Based in Hull, UK, Vertual Ltd provides VR training solutions for teachers, students, and patients of radiation therapy (radiotherapy). They cater to users in over 30 countries all over the world. While their primary focus currently lies on healthcare, they plan to diversify into providing simulation-based training products for other industries in the near future.
Our client realised that their customers faced some hurdles when subscribing to their VR training software due to its special hardware requirements. The desktop app had to first be installed on individual PCs before students or patients could use it. They wanted to make their product more accessible, portable, and easy to use, without technical or spatial limitations. So they approached us with an innovative idea for SaaS-based training portal development.
However, their proposed idea raised some red flags. For example, there was the question of data inconsistency, inaccuracy, asynchrony, and duplication. Another potential problem was the management of session time logs for users, which was to be a crucial part of their subscription model. Let down by their previous software provider who did not take all their concerns into consideration, our client turned to us for devising the perfect solution.
The problem of accessibility was resolved by choosing a web-based platform-independent solution that would allow users to access the training app remotely and virtually. The desktop app has been effectively converted into a SaaS platform via AppStream 2.0, which launches an instance of the desktop app within the browser with just one click.
The SaaS portal, named VERT on Demand, allows organisations to manage and virtually distribute learning and training materials and exercises. Organisations have designated “managers” – these can be doctors, teachers, lecturers, or other trainers – who organise course content, manage students individually and in groups, assign exercises, and monitor progress, all on the same platform. Students and staff-in-training can use the portal to access lessons and track the completion of practice exercises assigned to them.
We used Amazon S3 buckets in a way that relevant data is persistent, updated, and accessible to both the desktop application and the web portal. The data exchange pertaining to each session launched within the portal is managed very carefully. Shared cloud storage has not only made data access easier but also more cost- and resource-efficient by removing duplication.
The VERT on Demand training portal cum learning management system is a scalable, portable, and cost-efficient solution for Vertual’s customers, offered to users on an annual subscription basis.
The platform we delivered can be broken down into three key sections based on type of user role.
Our client’s staff can set up and manage organisation profiles via the admin portal.
The process of adding a new organisation to the VERT database involves entering organisation details, such as their name and logo, and adding designated managers to the system. Admins also set limits for the maximum number of organisation members who can use the system and the collective number of hours they can spend in cloud VERT sessions.
Organisations that do not renew their subscriptions can be marked inactive so that their members no longer have access to the VERT app. A list view allows administrators to see a consolidated list of organisations registered with VERT, along with their active status. They can edit details for any organisation at any time, reset the usage or limit for total hours allotted, and add or remove managers. They can also view a list of managers and look up a specific person’s profile via the search bar.
The second part of our SaaS training portal development project is the manager portal.
Managers are like administrators for their respective organisations. They have permission to add new users to their organisation. Each manager can create a custom home page to showcase important news items or announcements to other users, such as students, as soon as they log onto the portal.
The manager’s role revolves primarily around content management. All the training materials available on the VERT platform can be organised into modules, sub-modules, and exercises, and distributed to learners. Some pre-made training material comes with the VERT subscription, but via this portal, managers are free to edit the existing content or create custom content such as workbooks, assignments, or slideshows for students in their organisation. Managers can add custom due dates to assignments too. Adding tags to modules and exercises makes content lookup easy for all users.
Certain exercises or modules can be assigned to specific students. Managers can also form student groups by year, department, or any other common characteristic, to make it easier to assign content in one go rather than individually.
Managers can access a particular user’s reports table to get a concise overview of students’ progress. The table contains information such as module and exercise names, progress percentages, and current scores, along with a downloadable PDF for assignments.
For this training portal development project, all user types other than admin and managers are called standard users. These can include organisation staff, students, patients, or other trainees.
Via the web portal, standard users can easily access the materials assigned to them. They can work on their assignments in the cloud by launching VERT virtually within the web browser. Their progress is recorded on the cloud and synced to the web portal when they end the session.
The start and end of each cloud session are recorded and the duration is added to the total number of hours used up by that specific organisation. This is how the system keeps track of the organisation’s monthly time limit.
Any assignments or modules that students finish on cloud VERT are marked 100% complete and a PDF report is then generated so they can download and view their progress and performance.
Before we could work on a solution, we had to make sure that we studied and understood the problem itself. Thus began the discovery phase where we familiarised ourselves with the product that our client offers. We conducted extensive R&D and a thorough feasibility study to ensure that the proposed solution was airtight.
The training portal development process was divided into two phases.
In the proof-of-concept phase, we had to handle the application streaming aspect, to enable users to access and run VERT in the cloud. We explored how we could best utilise Amazon AppStream 2.0 for this purpose, all while achieving data persistence via S3 buckets.
The second phase consisted of platform design and development. The project is currently in the UAT phase, where our client will be testing the application, after which the final web app will be taken live.
The training portal development process was led by the project manager. The team consisted of five other members: a graphic designer, a software architect, frontend and backend developers, and a quality assurance engineer.
Amazon AppStream 2.0