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A Sapphire framework for OceanBrowser

With the release of SilverStripe 3 preview 1, Sapphire is to be independent of the...

Tagged sapphire, framework, community

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by Joanna McLeod

Posted 17 May 2011

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With the release of SilverStripe 3 preview 1, Sapphire is to be independent of the CMS, to really unleash the full power of the framework. We believe that Sapphire can be used to build much more than just traditional content managed websites - and we're not the only ones who are thinking that way.

Sapphire has also been embraced by OceanBrowser, a Dunedin company who make OB3, a web app for learning that is based around the social media model.

The research underlying OB3's development suggests that richer interaction with content will lead to better learning outcomes. OB3 is designed for busy time-starved postgraduate and professional students. It customises a personal learning environment around students' needs, featuring tools such as collaboration, annotation and study views of content to optimise and enrich their learning processes.

For course providers and educators OB3 provides an industry-leading experience for authoring and managing course content. In addition to text, OB3 documents can contain interactive content, online media, and are compatible with desktop office applications. It can also generate an automated summary view based on course participant’s study activity.

You can take a look at this demo video in order to get a better feel for OB3.

As Sapphire is already used in projects with huge data requirements, such as multi-institution Library systems, they had confidence it would scale.

OceanBrowser chose Sapphire for OB3 because of its simplicity.

"Almost everything is taken care of for me and there is next to no setup. Copy and paste the files into a directory and you can expect it to just work. I also like the structure and underlying principles SilverStripe has followed in designing the framework, which has been an influence on how I design my applications now," said Michael Mitchell, Lead Developer for OB3.

"Because SilverStripe Ltd and OceanBrowser are both based in NZ it created the opportunity for us to be able to meet, collaborate and work directly together. Their 'can do' attitude gives us confidence that any unexpected issues we may encounter in the future will be able to be addressed as we grow," said Rodney Tamblyn, CEO of OceanBrowser.

More than just being a "safe" option, Sapphire's elegant code enabled OB3's innovations. It provides a easy environment on which to build, so OceanBrowser could focus their attention on the user experience.

Their ambition is realised in the end result. OB3 has a modular structure, which means every single piece of content becomes its own element, each with its own database record. This means course content and discussion can be brought together in a sensible way, repurposed as need be, while collaboration allows mistakes and misconceptions to be corrected. Elements are flexible, so lecturers could view questions on their phones, record the answer to questions as a voice file, and drop it back in to original content. The design of OB3 means it can be browsed like a web site, but those who are more comfortable editing Word documents will feel right at home as well.

Ocean Browser hope that OB3 will enable students to always be able to refer back to their studies. OB3 accounts are personal to the student and don't expire. Instead of having boxes of notes mouldering away in their parents' garages, graduates could log back into OB3 to refresh their knowledge in certain areas, and catch up on the newest research at the same time.

"It's all about creating a learning community that keeps graduates connected to their colleagues and academic mentors, which lies at the heart of life long learning," says Rodney.

OB3 is currently in beta release, and we're keeping a close eye on its development. We love seeing what people get up to with Sapphire, so please, get in touch if you've got a project to share.