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Online learning? It's child's play

Article Type: Case Study          Published: 09-2014         Views: 2011   



UK success story zondle is a unique web and mobile platform revolutionising e-learning - but with demanding availability requirements. A VMware platform from iomart has proven the ideal environment for continued growth.

Online learning is a big growth area and one which is harnessing the power of the cloud to deliver learning to people in all parts of the world. The worldwide e-learning market is expected to generate revenues of US$51.5 billion by 2016 and while Western Europe and the US are already big spenders, Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin America are predicted to experience rapid growth over the next few years.

One area where e-learning is growing particularly quickly is education, where the use of online games is transforming how young people interact with their teachers and the subjects they are studying. One company that is proving highly successful in this field is UK-headquartered zondle ( whose innovative educational web and mobile platform will soon have almost one million users around the globe.

zondle is a unique web and mobile platform that enables teachers and students to create, play and share games to enhance teaching, learning and assessment. It is grounded in education and neuroscience research and is fully customisable to meet specific learning needs. It enables teachers to create games to match exactly their teaching aims and their students' learning needs in any subject, at any level, and in any language - event those that go from right to left. While traditional teaching practice prioritises consistent rewards, zondle is based on research that shows that uncertain rewards help encode the information into long-term memory so when a student answers a question correctly in a zondle game they are only sometimes rewarded with extra gameplay.

zondle uses cloud and managed hosting specialist iomart to ensure high availability for its online games and other services which are being used by teachers and children from Australia to Alaska at any time of the day or night. iomart provides the scalable and flexible cloud services needed to support zondle using a cluster of VMware servers which enable the games to be published and accessed round-the-clock from any location with an Internet connection. The results are then stored and fed back to the teachers and students to help consolidate the students' learning.

At its technical core, zondle comprises two cloud-based databases and a unique interpreter. The first database stores a range of educational content (questions and reference materials) in a wide variety of formats such as multiple choice, label the picture and type the translation. Teachers then create questions to match exactly the needs of their particular students depending on the curriculum and the students' academic capabilities, or they can choose, customise or mash together any of the 2 million+ questions already created and shared by other zondle users - a real crowd-sourced approach to games-based learning unique to zondle.

The unique zondle interpreter combines these questions with more than 60 animated games from the second database, allowing the students to answer the questions, consolidate what they've learned in class, in any game of their choosing. Students can play on the website or an Internet enabled mobile device (iOS and Android), on the way to school in preparation for that day's classroom test and can swap between their favourites. This approach helps students to build towards automaticity of the learning content, while maximising engagement and giving them a sense of learning ownership.

The point of the zondle platform is that it has to have a global reach, be robust in the classroom and be highly scalable to cope with 1000s of new users coming on stream every day. As Ben Barton, CEO and founder of zondle, says, "The key thing is that our hosting has to be a 24/7 turned on service. We've worked with iomart at a variety of different levels to ensure that is our base standard."

zondle turned to iomart for a platform based on a cluster of VMware servers with one publishing server and a series of subscriber servers off that. zondle uses transactional replication from a SQL Server backend database which passes the data out to subscribers with a latency of between 3 to 5 seconds, ensuring the data is always live and available. Linux load balancing ensures consistent 100% uptime, so zondle can pull servers in and out of action as and when needed for maintenance purposes and keep the platform live.

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