Overview

Our project focuses on improving the online learning experience by blasting down barriers to entry and creating a marketplace where developers and content creators can find new audiences for their work, and where teachers and professors can discover innovative solutions to make online learning valuable for their students.

The key to all of the magic is our Ayon Learning Platform. The platform gives developers and content creators a single API that lets them deliver content and seamlessly connect with any supported LMS, all protected by high-level security systems. This simplifies development while simultaneously reducing support costs. It also makes marketing simpler through the Ayon Marketplace where teachers, professors, and corporate trainers can find ready-to-use solutions for their teaching challenges.

Ayon's "fremium" model means that teachers and professors can experiment with new tools and approaches without worrying about wasting precious funding.

Through the Each1:Teach1 learning tool, powered by the Ayon Platform, teachers can build banks of "how would you teach this concept" questions (or any kind of question they want), schedule and collect assignments, and then distribute the answers among their students for an anonymous review. It's a digital version of "trading papers with the person next to you," but our system helps students focus on the content by completely eliminating the social pressures of knowing that you're grading the person sitting next to you.

With our system, students learn the material and then prove that they know it at a new level by explaining how they would teach it. Likewise, student reviewers demonstrate their understanding of the material by providing notes and critiques. Teachers get additional data points to measure their students. As the teacher scores assignments, the data securely flows from the Ayon module into the schools LMS, saving time and improving accuracy.

Team Members

Pro Squad (development side)

Abdullah Salau (DePauw) focused on the peer review pairing system.

Andrew Gan (Purdue West Lafayette) built the key database structure and assignment systems.

Jaelyn Rogers (Ivy Tech) set up the student profile interface.

Go Squad (business side)

Kaitlin Walper (Butler) led the research work, built the business environment report, and partnered on the business model canvas.

John Kaufeld (Purdue Fort Wayne) built the customer personas and value proposition design, and partnered on the business model canvas. He also served as the team's project manager.

How did you decide on this customer segment, problem, and solution?

The idea grew out of interviews we did with fellow college students and teachers at the high school and college level about their online education experience. We also spoke with software developers to understand the issues they face when trying to reach new markets for their tools, as well as advisors involved with launching new businesses so we could learn about the mindset of investors and how large-scale business plans work.

From our educational sources, we repeatedly heard about frustrations with software compatibility and connections. One system can't talk to another. This data wasn't compatible with this or that learning management system (LMS). Manual data entry takes too much time and can introduce errors which teachers have to go back and correct.

Teachers and students also told us about the challenges of keeping students engaged in the online classroom environment. How do you easily pair students to discuss a concept or review a writing assignment when you and everyone else are scattered across miles of terrain, camped in front of their own computers?

In short, we discovered a market bursting with opportunity.

We started by focusing on the issues of engagement, and then pulled the camera back a bit to look at the larger problem of innovation and connection throughout the online learning market.

And that's when magic happened...

How did your team build and iterate on the solution?

We started with the idea of an application that would let teachers display student progress on a video game-like "experience bar." Teachers complained that it was very hard to implement this through most learning management systems (LMS), so we envisioned an application that would sit on top of an LMS and make the display easier.

That led to more brainstorming about what else we could do if we tapped into an LMS, which ultimately led us to the Each1:Teach1 learning application.

As the development team put those solutions together, the business team continued creating the customer personas, value propositions, and (most importantly) the business model canvas. The team hit a block on how to turn our idea into a feasible enterprise, but discussions with the development team about issues they faced led to the breakthrough concept of growing our idea into a complete learning platform which we dubbed Ayon.

Key Tools, Libraries, and Frameworks

The project was envisioned to be a cross-platform application that works on both mobile and the web. The tool of choice was Flutter, a cross-platform application development framework developed by Google. The front end visual design and navigation between pages were handled by Flutter, while the back end server operations were handled by DreamFactory. All data are stored on a remote SQLite database, and all HTTP requests from the client app to the server are handled by the REST API, which requires an API key and a generated session token for the user to be authenticated, providing users the peace of mind that their data is at very low risk of exposure.

Different accounts also have different levels of privileges. This information is stored in a table within the database and ensures that students do not get to grade assignments while teachers do not have access to information from other courses.

The Android Device Manager was used as an emulator to perform tests before finally running the app on an actual device.

Key Metrics

  • 12 subject matter experts interviewed
  • 12 full-team meetings
  • 50+ research articles read
  • 2 application development platforms learned
  • many pizza and ice cream preferences discussed (no votes taken)

If you had another 5 weeks to work on this, what would you do next?

Our next step would involve turning Ayon into a reality by starting the learning system API for software tools like Each1:Teach1. If we had another five weeks after that (and some real funding), we'd start developing the LMS API that would communicate scores on the back end.

There are still plenty of features documented here which are categorized under 'future'. These include the ability for students to discuss an assignment or lecture video on a discussion board.

We see a lot of opportunity and value in our Ayon Platform and Each1:Teach1 tool, and we'd love to see it become real. So if you know any angel investors out there, give them our numbers. We'll talk.

Checklist of completed items

  • Abstract
  • Project Video uploaded to YouTube and linked to Devpost
  • Slide deck PDF
  • Environmental Analysis PDF
  • Business Model Canvas PDF and PNG (gallery)
  • Customer Personas PDF and PNG (gallery)
  • Value Proposition PDF and PNG (gallery)
  • All PDFs zipped and submitted on time

Challenges we ran into

On the technical side, the team started off with little to no experience with app development, therefore the tools had to be picked up on the go. A few tools that were initially decided upon such as xmysql REST generator lacked the ability to provide user authentication and a new tool had to be used for hosting the API. Parsing the json string from the http request was confusing at first because DreamFactory has its own format.

On the business development side, the team brainstormed a lot of ideas, but felt frustrated because nothing seemed to either fit the S.O.S. Challenge time frame or the revenue needs of a real business. Once we settled on the concept that became Each1:Teach1, progress leapt ahead. Shortly after that, we caught the vision for solving the larger connection problems and creating significant revenue options by shifting our focus to a platform that would host multiple learning solutions. That became the vision for the Ayon Learning Platform, the home of our flagship product, the Each1:Teach1 learning tool.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

  • Hearing a teacher say, "That's exactly what I want!" when they saw our product concept.
  • Designing a working app with tools we never used before in only 4 weeks. (Woah!)
  • Moving the database from local storage to a remote sqlite server without many issues.
  • Coming up with a concept big enough to solve real-life problems and exciting enough to impress real investors.

What we learned

  • Building a cohesive team is hard to do when you can't gather around a pizza and get to know each other.
  • Your teammates can't read your mind. If you don't say something out loud or put it in writing, then nobody else on the team knows.
  • Communication, coordination, and agreement between the technical and marketing teams is crucial to product development.
  • It's possible to rapidly develop a working product with clear objectives, right tools and good coordination.
  • And did we mention the importance of communication? Yeah, it's a thing. A big thing.
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