We decided to build eFrontPro from scratch in order to replace our eFront codebase that was getting long in the tooth and to be a great foundation to build upon for the next decade.
It wasn’t an easy task: we had to rewrite legacy code, to re-think the architecture and UI, to make it more modular and speedy, and to learn and adapt new technologies. It also involved a lot of hair-pulling and head-scratching, in order to come up with the best solutions to the challenges we faced.
Yep, it wasn’t easy. But, as hard work is known to do, it paid off. You’ve seen it yourself, in the faster pace that major eFrontPro updates arrive, with the first one landing just a month after our first release. And then another.
Well, it’s time to introduce our freshly baked latest update, eFrontPro 4.1.0, and the goodies it brings to the table.
You know Branches, Groups, Audiences, and the rest of eFrontPro’s logical groupings, they are here to help you organize your e-learning deployment in the way you like, and avoid repetitive manual tasks.
eFrontPro 4.1 introduces “Curriculums”, a way to bundle several courses together to handle as a single package. You can offer a whole curriculum for sale (like selling courses), assign a curriculum to a user or a group, see aggregates reports for the whole curriculum and award certificates upon a curriculum’s completion.
The new version builds upon the Certificate features of the previous one, adding several significant new features. Besides being able to award certificates based on curriculums (see above), you now also have the option to have self-expiring certificates that can be re-assigned automatically to the students upon (or even before) expiration. Last, but not least, we’ve also added a new reporting page for certification related statistics.
Automatic content conversions
To make online content creation faster and less tedious, we’ve automated content conversion by integrating EncodeMagic to eFrontPro. You can now upload all kinds of videos, audio files, presentations, etc, knowing that they will be automatically converted to formats that your users can open, with the optimal encoding and delivery for all web-enabled devices (laptops, tablets, phones etc).
This version allows you to automatically create variations of your tests with the new “Randomized” question type, that can select multiple random questions from a question pool. You can select how many questions out of the pool you want to use in each test.
We’ve also added question timers, for time sensitive tests, as well as the option to re-use questions across lessons.
You asked for it, you’ve got it: version 4.1 adds the (not so long) awaited support for Stripe payments.
If you’re running your eFrontPro service publicly, you’ll love this one: all eFrontPro URLS are now SEO friendly, for better Google placements and more traffic coming your way.
Login with Facebook
Third party authentication is all the rage these days, especially from the big-3 providers (Facebook, Google, Twitter). Well, you can now let your users register and login with their Facebook account.
Reports weren’t a major focus for this update, but we still managed to squeeze in a number of reporting improvements and a few new report types.
Last, but not least, we revamped our eFrontPro documentation, nearly tripling it in size. Besides entries for the new features in this update, you’ll also find several mini how-tos guiding you through common tasks, answers to frequently asked questions, technical guides for installing, securing and taking care of your eFrontPro deployment.
You can check the ongoing eFrontPro documentation here.
Oh, and that’s not all. There’s also a tutorial on creating your own themes, for the HTML/CSS savvy types, and an API guide integrating it with your other systems and services.
Finally, the documentation includes an extended Plugin Guide, you may use to extend eFrontPro to fit your needs.
Sneak peak: what’s in store for eFrontPro in 2015
When Steve Jobs first introduced OS X he said it would be the foundation for the next ten years of Mac OS. While some classic Mac OS users complained about a few changes compared to how the old OS operated, OS X was proven not only a stable platform for Apple to build upon, but also something that brought in ten times as many users as Mac OS classic had.
eFrontPro is like our OS X.
It’s a rethinking of eFront, created from scratch with modern technologies and with us pouring in all the experience and wisdom that supporting eFront users gave us over the years.
Some small things might be missing, and a few features might behave differently (or, according to most of our testers and early adopter users, better), but more importantly it’s a vastly improved platform to build upon.
That is, eFrontPro 1.0 was just the beginning.
Already in early December 2014, very shortly after the official launch of the new version, we brought you its first point update, bringing several new features (and squashing several bugs and annoyances that you reported).
It weren’t small stuff either. Some of the features were quite big for such a quickly released update, including:
1) The ability to conduct surveys and collect results automatically through eFrontPro.
2) Video-conference support leveraging BigBlueButton’s or Cisco’s WebEx video-conference tools, including the ability to save a video-conference for later replay.
3) 10 new, professionally created, themes to chose from
4) Excel compatible file export, for those of you swearing by (as opposed at) MS Office.
5) A REST based API to hook and integrate external services with.
Since then we didn’t stop working on improving eFrontPro (well, we stopped a couple of days to celebrate Christmas and the New Year, but who didn’t?).
We have been quite busy working on the next bunch of features. Which might not be ready yet, but will soon(-ish) be available to an eFrontPro installation near you. Until then we can give a little teaser for what we’re working on in our labs:
1) Enhancements in offline learning.
eFrontPro already supports offline content as is, leveraging HTML5’s capabilities. But just accessing your e-learning content offline is not enough, so we’re working in adding 2 side synchronization, so that changes you’ve made (edits, tests taken etc) can be synced back to the LMS when you’re back online (and vice versa).
2) Stripe Support
eFrontPro is flexible enough to cover most e-commerce needs with features such as Balances, Discounts and Price Tracks. Until now though, your only payment option was PayPal. In our labs we’re working on adding support for Stripe, the popular payment processor that has taken the payments world by storm.
3) More tools for organizing your content
eFrontPro is all about organizing, querying and structuring your content in any way you want, with our powerful rules, filters and organizational entities such as Audiences and Locations. In the upcoming release we’ll be adding a new entity type called Curriculum, allowing to group courses in a bigger entity and apply rules to all of them.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg of course, as we’re also busy with all kinds of improvements and features that we can’t announce yet. Let’s just say 2015 is gonna be an exciting year for eFrontPro users.
How do you feel about those upcoming features? Anything else you’d like to say? Don’t be shy, drop as a line in the comments ― building features based on customer requests is what we’re here for.