TechTrep provides a comprehensive, affordable, and sustainable STEM, CTE, and entrepreneurship program for kids. TechTrep’s STEM platform allows for a school district, charter school, private school, homeschool, or any organization that serves children (Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, public library, etc.) to launch a virtual STEM and CTE academy to create an environment in which all kids have STEM experiences, particularly in the early grades of their schooling. TechTrep’s comprehensive catalogue of project-based, self-paced, and personalized STEM, CTE, and entrepreneurship courses make it an ideal curriculum partner as a virtual STEM and CTE academy for a varied client base. With built-in curriculum and lesson plans, TechTrep provides a solution to the STEM teacher shortage by turning any teacher or willing adult into STEM and CTE mentors. This makes it possible for all kids to have access to a hiqh–quality STEM resource and the support to provide STEM in-school, after-school, and out-of-school punching the issue of equity it the gut.
Goals & Challenges
TechTrep had previously been providing their STEM courses to clients through the Canvas learning management system (LMS), but they ran into a variety of challenges as they attempted to stretch the boundaries of the platform. One of the most glaring issues with their previous platform was the lack of any multitenancy option, leaving TechTrep to house all their clients on one site without the ability to provide separate user experiences. This led to a host of additional issues.
“[Our previous platform] was designed to be used by one school district so there were numerous options that we asked for that were considered atypical uses,” said Kathleen Farris, Implementation Manager at TechTrep. “One big issue we ran into was difficulty maintaining globally-unique Student Information System (SIS) ID numbers, as many districts from across the country use similar conventions and all of our STEM course users were in one instance. Alerts warning of conflicts were sparse during SIS imports, so a multitude of accounts could be overwritten or merged without us realizing it until there were complaints from users.”
Due to the lack of multitenancy in Canvas, TechTrep was also not able to give admin access to their clients. If clients were given admin access, they would then be able to access and modify the records of all students in the site, rather than just their own. This limited TechTrep from being able to provide customers with an ideal user experience and slowed all their processes because the TechTrep team needed to take care of the admin work for all of their clients, from pulling reports to syncing student records.
“There were several pain points due to the platform’s limitations that prevented us from being able to give our customers what they were asking for,” said Farris. “We could not quickly or simply pull data. We could not allow superintendents/principals to have access to a ‘30,000-foot view’ of usage or learner data. Teachers had to drill down into each course to see progress/scores. When students or teachers needed a password changed it had to go through us.”
On top of the fact that TechTrep was struggling to use the platform in an unconventional way to support multiple user groups, their team also faced a lack of support from their vendor. “Support was often limited because we were using the LMS in an atypical way that it was not designed to accommodate,” said Farris.
In addition, the TechTrep team ran into roadblocks not only when it came to admin issues, but also with reporting capabilities, which could only be completed on a course-by-course basis. “Reporting in Canvas was not intuitive, and we had to pay more to get information around enrollment numbers, last access, and other basic data,” said Dani Bates, Director of STEM Initiatives at TechTrep.
TechTrep needed a new LMS that would provide them with the option for multitenancy so that they could house all of their clients (schools, school districts, homeschooled students, prospects, etc.) on one platform with each client receiving a separate tenant, enabling them to avoid the issues that they had previously seen with Canvas. With this solution, TechTrep would improve not only the learner experience for their clients, but also the experience for administrators, while allowing TechTrep to streamline their own processes.
One of TechTrep’s main goals was to build a platform that allowed different school districts to customize an individual tenant of the site to meet their needs, including deleting irrelevant courses and adding branding attributes. This would also allow TechTrep to give school administrators access to a specific tenant, enabling the ability for administrators to take control of administrative tasks like registering students for specific courses. In addition, TechTrep wanted a platform that had student profiles and the ability to award badges within the system for meeting certain goals or finishing courses.
Considering those technical aspects and having found themselves with limited support from their previous provider, TechTrep also wanted a partner that would not only bring this next iteration of their LMS to life, but would offer continued support on how they could use their platform to best meet their business goals.
Moodle Workplace by eThink Education
With multitenancy at the top of their must-have list when it came to LMS functionality, Moodle Workplace was identified as a great foundation for TechTrep’s STEM program. Moodle Workplace extends beyond the core functionality of Moodle with the addition of multitenancy and other features that make it well suited to enterprise environments. Additionally, as an open-source product, the flexibility of the platform allows it to adapt to meet the needs of unique applications such as TechTrep’s.
TechTrep chose to partner with eThink Education, a Certified Premium Moodle Partner, to create and support their new site. eThink and TechTrep worked together to identify their goals for the project and eThink suggested best practices for how to design the site to meet their objectives. eThink built out the structure of the site with separate tenants, and TechTrep then filled the site with their STEM courses.
With their fully-managed LMS model, eThink serves as an extension of TechTrep’s technology team by providing them with unlimited support. eThink is always available to answer questions, big or small, and can lend their expertise to help TechTrep continue to reach their goals.
“eThink has been very welcoming of our questions and very helpful when we’ve hit any challenges,” said Farris. “With their support, we look forward to continuing to enhance our STEM program and we feel confident we’ll be able to meet any challenges that might present themselves in the future.”
Tenants for Unique User Types
During implementation, eThink designed the platform around three base user types: School Districts, Prospects, and Homeschoolers. The default Moodle Workplace tenant houses both the homeschooling students and prospects, while each school district client has a unique tenant based on a “master tenant” template created by eThink.
The “master tenant” was created as a template of the typical tenant style that would be used for a school district. This can be cloned by the TechTrep team as the base for each new client’s tenant in the Moodle Workplace site. The tenant includes the custom-designed roles of “Tenant Admin” and “Tech Mentor” for members of the school districts to be involved in the administrative side of managing students and courses within the platform. The “Tenant Admin” role is a classic tenant administrator role, while “Tech Mentor” is a variation of the tenant administrator that allows non-editing access to courses and the ability to enroll and manage users and run reports.
eThink designed the master tenant with custom CSS to add TechTrep branding to each subsequent clone, alongside the branding that would reflect the specific client’s school district. The tenant style also features the ability for districts to change and amend their course catalogue by adding or removing activities based on their goals, which can be completed using the Course Upload feature.
An example of a school district’s branded TechTrep login page in Moodle Workplace.
A student view of the TechTrep site, which can be customized to reflect the branding and priorities of an individual school district.
eThink configured guest access to the default tenant of the site that would allow TechTrep prospects to see a series of sample courses. This allows TechTrep to showcase their courses without needing to setup and manage new accounts for each prospect.
The prospect view of TechTrep’s site, where they can explore example courses.
Individual homeschooling students can purchase access to TechTrep’s STEM courses via an integration with Edwiser Bridge, an eCommerce tool, that links the TechTrep website with the LMS. Students are automatically enrolled into purchased courses through the default tenant in the Moodle Workplace site.
“For these students, we have a seamless integration from when they purchase to them enrolling in the course, allowing them to start learning in a matter of minutes,” said Bates.
The homeschool student profiles are subject to specific permissions, so they are not able to view or access prospect-specific courses or the categories to which they belong, even though they are in the same tenant.
TechTrep’s general login page which provides access for homeschool students using the login option and prospects who can use the Guest login feature.
With these user types, TechTrep was able to configure their platform to accommodate for the different use cases of their audiences while providing the appropriate level of access to each.
Moodle Workplace by eThink provides an extensive reporting framework for TechTrep to track the success and progress of learners in their site. Due to each school district having a unique tenant, administrators for individual school districts are also able to pull reports on their individual students or by course.
“When a district asks a basic question like ’How many kids are using the program?’, we should be able to look and see that. That was not possible with our previous platform, and now we have the capability to easily pull reports with eThink,” said Marlon Lindsay, Co-Founder and CEO, TechTrep.
With the site design in place, eThink worked closely with TechTrep’s team to ensure they knew how to properly use the platform. eThink provided training on the Moodle Workplace environment, the different use cases and onboarding procedures for building out new tenants for school districts, and how TechTrep and their clients can pull reports to measure program success. The team also became familiar with how student profiles are set up and how they can issue items like badges to reward students.
Multitenancy: Separate Instances for Each Client
Moodle Workplace by eThink provided TechTrep with an effective solution to meet their digital learning platform needs, resolving the numerous issues that they faced previously. With eThink’s expertise and the built-in multitenant functionality found in Moodle Workplace, TechTrep is no longer running into issues with student information imports, limited reporting, or lack of administrative access for teachers and school administrators.
“The eThink Team helped us accomplish all of our goals,” said Bates. “Creating the multitenancy was the main objective and they designed the platform and showed us the ins-and-outs of how to set up new tenants and manage existing ones.”
With multitenancy in Moodle Workplace, TechTrep can give each school district a customizable branded site, allowing them to provide their clients with an even more tailored learning experience. Additionally, individual learners can launch right into their courses, while prospects can easily peruse demo courses. TechTrep is now able to seamlessly cater to multiple audiences of learners without limiting the user experience.
Improved Processes and Efficiency
The new platform requires far less backend work from the TechTrep team than their prior platform. Previously, they were required to upload every student and handle all administrative tasks for their clients, but Moodle Workplace allows clients to receive administrative access for their individual tenants so that they can make changes for themselves as needed. This provides teachers and administrators with hands-on access to courses, while the TechTrep team has been freed up to focus on the bigger picture of providing their clients with the most effective service and STEM content.
Custom Platform Designed for Success and Scale
With the assistance of eThink, TechTrep was able to customize their LMS to meet their unique business needs. TechTrep is now better able to reach their goal of providing STEM courses to students across the country on an easy-to-use platform that more accurately reflects the quality of their courses. TechTrep can provide clients with additional administrative and reporting capabilities that allow them to receive the full benefits of the program. With a new LMS that be configured on a client-by-client basis, TechTrep is better able to meet their business goals and to scale their STEM programs. With eThink’s support, they are confident that their platform can continue to grow with them as they scale their operations and provide STEM resources to more learners.
Conclusion & Future Goals
TechTrep’s vision for creating an effective digital platform to house their comprehensive STEM courses was brought to life by eThink, who has become a true partner in eLearning for the TechTrep team. Partnering with eThink gave TechTrep the ability to simplify and streamline processes, allowing them to step away from time-consuming administrative tasks and focus on improving the user experience for their learners.
“We hope that [our new platform] will allow us to empower our school districts to be able to take more control of their implementations; to be flexible in assigning students to courses, editing passwords and more; and to truly be able to see data as part of their bigger picture,” said Farris.
Moving forward, TechTrep has already begun to envision additional ways they can use their new LMS to increase the impact of their STEM programs while supporting their business goals. One such goal is for their team to create badges and digital portfolios that students can carry with them as they progress in their learning.
“The idea of digital reporting, badging, and creating a portfolio is really crucial to 21st century education. As our students move onto higher education and the workforce, part of their qualifications will depend on their course portfolio, so the opportunity to establish a repository of accomplishments for our learners becomes a powerful feature for school districts and a competitive advantage for us,”
– Marlon Lindsay, Co-Founder and CEO, TechTrep.
As TechTrep continues to scale their program to provide more learners with access to education that can inspire a lifelong interest in STEM fields, eThink will support their efforts and work alongside TechTrep to fine tune their platform. In the future, as their client base grows and their needs change, eThink will provide an effective and engaging learning environment to support TechTrep’s mission.