How Netguru Engaged in Teaching Students How to Build Apps
Apps for Good (AfG) is one of our favourite projects – a registered charity is transforming the way technology is taught in schools, partnering with educators to deliver its app development course to young people.
Netguru is responsible for developing the software behind Apps for Good – a platform that allows cooperation between teachers, students, and experts to facilitate technology teaching. The goal is to turn young people, who are natural consumers of tech products, into tech creators. Apps for Good partners with educators in schools and learning centres to deliver its app development course to young people between 8 and 18 years of age. Since 2010, the Apps for Good course has been delivered to more than 50,000 students in over 1,000 schools across the UK. Students learn idea generation, problem solving, teamwork, market research, business planning, and programming.
Apps for Good courses are available to teachers online through a dedicated platform. Starting their expansion to other countries (the US, Spain, Portugal, and Poland), the organization’s management decided to revamp the platform’s core software.
The platform was originally built in 2012 and was later developed by different teams. By 2016, it required a major upgrade. The main goals were to take full control over the code, make it scale up better, improve the UX design, and introduce a new app architecture.
There were several key challenges to the project:
- Netguru had to understand the logic and code of a product built by several different teams.
- The platform needed to provide an interface and UX appealing to different groups of users (teachers, students and the expert community)
- The application architecture needed to be scalable and ready for international expansion, which was expected to cause a substantial surge in traffic
Netguru started working on the project in December 2015. The development of the platform was a continuous process, yet, it was broken down into three sub-projects, corresponding to the three modules of the platform: one module for students, one for teachers and one for the expert community. The development process consisted of overlapping phases: design, build and release. The team maintained a client-centric approach and applied the following principles:
- “User first” comprehensive design;
- Open door policy for the client;
- Netguru devs’ participation in AfG events;
- Regular online communications and face-to-face meetings.
Full-stack development services (UX design agency services, frontend development and backend development) offered by Netguru made it possible for the team to reclaim full control over the project. Having the designers and programmers in one team helped implement a “user first” comprehensive design.
At any point in time, at least two or three Netguru developers worked on the project. However, whenever additional resources were needed, Netguru was able to add new developers without any delay. During the peak development time, the team consisted of nine people. "I appreciate Netguru's ability to scale the team really quickly, and their proficiency in working with different methodologies: agile or waterfall. They move their spare capacity from project to project, and junior developers were brought into our project to speed things up. This is very important for a project with a limited budget".
Netguru offered Apps for Good managers full access to the project and the code. Each member of the Netguru team was ready to answer questions on Slack. "They make you feel an integral part of the development team. Some agencies build walls between the client and their team and disappear for weeks without any contact. Netguru offered total transparency and availability, which was very reassuring", said Ruairí Doyle, Head of Product at Apps for Good.
The first module of the platform dedicated to the educators was released on time and within budget in mid-August 2016. The upgrade was substantial. The Apps for Good team are now able to monitor all activities on the platform and use new metrics to measure the impact of their programmes.
The key benefits included:
- Increasing the engagement of AfG users.
- Bespoke metrics to measure the impact of AfG activity.
- Getting access to a scalable development team.
"The design phase was excellent. From the start, we applied user centered thinking. The designers understood our user needs perfectly. The developers were skilled and conscientious about the work and the project goals. They were very engaged – to the point that they decided to attend an Apps For Good event that took place in Poland just to understand our product and users better. That's a level of involvement I haven't seen before.
Finally, we have a very strong PM on Netguru side: Svetlana. She has full control of the project, ensures adherence to deadlines, and manages expectations very well. This is especially important in an outsourced relationship between teams," said Ruairí Doyle, Head of Product at Apps for Good.
At the moment, Netguru and Apps for Good are working on the third module that will extend the platform to the expert community. We are only a few weeks from the release.