eLearning software development - programmable video in the cloud

Speed Up eLearning Software Development with Programmable Video in the Cloud

Tomasz Dębski - Business Development Consultant
5 minutes read

The technology to build applications that connect with students and learning customers around the world is more affordable, accessible, and couldn’t be more relevant in times of remote learning. eLearning businesses are accelerating business with custom video solutions—and it’s easier than you might expect.

Live streaming sessions have become a cornerstone of today’s learning systems—both in education and enterprise employee training—as the world adapts to pandemic restrictions.

Distance learning, virtual classrooms and e-appointments are all driving the eLearning ecosystem to adopt new technologies that enable people to connect—and there’s no better way to do it than with live video and audio experiences.

recent study found that out of 772 educators, 514 administrators and 1,413 students in higher education, 68% would have liked to see greater use of new eLearning technologies, and 73% agreed that they would continue to take online courses in the future, but preferred to do it all within one system. 

Out-of-the-box solutions like Zoom can meet the most basic needs of communicating online, but successful learning platforms that offer custom solutions keep users engaged with better user experience, integrations, and the flexibility to build new features down the road.

Building custom ultimately makes the most sense for learning brands. All other experiences in a learning platform are customized, so why not video experiences? A custom solution keeps users within the platform, instead of sending them off-site to another provider. Maintaining a consistent brand experience also ensures that you have control over every aspect of the user journey, as well as any data regulations or compliance measures that your organization faces.

But what does ‘custom’ cost eLearning business owners? Building an in-house video solution can be wildly expensive, especially as the cost of software development rises in technology hubs like Silicon Valley, where learning companies have had to raise incredible amounts of funding in just the last year to remain competitive: Duolingo ($35 M), Udemy ($50 M) and Skillshare ($66 M).

Yet when it comes to enabling Video, SMS and teleconferencing, custom builds still make the most sense for eLearning platforms. Businesses who know how to take advantage of open-source video communication APIs will have an easier (and more affordable!) time programming and launching features can get to market in a matter of weeks, not months.

Programmable video makes it possible

Polcode has a long history with eLearning clients who need software development that tackles their most important business challenges: affordability, global reach and reliable uptime.

Custom video solutions are often far too expensive to be built from scratch. The answer to the cost-versus-efficiency dilemma is “Programmable Video,” a set of video tools built and hosted in the cloud. 

Instead of building a product from the ground-up, coders can use programmable video to simply call on pre-built, internet-enabled tools that capture, distribute, record, and render high quality audio, video, and screen shares.

Programmable video allows us to create a live video experience in our client’s web & mobile apps, which seamlessly integrates into the look and feel of the platform, as well as the backend software systems on the business-side of things (think CMS, calendar apps, payments platforms.)

As a certified partner, the Polcode teams prefer developing video solutions with Twilio Video API, but all open-source video solutions have one goal in common: reliable video solutions for web and mobile apps, which are easily customizable, technically flexible, and support all the modern tools of a fast and secure web.

High-value video features are rapidly launchable

Twilio video and communications APIs are marketed as being deployable with nearly the “flick of a switch.” This may seem like an exaggeration, but wireframes for custom video-learning solutions can be deployed in as little as 5 minutes.

When we define building a reliable video solution, it’s not just a bare-bones audio and video stream inside a browser window. Programmable Video APIs can take care of everything that a modern e-learning expects to have in a platform. Some of the top video e-learning features that are rapidly deployable include:

  1. Broadcasting a session to students, allowing participants to connect and join the classroom with video and audio, with waiting rooms that check equipment, video & audio quality, and identity verification before joining the virtual classroom.
  2. Enabling live chat where students and teachers can ask text-based questions, in addition to adding bot commands that can automatically bring up useful information or links during the session.
  3. Screen sharing that seamlessly captures a screen directly from a web app or mobile app, and broadcasts a user’s screen after requesting permission from the user.
  4. Dominant speaker detection lets everyone in the room know who is currently speaking, and automatically brings their video to the forefront of the display.
  5. Interactive whiteboards provide a “hands-on” approach to eLearning. While more detailed versions of an interactive whiteboard take longer to build and implement, very basic actions (drawing, typing, moving objects) can be developed and deployed rather speedily.
  6. Reliable uptime is one of the unseen features in a video streaming solution, but obviously one of the most important ones. Hosting from reliable cloud servers, as well as leveraging Twilio’s Network Bandwidth Profile API and Network Quality API (monitors network quality conditions) ensures that video continuity and quality remains high.
  7. All-device support including the web, iOS and Android. Since students will access classrooms on various devices, it’s important that any eLearning video solution also works on all popular operating systems synchronously. 

While not directly part of Twilio’s Video API, there are also engaging Communications APIs which can also be integrated into a learning platform rapidly, and deeply integrated into the existing video features. We’ll cover these in another article, but some are worth mentioning here: 

  • Creating shared, collaborative schedules and calendars
  • Sending daily notifications or reminders to students via SMS
  • Publishing and saving recorded video and audio sessions
  • Flashcard bots to train and test memory retention

Okay, so what’s the value in building a custom video app?

So far we’ve talked about the benefits of rapidly launchable video features, but that’s only scratching the surface of benefits in business development. There are other parallel reasons to choose custom video solutions, which may be even more convincing.

You gain control, reliability and scalability

A custom video eLearning solution that is proven to be reliable also means that you secure that reliability for your business. Imagine brands who rely on Zoom to conduct learning business. They have no control over downtime, server latency, account creation, user data and most importantly, the customer journey. Giving your customers a trustworthy experience is paramount to giving them “just” a video solution, and the only way to do that is by going custom.

Design boosts brand experience

UX designers, interaction designers and learning experience developers all work to make your apps look and feel the best they can be. It only makes sense that the video experience retains those same principles. Overlays, video settings, clips, theater mode, full screen, pop-out features are just some of the perks that can be implemented on top of the general UX/UI features associated with your app or web platform. Layout and media controls can support a customizable experience that users can personalize.

Less customer frustration

Having a video streaming service that doesn’t work or is sluggish can be a disaster and leave everyone feeling put-off from eLearning. Modern video APIs automatically optimize each user’s video quality to match the speed of their network and bandwidth activity. Real-time optimization ensures a seamless experience, even if their internet connection gets a little shaky sometimes. In addition, the physical location of the cloud servers impact latency, and a custom solution can easily reroute users to their nearest optimal server connection.

More accessible, more markets to capture.

The whole idea behind video APIs is to connect with as many people as possible, on as many devices, no matter where they are. Programmable video can work in tandem with SMS text messaging, language translators, or simply voice-only options for users who may not have the fanciest devices. Offline accessibility, omnichannel presence and accessibility for various disablements are all features that require a custom-built solution, so that your brand can reach as many people as possible.

Get Video Learning Features to Market Fast.

Building a custom solution can make any eLearning platform’s video experience more reliable, scalable and user-friendly. This isn’t just done on the surface with user-centric features, UI and brand-feel. It’s actually the behind-the-scenes infrastructure that makes it possible to connect worldwide, to all kinds of devices, anywhere in the world. And nowadays, it’s easier than ever to build a custom video app.

We recommend getting familiar with Video APIs to avoid the hassles of creating and maintaining a custom video solution. If you’re looking to enhance your eLearning platform, Polcode helps organizations of all sizes add video features to their existing platform, or develop entirely new video experiences within short time frames, always at scale.

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