Minerva Active Learning Forum
The Minerva Active Learning Forum is a real-time learning environment that gives Minerva students freedom to travel the world while taking classes. (You can learn more from our book Building the Intentional University.) As a tiny team in 2012, we designed and built a seminar environment that was seamless and closely tied to Minerva’s Active Learning philosophy.
I had the privilege of architecting the Active Learning Forum system from the beginning, including the live seminar classroom and the asynchronous learning platform (courses system). I also built the initial functionality of both applications with a fellow engineer, onboarding team members via pair programming as the team grew.
We used regular design sprints to come up with new ideas for the platform, and we had big hopes for it, so I needed to balance adaptability with speed. To support those goals, I avoided technology lock-in and kept the system modular, which made it easy to refactor subsystems as we grew. I also focused on robust data models, a modular user interface, performant real-time interactions, and an easy-to-understand system design. Some of the technologies used have been:
- Compojure, and then Django REST Framework, as the REST API servers, connected with Postgres
- Redis pub/sub, in conjunction with asynchronous Clojure and Websockets for real-time interactions
- A hosted video provider
After 2012, the team and product grew immensely, and together we built build a remarkable, robust, seamless system to enable learning at Minerva.