EdX has been working with Arbisoft for almost the entirety of our life as an organization. We’ve had a great time working with them, and were excited when they wanted to give back to the community in another way: by sponsoring Open edX 2016.
Yasser Bashir, who co-founded Arbisoft with Umair Shah, now serves as CEO. He took some time to not only plan a trip to Open edX 2016 (all the way from Lahore!), but also to tell us more about the company and what they’re doing.
Can you tell us a bit about Arbisoft?
Absolutely. Arbisoft specializes in providing custom software development services to companies across the globe. Our main verticals are travel and education, where we have developed a number of key partnerships–including edX.
We connected with edX on a project back in 2013, and are one of their biggest technology partners today. We now have a team of over 50 people doing a full gamut of edX-related development, customization, course authoring, testing, and support services.
What are you working on right now?
There’s quite a lot going on, particularly with the Open edX project. We’re extending the Open edX platform to meet the requirements of clients like McKinsey Academy. This activity includes developing RESTful APIs that allow mobile and web clients to use particular features of the edX platform.
We’ve just finished developing the credentials service with edX, which is another form of course verification–like certificates–in the LMS. Other than that, we’re customizing the edX platform as a white-label solution, and have also modified the edX e-commerce service for several new customers, including Harvard Medical School, MITx, HarvardX, and others. We are consolidating different branding features provided by the edX platform for a single comprehensive multi-theming solution, and have contributed to the development of the custom course feature, which is now being used by MIT.
We’re also working on rolling out a new feature in the edX mobile apps: downloadable online courseware. This feature will allow learners to easily access their preferred courses while offline.
We are really excited about some of our own products as well. After a successful beta, we’re geared to launch a cloud-based service called ListenTool, which is a learning and growth tool that brings individuals and teams in an organization onto a single platform where they can share developmental feedback with each other.
Another product we are really proud of is Sentimeter. It’s a Customer Experience Management solution with advanced diagnostic tools and smart analytics technology, that engages with customers at all touch points of their journey and allows businesses to improve their experience.
What are you most excited about, of past or upcoming projects?
The most exciting work lately at edX was to upgrade Django from a very old version to its latest, and the most challenging part was to keep it in-sync with the changes that were happening on a daily basis.
We’ve also made some fascinating upgrades to the edX mobile apps. Last month, we enabled discussion forums in the apps, making it easier for students and course instructors to interact from any place, any time.
Right now, we’re looking forward to integrating a new payment system (Adyen), as an addition to the existing payment solutions in the system (PayPal and Cybersource). We expect it to be an important integration as Adyen is one of the most widely used payment solutions in China. We’ve recently updated the account settings page, and improved its UI for the end users. Now we’re improving the instructor experience with video modules. So most of the upcoming changes and additions to edX would have our fingerprints on them, and that’s super exciting for us.
Other than that, we’re really proud of all the partnerships and good working relations that we’ve built over the years with notable names in the tech industry, including PayPerks, Kayak, Travelliance, and of course, edX.
Can you tell us a bit about the future of Arbisoft?
At Arbisoft, we continue to be motivated by our desire to build software services and products that people love. Working with platforms like Open edX and organizations like edX itself is definitely a big part of that plan. Going forward, we will continue to create more capacity for edX development and customization by training more smart engineers. We also want to leverage the platform for rolling out large scale educational projects in our region.
One of our independently developed educational projects is a Unity 3D-based simulation for high school physics experiments. We have written an XBlock to wrap the 3D plug-in. The plan is to embed it in a free edX course on a custom edX deployment and roll it out to millions of students in developing economies who don’t have access to a physics lab infrastructure. So far we have deployed it in over 400 public and private schools.
We also look forward to marking our presence in the tech product space with ListenTool and Sentimeter, and hope that Arbisoft’s products add value to the work and lives of their users.
Can you tell us a bit about what you do as a member of the Open edX community?
Since we work as a part of the Open edX team, the community directly benefits from our contributions. Some of our independent work also makes it to Open edX from time to time. Last year, Arbisoft developed a Diagnostic Feedback XBlock for McKinsey Academy, which provided micro-assessments to the students in the form of quizzes and sub-quizzes with immediate results, and optional redirections to different internal and external resources. This XBlock comes with a highly intuitive authoring experience, which streamlines creation of nested quizzes and their respective results in a wizard-like fashion for the staff. While this XBlock is live in production at McKinsey Academy, Arbisoft has reached a mutual agreement with McKinsey towards contributing it to Open edX as an Open Source XBlock. We’re really excited to have it included in the platform.
Yasser Bashir is at Open edX 2016, and happy to answer any questions about Arbisoft.