April 2014

Building a new ELLI platform from scratch presented an interesting challenge. ELLI had grown from a small, primarily research-focused initiative within the University of Bristol to a much bigger endeavour, and the technical platform needed to reflect the demands now being placed upon it – that of volume, flexibility and ease of use, as well as balancing data accumulation for subsequent analysis. We also wanted to look at more ways we could make data visually available to end users, whether in the form of spidergrams, distribution graphs or other graphical formats.

Faced with these challenges we have been working closely with the Birmingham based company Co-operative Web. Co-operative Web had built somewhat similar systems before – at least from a structural perspective – but ELLI presented its own unique challenges. As a lifelong learning system, we actively encourage teachers to use ELLI along with their students. As a transformative and long-term process we see ELLI as a journey rather than a quick fix.  So, not least among the challenges was the fact that ELLI exists in several versions, most notably the adult and student versions, and also the fact that in school settings both students and teachers use the survey – a fact which needed special consideration when building the platform. Ed Russell, MD of Co-operative Web, remarked: ‘Initially we hadn’t realised the extent to which teachers themselves use ELLI; we’d assumed it was more a case of the students using it and the teachers acting as admins. So we had to make some structural adjustments to allow for that.’

The first phase of the new platform went live in January 2014, and not only had to account for future proofing and unanticipated developments, but also the seamless transfer of data from previous systems. Not only did it need to be simple enough for students and teachers managing large cohorts, we also wished to make more meta-cognitive data available and visually accessible to administrators.

Of course, ELLI is no longer only used in schools but is developing amongst Higher Education and corporate users too – an exciting development that means, as we look to the future, we can use ELLI to draw lines of continuity and commonality between schools and communities, businesses and universities. The challenge for us is to allow the continual evolvement of the platform to keep up with demand…! As such we are working on some very exciting new developments.

So do watch this space!


(Image top: Ed Russell (MD of Co-operative Web) and our very own admin manager Keira McGarva discuss functionality issues…)