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A Sneak Peek at eFrontPro: User Interface

eFrontPRO

The user interface (UI) of eFrontPro is based on Bootstrap-3. This means that, by default, eFrontPro has a fluid interface and unified UI and animation elements. But this is only the tip of iceberg as eFrontPro comes with a vast number of additional interface improvements that you will find handy. Let’s find out what’s new and noteworthy in this post.

Responsive design

eFrontPro uses a Web design approach aimed to provide an optimal viewing experience – easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling – across a wide range of devices (from mobile phones to desktop computer monitors).

By default, eFrontPro adapts the layout to the viewing environment by using fluid, proportion-based grids, flexible images and CSS3 media queries.

Throughout the transition we had to move from tables, that traditionally eFront used, to a DIV based page structure. eFront always had a simple way to divide the screen’s real estate by using a two columns structure. With the new DIV structure, columns can now be folded under the same column providing a better experience for small screens.

eFrontPro Admin Dashboard in full size

Mobile view

Retina Ready

eFrontPRO uses Scalabe Vector Graphics (SVG) icons. Those icons can scale indefinitely with no quality lose and are a natural match for high resolution (retina) screens.

SVG offers a truly resolution-independent technique for presenting graphics on the Web. SVG is a vector graphics format that uses XML to define basic properties such as paths, shapes, fonts and colors, and more advanced features such as gradients, filters, scripting and animation. Create the file once and use it anywhere, at any scale and resolution.

We have opted to transcode all SVG icons to a CSS based, inline image format using a tool called Grumpicon. This provides freedom from hard to maintain sprite-images while at the same time keeps page hits and overall bandwidth consumption low.

eFrontPro-SVG-1

eFrontPro-SVG-2

Reduced Clutter

Throughout eFrontPro we have either merged functionality or reduced clutter.

eFront has grown in depth and breadth through time. We felt that a simplification phase was needed in order to make it intuitive again for new users. The simplifications span the full product breadth and depth but as an example check the following 2 screenshots that illustrate the new way to present form tips (visible only when needed) and the toggle for advanced settings.

Form tips visible only when needed

eFrontPro-reduced-clutter-1

Hidden Advanced settings

eFrontPro-reduced-clutter-2

UI elements

As we transitioned to Jquery from Prototype we invested time on selecting new visual elements; for example, eFrontPro uses modern date-time selectors. An important new UI element you will come across a lot is the “Quick info” widget. This element presents bits of interesting information (the gist) in a visually appealing way.

eFrontPro-widget

Redesigns

On eFrontPro

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we redesigned several key pages and tools to make them more effective and more personalized. Take for example the end-user dashboard, the reports pages and the content creation screens. These 3 tools are among the most often used ones and all of them have a new look-and-feel. Check below for a screenshot from each one of them.

Dashboard

eFrontPro-Dashboard

Reports

 

eFrontPro-Reports

Content creation

eFrontPro-Content-Creation

Release schedule

In this post we covered a number of UI changes coming with eFrontPro. We will keep improving things for the next couple of months (until the official release), but stay tuned for a public beta in the next few weeks.

Until then, have fun and keep learning!

The post A Sneak Peek at eFrontPro: User Interface appeared first on eFront Blog.

A Sneak Peek at eFrontPro: Internals

efrontPro_internalsEfront has been around for quite some time (almost 12 years, actually!). During this time, we’ve witnessed the rise (and, occasionally, fall) of many great technologies, libraries and trends, several of which we had embraced ourselves. Time has come for some change though.

Front-end

A. Up until now, efront was using the prototypeJS javascript framework. In efrontPRO we’ve replaced it with jQuery, the defacto standard for web programming. Making this change meant that we had to rewrite every piece of javascript code in the system. Thanks to jQuery’s robust architecture and its vast selection of libraries, efrontPRO comes with almost 80% less custom javascript code.

B. We’ve embraced Bootstrap 3, the popular UI framework for the web. It has a sleak, lightweight and fresh design and includes an awesome collection of widgets and animations. Equally important though is its mobile-first approach, which ensures that efrontPRO runs smoothly on all mobile devices.

C. With the power of jQuery and Bootstrap, we were able to make use of the latest and greatest UI libraries available. The editor, the content/courses/branches tree, the uploader and the autocomplete box are some examples of redesigned widgets.

D. Finally, eFrontPRO comes with out-of-the-box support for delivering static assets (css, js) using a CDN, enhancing client-side performance and lowering network usage for the server.

Back-end

A. Up until now, internationalization was implemented using PHP’s defines, a strategy that suited the project well in the early days but has revealed its shortcomings as the project grew bigger. eFrontPRO offers a new internationalization framework based on GNU gettext. What does this practically mean? Improved run-time performance, easier translations, ability to use all the tools available for translating in gettext, graceful fallback to english for untranslated literals. It also meant that we were able to ditch unused language tags and group similiar tags together, resulting in ~25% less terms.

B. The implementation of efrontPRO follows a more mature and standards-based MVC approach, taking advantage of PHP namespaces. This allows

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C. efrontPRO leverages the use of caching, supporting various cache back-ends and caching a substantially larger amount of objects, resulting in both performance and scaling gains.

D. efrontPRO comes with a redesigned, smaller and more robust database schema. It takes advantage of innoDB tables’ characteristics, uses transactions where needed and delivers fast performance for high loads.

E. Finally, efrontPRO comes with various new subsystems: A brand new notifications API, a new plugins API and a fully automated upgrade mechanism, along with a trove of smaller improvements and innovations.

The post A Sneak Peek at eFrontPro: Internals appeared first on eFront Blog.

A Sneak Peek at eFrontPro

eFrontPRO

As we approach the release date of eFrontPro’s public beta we feel it’s time to discuss what should be expected.

eFrontPro (originally code-named eFront4) is a huge step forward on a number of fronts. It combines the depth of eFront with a new fluid interface, reworked internals and support for blended learning.  At the same time, eFrontPro maintains a familiar tone.

This is the first of a series of articles in which we will be analyzing the following features of eFront:

Part 1 – User interface (UI)

The UI of eFrontPro has been redesigned around Bootstrap-3. This brings consistency around common UI elements and superior support for mobile devices through a “responsive design” and a “mobile first” approach. We also took the time to minimize the clutter of the system in a number of ways.

Part 2 – Content creation

With eFrontPro we took a leap in revamping the content creation process. We made it really easy to re-use content you already have from PDFs, Videos, Audios, Images or SCORM and Tincan or re-use web material from Youtube, Vimeo, Prezi and other sources. eFrontPro is taking a step toward the intuitive content management practices of TalentLMS.

Part 3 – Blended learning (ILT)

eFrontPro seeks to redefine the blended learning environment. You will now be able to manage both your online and offline training programs. To achieve that, we introduce a new “classroom” course type which will take place in the physical world but will be organized and moderated online (e.g. participant list and restrictions, start-end dates, waiting-lists etc). In this topic we will also cover the new Course Catalog, the Locations objects and the re-purposed Sessions.

Part 4 – Ecommerce extensions

There is a wealth of ecommerce extensions in eFrontPro, such as Paypal-Pro support, ways to handle complex e-commerce relationships through Group-accountsContracts and Price Tracks. If you want to use eFront to resell courses we have some great news for you!

Part 5 – Audiences and Curriculums

Audiences and Curriculums are new entities. The best way to conceive Audiences is as dynamic groups. For example, an Audience may have as members the users of Branch-1 and Branch-2. The users on that Audience will be modified automatically as Branch-1 and Branch-2 get modified.

Curriculums are a way to group courses in a bigger meaningful entity. Rules can be applied between curriculum courses.

Part 6 – Internals

eFrontPro is built around Jquery (instead of Prototype that we currently use), it uses get-text for translations (instead of language files that we currently employ), Bootstrap-3 for the interface (instead of custom UI elements) and a Model-View-Controller architecture. The result is a dramatically reduced code-base that we can build upon in the years to come.

Part 7 – Other important changes & considerations

There is a number of other changes that you should be aware of. As we strive to reduce the complexity of the system we “pruned” some of the older functionality that – literally – made little sense. The bigger architectural change in eFrontPro though is the merging of Lessons and Courses to one entity. In this post we will discuss all the major modifications you can expect and how they may affect your everyday work with eFront.

The post A Sneak Peek at eFrontPro appeared first on eFront Blog.

eFront as a SumTotal alternative

boxing glovesThroughout last year we worked with an important Canadian customer on a transition project. The client was using SumTotal as its backbone LMS and was in need of a comprehensive and efficient alternative solution. After an exhaustive research process, the client chose eFront.

In this post I will describe the business needs that made it imperative for the client to make the transition, and why eFront was chosen. I will also describe the project and its challenges.

Why change from SumTotal

The decision to move away from SumTotal was not an easy one. SumTotal is one of the leaders in the LMS space for numeral reasons. Its products can be found in almost any vertical industry, spanning from mining to health.

Still, SumTotal produced a number of headaches for the customer which I will outline below:

  • Inflexibility: SumTotal comes as a closed source model. This means that any customization needs to come either as plugin or through SumTotal directly. No matter how extensive a system is, as the client size and needs grow the customization may span several system layers. Having the ability for “deep” customization is not something that any closed-source project can offer but “big” customization projects require it in order to produce a coherent result. Most importantly, big LMS players are indifferent when it comes to such customization projects as they do not justify the cost. They prefer to sell licenses where the margins are higher and there are fewer headaches.
  • Cost of ownership. This one is obvious. SumTotal is an expensive product with recurring annual fees. It is not only the license that costs more, every interaction with Sumtotal whether for support or training is expensive.

Why choose eFront

The client considered a number of solutions. A no-vendor lock approach was imperative for them as they would like to be able to customize the product in great depth. This “hard” requirement reduced the potential pool of LMS providers to those who offer the code source to clients and have robust enterprise functionality. At the end of the day, eFront was chosen for the following reasons:

  • Ease-of-use. From the beginning eFront emphasized a flat, icon-based interface. eFront, when compared to most “heavy”, “industrial” LMSs or open-source alternatives, looks fresh, modern and discrete.
  • Flexibility. This one is a no brainer. eFront comes with its source code unlocked and you can customize it directly to any depth. Still, in many cases, this is easier said than done.  The client asked our team to help them directly in customizing eFront to fit their needs (we made use of this opportunity to improve eFront in a number of ways as well – you will be able to check them when eFront4 is released later this year!)
  • Functionality & Maturity. eFront is a mature LMS, used by over 150,000 organizations around the globe. Its functionality is comparable, if not superior, to what high-end commercial LMSs offer.
  • Scalabity. eFront has been tested in real-life in some very demanding scenarios in recent years. We now have customers with more than 300,000 users. Through those challenges we had to adapt and optimize the system so it can support that load even with modest server infrastructure.
  • Low cost of ownership. This is also a no-brainer. eFront is cheaper than Sumtotal in a number of ways (initial and recurring costs, infrastructure, specialized support cost, training etc.)

The Project

This was a demanding project that consumed a lot of our man-power for a prolonged period of time. The project’s scope was, from the beginning, too wide to be able to estimate a precise cost and timing. Incorrect estimations are a common problem with complex customizations. Sometimes, an optimistic time-to-delivery may be a prerequisite in order to secure a contract. In this case the estimation we made was proven to be non-realistic.

Nevertheless, as we considered the project strategically important we decided to allocate the required resources for as long as needed to ensure the best outcome. What we initially considered to be a 4-month project turned out to be double that. Double-than-estimated-time seems to be the norm with these kinds of ambitious projects.

The Outcome

As I write this post the project is officially live and the customer is happy. They now have a solution tailor made to their needs that can grow together with their organization. Despite the prolonged deployment time, the total cost of ownership is only a fraction of what they were paying for SumTotal and the flexibility is limited only by their imagination. Moreover, the user experience is highly streamlined producing better retention and satisfaction ratings.

Do you own a very expensive, non-flexible LMS? Perhaps it is time to consider eFront as a viable alternative. Contact us for a free demo consultation.

Online education puts new skills at your fingertips

Credits http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-59881288/stock-photo-digital-camera-the-night-view-of-city.htmlIn this day and age, thanks to our increasingly wired and connected world, you can learn something any time you like. Education goes beyond what you can Google or find on Wikipedia. To get a job or impress a boss, you’ll first need to broaden your professional skills. Knowing to how use the basic software and programs related to your industry has always been a core requirement. But those who really excel in the workplace or in their consulting careers possess a wider range of knowledge, skills, and expertise.

There are a variety of websites solely dedicated to helping train beginners and helping veteran workers attain more skills to keep up at a fast-paced, technology-based business. Such sites help designers, developers, and others get up to speed – instructors can upload their video tutorials for example, making courses available to anyone, anytime, to stream.

Everyone has different areas to develop or roles to grow into. Priyanka Sharma enrolled in a course covering Salesforce and found it to be of better quality — and a better experience — than what she found in the past at an in-person class on the same subject. It’s not just the convenience that Sharma points to, but also the access and ease that online tutorials offer. One of the main features that online learners point to as a key asset to their education is the “Rewind” button. In a traditional classroom, you might occasionally ask an instructor to repeat his or her point. But for novices, some elementary concepts may take some more time to truly settle in. With an online course, you can start, stop, and repeat any sections you wish, and move at your preferred pace.

That’s a benefit that Slawka G. Scarso, a communications consultant and creative writer, took advantage of when she was learning Adobe Indesign. She had the basics to graphic design down and was looking to expand her fluency. “You can stop the lesson whenever you want, try out what the teacher has just explained for yourself, perhaps listen to a passage once again, if it’s not clear,” she said.

Online education can be much more tailored to your specific needs, viewers say. For many of us, time is of the essence. A quick fix won’t solve all of our problems, yet we may not be able to make a commitment to attend a course at the same time for several weeks. Whenever you do find yourself with a free hour or a longer period of time on your hands, you can pick up where you left off. Cathy Martindale, a retiree, has enriched her love for photography by “gobbling up as many tutorials as I can about Lightroom,” she said.

She admits she’s “far from a pro” but has found homes for some of her photos alongside of magazine articles. This freelance work provides some income for Martindale as well as an outlet to pursue a passion. “I enjoy photographing landscapes and animals, and have placed in some contests.” A small investment now in more Lightroom training will pay off in the long run, she hopes, in the form of more opportunities to showcase her work.

The breadth and depth of the collection of online video tutorials sends a clear message: Whatever perceived barriers or hindrances that appear to be standing in your way of education, with the willingness and dedication, you can overcome them. Martindale summarized her preferred learning style and preferences. “I take copious notes during each video and find myself going back and replaying the same ones to soak up information, which I would not be able to do in a classroom,” she said.

Author

dannyDanny Groner is the manager of blogger partnerships and outreach for Skillfeed.

Infographic: How Google has changed what it means to do research

With almost 30 percent of the human population, or 2 billion people, using the internet; and 94 percent of US students equating research with using Google or other search engines, it comes as no surprise that 75 percent of students use Wikipedia and online encyclopedias for research.

Google dominates the battle for the search engine with 66.7 % of all searches that occur being via Google – and of students surveyed, 94% used Google or another search engine as an online reserach tool. They also used Wikipedia (75 %) and YouTube or otehr social media sites (52 % ).
Also the percentages of people who go online and immediately use a search engline is staggering, regardless of generation: Millennials, age 18-33: 92 %; Gen X (34-45): 87 %, Younger Boomers (45-55): 86 %; Older Boomers (56-64): 87 %, Silent Generation (65-73): 82 %, G.I. Generation (74 plus): 72 %, All online adults (18 plus): 87 %.

Google-Changed-Research-1Check out this brief history of online research *source: gradschoolhub.com

1962: J.C.R. Licklider of MIT has “Galactic Network” concept, a globally
interconnected set of computers where everyone could access data from
any site.
1989: Demonstration of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee.
1990: Public release of the World Wide Web.
1990: First search tool for the web (Archie) was created.
1993: First web crawler (Wanderer) was created.
1993: First graphical browser (Mosaic).
1994: Netscape browser launched.
1994: Development of first popular search engines (Alta Vista, Lycos, Excite and Yahoo)
1995: Internet Explorer launched.
1995: First public video-conference took place.
1996: Instant messaging services launched.
1997: Google released
1997: First weblog (blog) is attributed to Jorn Barger’s Robot Wisdom Web site.
1997: SixDegrees.com is launched. Often seen as the first social networking site.
Paid placement ranking: Goto morphed into Overture and Yahoo. Ranking depended on how much you paid.
1998 +: Link based ranking pioneered by Google
> Blew away all search engines except Inktomi; meanwhile, Goto/Overture’s annual revenues were nearly $1 billion.
2000: 400 million people across the globe use the internet.
2001: First commercial launch of 3G (Third Generation) mobile phones.
2001: First Access Grid developed at the University of Manchester.
2003: Myspace launched.
2003: Yahoo acquires Overture (for paid placement) and Inktomi (search)
2004: Mozilla Firefox web browser released (the 2nd most popular current browser after Internet Explorer).
2004: Facebook launched.
2006: Twitter launched.
2007: iPhone launched.
2008: Google Chrome browser launched.
2010: iPad launched.
2011: Number of internet users estimated as 2 billion world wide.