring the development of applications that meet the real needs of users, adapting to the university context and the potential evolution of the pandemic.


Simplify the development of digital learning apps

The Agile framework requires specific skills for methodologies and supporting tools, which are often lacking within universities. Furthermore, designing technologies for Digital Learning means having a broad knowledge on the latest frontiers of application development and on new IT management models. The use of the cloud is inevitable and so is the use of cloud-native techniques for software development, to ensure the optimization and interoperability of applications in heterogeneous environments.

This is why making use of experienced professionals on Agile issues and new approaches to development can be a valid decision. A partner can take charge of all application projects, independently managing the entire pipeline and working towards objectives with different time perspectives, as needed. It provides an Agile Software Factory, equipped with all the technological and methodological skills for the implementation of even very complex projects, in compliance with the times and according to agile logic. Strategic alignment with universities' requests is guaranteed by the synergistic approach with Information Systems and other university departments.

It will thus be possible to develop integrated Digital Learning strategies and technologies, ensuring the achievement of objectives: a practical teaching organization for teachers, engaging for students and flexible for the unexpected.

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