Engageli is led by a team of experienced educators, entrepreneurs, and technologists working to transform higher education by giving educators and learners an accessible and flexible platform that supports in-person, remote, and hybrid learning in real-time or asynchronously.
In this three-part series looking at the various facets of Engageli, we want to look at how the company brings together the best in education, engineering, and entrepreneurship to maintain and grow a cutting-edge learning platform that is disrupting the higher education space.
The edtech ecosystem is fragmented and cluttered, with StartEd estimating there are 9,000 edtech companies in North America and 38,000 around the world. A teacher or institution developing an online teaching strategy may cobble together a solution that involves 15-20 different tools to cover their needs for collaborative learning; MOOCs & asynchronous learning; recording, authoring & content management; polls, quiz & class response systems; and exams, proctoring and grading. Problems can arise when a particular service is down, or when these various components don’t integrate well.
In part two of this series, we take a look at the engineering behind Engageli, and how its unique architecture creates an inclusive learning environment, leverages technical innovation to support accessibility, flexibility, and security, as well as how the development team responds to educator needs.
Most edtech solutions repurpose elements of other software such as simple functions, objects, or more complex modules and libraries to help avoid “reinventing the wheel” and to speed up development cycles, it can also lead to issues maintaining and updating software as well as security vulnerabilities.
Larger software platforms may opt to simply add new features such as chat or file sharing via an existing plugin or API integration as a quick way of scaling functionality. But this can lead to a situation where a platform is dependent on numerous other entities to maintain its code and ensure it doesn’t “break” other functionality.
Engageli is different from its peers, in that the Engageli codebase is purpose-built from the ground up and all of the aforementioned features are contained in a single environment. This makes it easy for instructors to access whichever features they need in one platform, without having to integrate numerous tools, lightening their cognitive load.
Since there are no third-party APIs or integrations in the background, there is no exposure to potentially malicious third-party code. Similarly, all data is stored on secure, offsite, Engageli-owned cloud infrastructure data centers that are SOC 2/3 compliant and monitored 24/7.
Everyone is familiar with the “zoom bombing” of early 2020, where random people were able to crash unsecured zoom meetings. Access to an Engageli classroom is through a secure, difficult-to-decipher link, preventing trolls from randomly popping into a classroom to disrupt. Learners can only join a class if they are registered by their institution or instructor or specifically invited to the class. Additionally, classroom links can easily be added to the learning management system, simplifying the experience for learners, and further securing access to the classroom to those authenticated by the LMS.
During a synchronous or asynchronous class, all data is transmitted over secure HTTPS using TLS 1.2 and encrypted using 256-bit AES for maximum protection. By default, learner videos are not recorded and learners can post and answer questions anonymously if they choose. strict, system-wide permission controls ensure that data access is restricted and limited to authorized individuals only.
A major innovation powering Engageli is the use of Web RTC (real-time communication) to replicate the in-person experience. Very few companies use this protocol as its implementation and maintenance is technically challenging and requires addressing many external bugs and network issues such as memory leaks in Google Chrome.
The platform is also optimized so that even learners connecting with low bandwidth don’t experience any technical degradation, and can view video feeds and any shared video resources. As our CEO and Co-founder, Dan Avida, recently demonstrated during our Engage 2022 summit when he shared a video of a motocross biker, even older machines can handle demanding video without drops in framerate. With the clips player, content is streamed directly from the source to the learners with the controls (play, pause, audio) controlled by the instructor.
In order to foster the sharing of ideas, our development team uses a flat structure where everyone is empowered to propose new features and changes that are then reviewed and assessed on their merits. However, the pipeline isn’t simply feature-driven, it’s learning-driven. While the entire Engageli team works closely with our partners to ensure they are making the most of the platform and that it’s providing the tools they need, it’s not simply a matter of an instructor saying, “I’m used to X so I want X in Engageli,” and the team creating that feature. All features are evaluated through a learning and teaching lens as well, to ensure they would have a positive impact on learner outcomes and make sense from a pedagogical standpoint.
A good example is the introduction of new functionality in v2.1 to foster peer-to-peer learning and community building. In Engageli, a classroom consists of virtual tables holding up to 10 learners each. In the latest release, instructors can group multiple tables together into learning groups or class sections, each with a TA or lead to guide larger-scale collaboration or specialized instruction. As with all Engageli class arrangements, learners are always part of the larger classroom and are always able to hear and communicate with their instructors, tablemates, as well as peers in their learning groups and entire classroom. Similarly, the introduction of panels allows multiple people to “come to the front of the class” and speak at once, for effective group presentations or group Q&A.
The recent launch of v2.1, Engageli also includes several new features and updates designed to further improve the user experience for both instructors and learners, as well as provide more tools to foster an active, collaborative learning environment and deepen peer-to-peer connections. Engageli v2.1 introduces whiteboards and the Engageli Action Tag Lab. Engageli whiteboards allow for two-way collaboration class-wide or at individual tables. And, Engageli’s Actions Tag Lab allows instructors to add Engageli tags to documents and presentations to easily enable and execute a variety of actions including polls/quizzes, audio settings, table settings, table presets, documents, recording, and timer.
Engageli is a complete solution for educational institutions looking for broad-spectrum capabilities in a single platform, and the engineering team is continuously working to add new capabilities that support teaching, learning, and engagement.