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Arizona State University Open edX customizations

Solutions for an innovative eLearning platform

The Customer

Arizona State University (ASU) — is one of the largest public universities by enrollment in the U.S. and is recognized as the country’s most innovative school. The university scholars include 5 Nobel laureates, 6 Pulitzer Prize winners, 19 National Academy of Sciences members. ASU offers more than 400 graduate degrees for nearly 150,000 students.

ASU started a global project with an innovative idea of offering ASU courses for credit to learners around the world.

On the ASU Universal Learner® Courses platform, students can take online courses that are completely identical to first-year college courses. Their successful completion gives real academic credits units (ACU) that can be used to enter the university and continue full-time study.

ASU needed a specific LMS for implementation and since ASU hosts several courses on edX.org, they’ve chosen Open edX as a flexible and customizable technology platform. As a technology partner, ASU chose Raccoon Gang as one of the best Open edX vendors in the world.

Tasks

The Open edX platform required a number of customizations by Raccoon Gang for ASU's new Universal Learner Courses Platform. Unique requirements such as many custom subdomains for partners, various payment options, and API integrations were all supported by Raccoon Gang and Open edX.
This allowed ASU to sell courses through a partner network of high schools and businesses. Since ASU already had their own internal CRM system with which they manage their learners and partners, the ASU CRM was integrated with the Open edX platform via APIs. This allowed the team to develop an efficient automated infrastructure for the project.
ASU focused on scaleable online education even prior to COVID-19. Open edX was the natural choice for ASU to use in building a highly scalable system that could serve thousands of concurrent learners around the world.
Open edX includes a built-in e-commerce module that allowed ASU to set up course purchases.
Since the courses are credit-bearing, the platform was set up with integrations to the PSI proctoring provider. This allowed the platform to run online exams with proctor validation.

Challenges

Enterprise SSO Integration
ASU has strong security standards and required enterprise SSO for all Open edX platform systems. Raccoon Gang was able to integrate ASU's enterprise SSO with all of the Open edX systems.
Scaling
Provide transparent migration for ASU students with zero downtime, as well as ensuring stable operation of the system with auto-scaling and resource management on servers, significant resource savings with a large load.
Payment for ID verification
Students should pay for ID verification only before passing the proctoring exams (the process of attaching a user’s photo and a government-issued ID and reviewing it).
Financial optimization
Due to the huge scale and a need for cost optimization, the platform costs needed to be independent of a per-learner license.
Proctoring provider integration with Open edX
Allow running online official exams and transfer results to the LMS.
Salesforce's integration with Open edX
As payments are processed in the LMS, but user management is done through ASU's Salesforce CRM, we needed to integrate the two systems.
Credit conversion flow
When the users complete the proctored exam, they should have the ability to send a request to convert LMS grades into ASU credits.
CogBooks integration with Open edX
The Open edX platform was integrated with a library — CogBooks. Instructors and students have convenient access to Cogbook's online textbooks which support adaptive learning and provide real-time feedback.
   

Solutions

SSO Set up

Access to the Open edX platform is limited to the users that have an ASU account via SSO — ASURITE ID.
Raccoon Gang helped set up ASU's enterprise SSO and connected Open edX APIs to ASU systems for user setup and user synchronization.

Payment for ID verification

The platform allowed ASU flexibility in developing its business model. ASU allows students to access courses for free in 'Audit' mode or pay for Identity Verification and to pay credit.
The system supported these customizations and integrations.

Proctoring provider integration with Open edX

For academic integrity, Raccoon Gang integrated a third-party proctoring service into Open edX for ASU.
The system synchronizes the results of the exam as official, in accordance with the rules of academic integrity.

Credit conversion flow

When learners pass a course, they can request ASU credit. To support this, Open edX was integrated with ASU registrar systems.
This allows learners to immediately get ASU credit after passing a course.

Financial optimization

Open edX allowed ASU to experiment with a new paradigm of learning. Open edX's is low-risk because the platform is cost-effective and able to scale to a huge amount of users.

Salesforce integration

Raccoon Gang developed custom APIs that allow Open edX and Salesforce to integrate for a set of crucial use cases.
All info from the LMS (grades, enrollment modes) is synchronized with the CRM, so ASU managers can use that data for integrated reporting and decision-making.

CogBooks Integration

Open edX can be extended with tools such as Cogbooks. Raccoon Gang helped integrate CogBooks content (libraries, books material etc.) into ASU's system via data extensions and LTI.
With Cogbooks, instructors can explore and use content from CogBook’s Library in their courses right from the LMS.

Solutions

SSO Set up

Access to the Open edX platform is limited to the users that have an ASU account via SSO — ASURITE ID.
Raccoon Gang helped set up ASU's enterprise SSO and connected Open edX APIs to ASU systems for user setup and user synchronization.

Payment for ID verification

The platform allowed ASU flexibility in developing its business model. ASU allows students to access courses for free in 'Audit' mode or pay for Identity Verification and to pay credit.
The system supported these customizations and integrations.

Proctoring provider integration with Open edX

For academic integrity, Raccoon Gang integrated a third-party proctoring service into Open edX for ASU.
The system synchronizes the results of the exam as official, in accordance with the rules of academic integrity.

Credit conversion flow

When learners pass a course, they can request ASU credit. To support this, Open edX was integrated with ASU registrar systems.
This allows learners to immediately get ASU credit after passing a course.

Financial optimization

Open edX allowed ASU to experiment with a new paradigm of learning. Open edX's is low-risk because the platform is cost-effective and able to scale to a huge amount of users.

Salesforce integration

Raccoon Gang developed custom APIs that allow Open edX and Salesforce to integrate for a set of crucial use cases.
All info from the LMS (grades, enrollment modes) is synchronized with the CRM, so ASU managers can use that data for integrated reporting and decision-making.

CogBooks Integration

Open edX can be extended with tools such as Cogbooks. Raccoon Gang helped integrate CogBooks content (libraries, books material etc.) into ASU's system via data extensions and LTI.
With Cogbooks, instructors can explore and use content from CogBook’s Library in their courses right from the LMS.

Scaling

As ASU's project began growing, it soon became important to support thousands of learners. The solution was to move some of the Open edX systems to a Kubernetes cluster.

The cluster's auto-scaling capability supported heavy loads. Additional optimizations allowed for flexibility and cost savings.

Results

To date, more than 30,000 learners have registered with ASU's Universal Learner® Courses platform. The possibility to earn admission into the university continues to attract more and more learners and organizations.
This platform also positioned ASU to take advantage of growth opportunities once COVID-19 hit, since ASU already had scaleable, open access courses. The seamless nature of this custom e-learning platform is a critical factor in the popularity and explosive growth of this ASU project.
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