Putting user experience at the forefront of online education

How can we facilitate the transition to digital learning through webinars and online content in two months during a global pandemic?

Linchigher webinar banner

LiNCHigher is a consortia partnership of education providers and organisations supporting young people in schools, colleges and community groups across Lincolnshire.  Their aim is to provide young people with the information and support they require to make informed decisions about their future.

When LiNCHigher’s usual programme of face-to-face talks was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, they started delivering this content though webinars and digital content online. This was found to be a much more efficient and effective means of delivery, allowing them to deliver multiple talks at once and reach people who would usually struggle to attend a live event.

LiNCHigher wanted digital content to continue to be a major part of their information delivery system during and post-pandemic, so they approached us in 2020 to help them create a mini-site which would act as a media and resources hub for their upcoming programme of talks aimed at parents of young people considering higher education.

At the forefront of this would be the delivery of live webinars (using the Zoom API) which would be automatically recorded and added to a searchable library of on-demand material.

The transition to digital delivery opened up the event to anyone with a device and an internet connection. However, we were conscious of the fact that some attendees may not be regular technology users, so the website had to be easy to use and accessible through any device.

Developing a user-friendly video platform with a seamless Zoom API integration

Video hosting mini-site

We built a new mini-site in Craft 3 as a home for the LiNCHigher Zoom Education webinars so that LiNCHigher could take their four-day parents event online in November 2020. Their programme of talks, seminars and presentations covered a range of topics to help parents understand the challenges and opportunities involved in the university application process.

We created an information area for each webinar, which included the ability to download or print resources files, as well as a list of Frequently Asked Questions (see below). This information was made available before, during and after the event so that content could be accessed at any time.

This was all hidden behind a simple but secure user registration portal with a data protection notice. Users were able to sign up ahead of the event to see the calendar of talks and select which ones were relevant to them on each day.

Webinar registration screen
Integration with Zoom API

We integrated the Zoom API into this LiNCHigher branded site which allowed users to create a webinar event in Zoom, which in turn created an entry in the website CMS, Craft.

While each 45 minute session was pre-recorded, it was presented in a custom video player delivered via Cloudflare and designed to look like a live presentation. This was followed by 15 minutes of live Q&A, delivered via the Zoom integrated video player.

After each session concluded, it was automatically saved and made available on-demand, so that users could re-watch a session, or catch up on one if they had missed the live stream.

Q&A live chat interface

Each session included a pre-existing list of Frequently Asked Questions. However LiNCHigher wanted the functionality to allow users to submit other questions which they thought of during the presentation, and which could be answered in real-time during the 15-minute Q&A which followed each video stream.

To facilitate this, we needed to include a Q&A system so users could submit questions using a chat style interface during the session. On the front-end, this took the form of a simple text box where users could submit their questions.

In the back-end, we built a custom plugin in Craft using JavaScript and GraphQL. This allowed LiNCHigher admin users to see questions as they came in, respond either via email or by adding them to the list of FAQs on the session page, and then mark the question as ‘Responded’.

Linchigher programme
Live calendar of events

Even though the talks were pre-recorded, we wanted to simulate the experience of attending a live event as much as possible. We aimed to do this by showing a calendar of events, with different states for events which were upcoming, live, or finished.

We also built a date/time controller so that we could test the functionality of this by entering a specific date and time. The page would then appear as if this were the actual time, allowing us to see how the page would change depending on whether an event was in the past, present, or future.

Linchigher qa lifestyle

Our impact

We started working with LiNCHigher in September 2020, giving us less than two months to scope, design, build and test a live streaming video hosting platform in time for the event.

The launch of the LiNCHigher mini-site in November 2020 allowed LiNCHigher to deliver their usual programme of talks in spite of the physical restrictions imposed by the pandemic. The programme was a great success and proved that virtual events could be delivered with the same level of engagement as an event in the real world.

Systems launched

  • New responsive LiNCHigher mini-site
  • New FAQ plugin, custom-built for LiNCHigher
  • New self-service admin system to upload videos and edit content

Technologies used

  • Craft 3 CMS
  • JavaScript and GraphQL plugin
  • API integration with Zoom using Pusher
  • Date/time controller for testing