Transforming the technology behind education: Polymorph’s concept design for Open Learning Technology takes vision to reality

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Client

Open Learning Technology

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Industry

Education

The situation

Two of Kagiso Capital’s portfolio companies, Open Learning Technology (OLTech) and Polymorph join forces towards transforming the education of tomorrow

Open Learning Technology (OLTech), a subsidiary of Kagiso Capital, delivers technology as a powerful tool to supplement and enhance education. Kagiso Capital is an investment holding company that drives a diversification strategy through meaningful investment in innovative and growing businesses that are committed to economic transformation. OLTech currently works with private and public higher education institutions to enable teaching and learning, student administration and logistical support while ensuring that their clients adhere to the Department of Higher Education and Training’s (DHET) requirements and regulations. OLTech is currently collaborating with Polymorph, a subsidiary of Alphawave of whom Kagiso Capital is a major shareholder. They were assigned to upgrade their application framework and to evaluate the potential risks to their system in order to ensure longevity, flexibility and scalability.

OLTech developed a student administration system called eVision that provides administrative and logistical support to higher education institutions in respect of student acquisitions, student enrolment, distribution of study material, assessment and assessment management, certification, as well as ongoing student engagement and support. Recently, Polymorph was approached by Kagiso Capital, and introduced to Rian Breed, the CEO of OLTech, to deliver a concept design to upgrade and realign eVision with the needs of their current user base and primary stakeholders.

eVision was initially designed and built to serve large universities in South Africa. However, over the past 2 decades, their user base transformed and now comprises smaller institutions offering accredited courses, certificates, diplomas and other qualifications, and are registered with the DHET. This change in market focus meant the platform had to be adapted to meet the needs of a different user base. The software technology used to build the eVision platform also had become outdated and the user interface required a redesign.

The solution

eVision is a sophisticated, web-based system that facilitates student lifecycle management and storage of all students’ administrative and academic data and records. It caters to any educational programme, can integrate with third-party systems such as Moodle LMS, and is used by both large and small institutions.

Polymorph started a 6-week process to develop the concept design, taking into account the technological, functional, and aesthetic form of the end product. Two key outcomes were required: a product strategy and a plan on how to make it happen. This entailed a consideration of OLTech’s competitive positioning within their target market and product design that addresses the needs within this niche.

They worked in close collaboration with the team at OLTech. Polymorph’s UX team conducted user research, interviewed individuals and tested how they interacted with the existing eVision platform. Through these processes, they were able to determine what worked and what were the key frustrations resulting in a thorough understanding of the underserved needs of the target users.

It was critical to understand the new market and where eVision fits into the overall educational software market. This necessitated situating eVision as a student information system (SIS) rather than a learning management system (LMS) as it serves a very specific target customer namely, DHET-registered institutions that provide accredited qualifications. A further underserved need, which the concept design aimed to address, was annual regulatory compliance, more specifically, compliance without compromising on operational efficiency.

“The problem is if you spend too much time on compliance administration, you won’t have time to provide quality education. Consequently, the need of this target market is that they need to comply, but they need to do it as efficiently as possible, and not waste time on it”, explains Lize Monametsi, Chief Executive Officer of Polymorph Systems.

During the concept design, Polymorph had to conduct an independent review of the market opportunity and considered factors such as the market in which OLTech currently operates as well as the market they want to enter. They further considered various aspects around UX and the underlying technologies that will be capable of being rapidly deployed.

Concept design deliverables

Conclusion

Polymorph delivered a concept design that clearly showed the viability of the end product by taking into account customer needs, required UX, technical feasibility, and costs. The concept design emphasised a solution strategy linked to measurable organisational objectives; thorough research into OLTech’s existing infrastructure and target market to validate the solution strategy; the required software architecture design; and implementing the plan including the team, timeline, and cost estimate to deliver the concept with the software architecture. The concept design further included a step-by-step product design roadmap that aims to assist OLTech to navigate the entire process and take their product from conception to market and transform their vision into a reality. The CEOs of the respective companies presented these findings to Kagiso Capital in support of their successful funding request.

“Taking on a project of this magnitude, especially when looking at managing short-term risks and growing market share at the same time, can be challenging. We could not have picked a better partner than Polymorph for this journey. Polymorph produced a concept design plan that was clear and focused on how OLTech should realign their development strategy for best business growth. They are currently working on the next phase of the project after the funding was approved based on the concept plan and we are not only excited to see what they come up with but also looking forward to collaborating with them closely on future projects”, says Rian Breed, Chief Executive Officer of OLTech.

Going forward

After evaluating the concept design and proposed plan to build the new student information system and take it to market, the board decided to move to the development phase. This will include developing a high-level reporting suite using intelligent dashboards and offering an agile solution that can adapt to expand into the market. Ultimately, OLTech aims to differentiate itself by providing a system that can be tailored to address clients’ specific needs and by offering best of breed after sales service. Polymorph is currently working on and planning to release in the first quarter of 2022.

“Taking on a project of this magnitude, especially when looking at managing short-term risks and growing market share at the same time, can be challenging. We could not have picked a better partner than Polymorph for this journey.”

Rian Breed, Chief Executive Officer of OLTech

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