A success story with Open edX® and eduNEXT
Romero Virtual Campus is an initiative, which was developed in 2014 by the Romero Foundation in Peru, with the aim of generating educational opportunities nationwide, providing specialized knowledge to strengthen entrepreneurship skills in a dynamic and innovative way and powered by the Open edX platform.
The organization behind this initiative, the Romero Foundation, is a non-profit organization created in 1982, and besides the Campus Virtual, it develops other projects that enhance the entrepreneurial capacities of thousands of Peruvians: the Entrepreneurs Portal, PQS.pe and the Prize to entrepreneurship “Para Quitarse el Sombrero”.
Romero Virtual campus and the Open edX platform
When the initiative was first launch, there were many uncertainties in regards too how the needs of the consumer base would evolve and what technologies would be best to support such initiative. After considering different alternatives, the decision was made to base the initiative on the Open edX Platform, which at that point was not widely recognized and for which there was not yet a translation to Spanish available.
eduNEXT took care of completing the translation and provisioning the platform for the initiative, which led to accelerated growth rapidly, growing from a few hundred users to tens of thousands within just one year. Through the consolidation of its position as an innovative online learning provider, the addition of new courses, programs and functionalities and the strengthening of its partner networks, Romero Virtual Campus reached the mark of one million users in 2020, with more than 200 courses, 30 specialization programs, positioning itself as one of the largest virtual campuses in Latin America.
Throughout that journey, the Open edX platform has provided a very robust and reliable technology and eduNEXT has provided all the support required for their evolving needs, starting with a cloud-based subscription, and at some point moving into an on-premise installation and support plan. Complementary applications such as website integration with Drupal, the ecommerce and Insights application, and the course discovery service were added later to enable better marketing, programs, and analytics.
Some customizations have also been done along the way, such as the addition of support for the local payment gateway, addition of HTML formatting for the email notifications, and improvements to the ecommerce module to handle other currencies to name a few. Such extensions have been made available for other Open edX based initiatives to use.
Romero Virtual campus facing COVID-19
During the course of this year and partly as a consequence of the global response to COVID-19, the foundation together with the government of Peru has been promoting these online courses, in order to continue empowering young entrepreneurs throughout the country and region. Additionally, the Foundation Romero announced the donation of 200,000 scholarships aimed towards young entrepreneurs, who would be able to register and train through the Romero Virtual Campus and obtain the certificates for their courses free of charge. Als, they launched a national campaign called #Yoaprendoencasa, whose main purpose is supporting people who want to train or learn about different topics during this quarantine stage, starting with 40 courses available. They already have more than 220,000 registrations made and their goal and commitment is to provide a total of 300,000 scholarships to everyone who requires it for free.
The pandemic conditions brought the challenge of supporting a significant and relatively unexpected increase in demand and concurrent usage. As the site faced a ten times increase in traffic, it reached 200,000 users who visit the portal during the months of February and April of this year. The Romero Foundation relied on the high scalability of the Open edX technology and the professional services of eduNEXT to scale its architecture in such a way that it could respond to those needs with high availability and solid performance.
This is one of many examples of what the future of online learning is facing: increased interest for online learning, the need for a technology which allows managing concurrent access to online courses by large numbers of users, and the growing demand for relevant and high quality content to improve many different types of skills. Luckily, the technology is available and the Open edX community at large is ready to meet this challenge.