The team at Connect-i is working to create the next-generation Learning Management System ... in Drupal
A small Swiss team based on the shores of Lake Geneva, near the city of Lausanne, is trying to change the way you learn.
They are working to change the way people think about Learning Management Systems, by creating an LMS that is streamlined, stable, simple to use, and infinitely customizable.
The web development company behind this new project is Connect-i. Founded in 2008, they’ve done just about everything a company can do with website development, and they have a history of success in creating specialized packaged software solutions. Projects like inPublish, a technical document management system, helped to build their reputation; but it’s their newest project that is quickly gaining attention.
Opigno is that project, and any conversation with the Connect-i team makes it clear that they feel they have a winning product on their hands. After spending some time with Opigno, diving into its structure and inner-workings, it’s easy to see that this is much more than mere posturing.
They have game. They know what they’re doing. And they have created a solid product.
Designed for simplicity and understanding
With the uniquely named “Opigno,” the team at Connect-i is looking to redefine what makes a successful Learning Management System. Built on the Drupal core framework, Opigno takes advantage of the dedicated Drupal community, and the platform’s infinite combination of modules.
Opigno was first brought to our attention by our own in-house trainer, Stacie Bender. She came across the LMS when she was looking for a new way to display and organize our technical training, and she found the solution she was looking for in Opigno. We are now using a fully customized Opigno site for our internal training, and we’ll be giving a demonstration of Opigno and its teaching / learning uses at this month’s Drupal usergroup meeting.
Q&A with Opigno developers
Below is our conversation with Axel Minck, founder and director of Connect-i, and Wouter Admiraal, lead developer on Opigno.
Q: Opigno is your newest product. First, let’s talk about that name. It’s such an unusual name. Does “Opigno” mean something? Why did you choose that name?
Axel: It's never easy to find a name for a new product! For Opigno, we wanted a name with a reference to something serious, intelligent, and sustainable, the product being related to the educational area. An ancient Greek word proved to be perfect for this purpose: "epignosis" (meaning knowledge). Then, Opigno was imagined from the contraction of "Open" (we wanted to release an open-source product) and "Epignosis."
Q: Why did your team set out to create a Learning Management System in the first place?
Axel: Well, we always get ideas for new product development from our customers … Concerning e-learning … we got convinced that there would definitely be a place for a user-friendly solution, built up on a reliable basis, and with a consistent development team, and professional quality.
Wouter: There is definitely a big demand for open source e-learning. Many — if not all — open source solutions are pretty much outdated. Many have the same code-base as 5+ years ago, forcing themselves to remain backward compatible, but becoming completely irrelevant — technologically speaking — as a result.
Q: What do you think sets Opigno apart from other Learning Management Systems?
Axel: The main asset of Opigno is that it is built on Drupal. It can therefore be integrated very easily with other information systems. Opigno natively supports content management (thanks to its Drupal base) and can be perfectly integrated with a lot of systems thanks to existing and reliable Drupal functionalities.
Q: Are there any specific features / options in Opigno that your team is especially proud of? Challenges that you had to overcome? Any features that you think will be particularly beneficial to users?
Wouter: We believed very strongly we had to reuse existing technologies that were well-established. This would allow other developers to get started quickly, as well as provide many third-party modules at launch, without needing to recreate an entire tech ecosystem. Anyone familiar with Drupal will be pleased to know we use Organic Groups, Quiz, Views and Rules as our main building blocks for Opigno. This is something we're very happy about, as it is a challenge to make these work seamlessly together.
Another BIG challenge was the UI. Drupal is brilliant, but notorious for having complex user-interfaces and confusing settings. Opigno ships with a module called Opigno Simple UI and enables it by default. Advanced Drupal users can turn it off if they want, but I think no-one will. I know Drupal and OG well, but couldn't live without Opigno Simple UI now that I started using it. It tweaks many interfaces, standardizing forms and settings so users have a consistent and intuitive experience. And I think we did a pretty good job.
Q: How complicated is it for a new user to start using Opigno?
Axel: For the final user, the interface has been designed to be very user friendly and easy to use. For administrators, Drupal should make it possible to be ready very fast (and people having already used Drupal for other projects will be immediately ready to administrate Opigno).
Wouter: The user experience was a top priority during the entire process. And I think it shows. There's still work to be done, but overall, it will be easier to start using Opigno than a bare-bone Drupal site, for example.
Q: Now the big question. You built Opigno on the Drupal platform. Why?
Axel: Very good question! We've been [working with] Drupal for a long time (more than 5 years), and appreciate it a lot. We take part in (and sponsor) every Drupalcon in Europe. We also maintain some Drupal modules on drupal.org. This was a natural choice for us, all the more so given the advantages it may bring to a project like Opigno.
Wouter: We know Drupal very well, and it is only natural to use a framework one's familiar with. But what really made us go for Drupal is the incredible community. Drupal has one of the largest open-source communities in the world, and anyone who has been to a DrupalCon knows that it is a group of passionate and very talented people.
An open-source product is only as good as its community of users, and we really wanted to work with this community. We're already a part of it, we love it, and we wouldn't want to work with any other.
Q: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, guys. We always enjoy putting a spotlight on new creative projects with Drupal. We wish you all the best with Opigno.
Axel: Thanks to you, this was a pleasure!
Wouter: Thank you so much.
[Editor's Note: Read Part 2 of our feature on Opigno to see how the Drupal LMS can be used in a custom environment.]