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May 16, 2013 - by Hannah Simon
In March, we wrote about PREPWORKS, an ambitious education company that’s using an adaptive learning engine to create a 1:1 learning environment for students. Since then, PREPWORKS has been doing great things, and recently received the Best Education Software award for having the best adaptive test preparation website worldwide.
Many other education software companies are replicating classrooms in an online format. What PREPWORKS is doing is different -- they’re taking a one-on-one tutoring model, which is the most effective way to teach students, and moving it online. So, how have they built this advanced, award-winning infrastructure in the cloud?
“We’ve created an adaptive engine using what we call ‘Infused Human Intelligence,’ which enables an expert teacher to program the system into multiple learning paths based on different student performance,” explains Michael Penney, CTO at PREPWORKS.
If this sounds like a complex, sophisticated platform, that’s because it is. PREPWORKS spent an “enormous amount of time” planning the system and prototyping; using an agile development process, the team is constantly gathering data and folding it into the feedback loop to improve their product.
When it came to picking a cloud services provider, Michael didn’t want to have to manage the infrastructure on a day-to-day basis. That’s one of the reasons he chose Joyent.
“Joyent is my infrastructure team, running the servers and managing the hardware,” said Michael. “One of the biggest benefits to using Joyent is that it gives me the freedom to focus on developing new features and giving excellent support to our students.”
Joyent provides an excellent solution to database scaling. - Michael Penney, CTO at PREPWORKS.
PREPWORKS originally used another hosting company, but their team needed to do a lot of customization on their application, which is the reason they switched to Joyent. Joyent was also “much less expensive” than PREPWORKS’ previous provider. “With Joyent, we get double the resources for half the cost,” explains Michael.
Since receiving the BESSIE award, PREPWORKS has continued to drive momentum forward. Partnering with several large school districts, they anticipate that by Fall 2013 their user base will grow to more than 25,000 students. Moreover, a lot of the schools PREPWORKS is working with practice the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model, which means every student has a personal tablet or laptop on campus. If the majority of these schools start at the same time every morning, and if students are required to login to their device to take tests, it means that PREPWORKS can experience between 50-70% utilization of their product. With Joyent, they know that their system will be able to handle a huge influx of traffic and users.
“Joyent provides an excellent solution to database scaling,” said Michael. “Our product is a very resource-intensive application by its nature, but with Joyent, it’s easy for me to add new server nodes and manage load balancing, or use New Relic to check scalability data.”
We’re excited to see how PREPWORKS grows and develops in the coming months, and look forward to helping them reach their goal of serving more than 1 million students over the next few years.