The Center for the Collaborative Classroom is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to providing a curriculum that supports the academic, ethical, social and emotional development of children.
Collaborative Classroom needed to evolve its legacy educational assessment engine with a fast, web and mobile-ready solution for teachers using their curriculum.
Collaborative Classroom modernized its classic SQL-based assessment engine by implementing NoSQL for MultiValue.
The Center for the Collaborative Classroom improves the school experience of children around the globe by providing teachers with an engaging curriculum and ongoing professional learning that support the academic as well as the social and emotional development of students. Founded in 1980, the organization has pioneered the integration of social and academic development into a curriculum and has made significant contributions to research on social and emotional learning.
“One of our fundamental beliefs is that learning happens in communities in which kids interact with one another,” says Roger King, CEO, Collaborative Classroom. “We believe that social and emotional learning must be integrated with academic instruction to have a real impact.”
By weaving together literacy and social development, Collaborative Classroom helps teachers build caring classroom communities that motivate and inspire students to grow. Teachers are encouraged to confer with students frequently throughout the school year to assess and track individual growth as well as the growth of the classroom. Class and group assessments help teachers make on-the-spot decisions about how and when to modify instruction.
Collaborative Classroom comes with a digital assessment application designed to simplify the analysis of student data and provide real-time feedback to teachers. However, its previous, SQL-based digital assessment engine was too slow to use. On the back end, the application’s classic SQL database spread across 45 different tables, causing lags of up to 20 seconds or more.
“The teacher would be trying to record an answer, but, by then, the child was already on to the next step,” explains Tim Millen, Chief Technology Officer, Collaborative Classroom.”
As a result, most teachers reverted to paper-and-pencil assessments that saved time during the assessment but made analysis a tedious, manual process. With this valuable information being committed to paper, Collaborative Classroom was also missing out on important insights it could use to shape and improve its curriculum.
“If teachers are keeping paper files, that provides zero learning back to us on how teachers are using our program—which assessments they’re using and which ones they aren’t,” says Millen.
The organization knew it needed to find a way to accelerate its assessment engine so teachers could spend less time on assessments and more time with students. Millen began looking for a microservices-based technology that could provide up-to-the-moment responsiveness.
“Many schools do not have the benefit of strong bandwidth, so we had to develop a system that was very lightweight,” explains Millen. “At the same time, we didn’t want to lose the depth of knowledge in our database by flattening our tables. It was very clear that we had to go to NoSQL.”
The organization knew it needed to find a way to accelerate its assessment engine so teachers could spend less time on assessments and more time with students.
“Of all the MultiValue databases, I began to really focus on jBASE because it is native to the operating system, so it is very lightweight.”
– Tim Millen, Chief Technology Officer
Millen quickly narrowed his search to jBASE from Zumasys. “Of course, Mongo is one of the biggest NoSQL databases, but we needed a three dimensional database,” he adds. “Of all the MultiValue databases, I began to really focus on jBASE because it is native to the operating system, so it is very lightweight. Plus, Zumasys is really layering on a lot of new technology, which is very exciting for us.”
Zumasys’ software services team worked closely with Millen and his team to understand their objectives and build a solution from the ground up that could meet the organization’s unique requirements—including compliance with stringent federal data privacy regulations such as FERPA, CIPA and COPPA.
The resulting solution is now faster and more flexible than ever before.
The idea for website, training and logo was born out of a series called The MultiValue Market Updates which were hosted by Zumasys in 2017 and 2018. Attendees were consistently requesting these education resources and the company felt compelled to act.
There are tens of thousands of companies relying on MultiValue to run their businesses each day. Few young coders graduate school with experience programming in PICK, but traditional PICK MultiValue training methods are costly and antiquated.
“We believe in MultiValue and we hope these resources kick start a movement and help get the next generation of programmers excited about the data model,” says Paul Giobbi, Co-founder and President of Zumasys
On jBASE, the assessment database now runs 20x faster than it did in a traditional SQL environment. “The numbers are incredible,” says Millen. “We would be up at 250ms, 500ms for a typical query. With jBASE, we’re down to 20ms—even 5ms, depending on what’s being asked for. So, we are very happy with the speed.”
Adds King, “We compete with big, traditional publishers with deep pockets. This solution is helping us level the playing field.”
Migrating to jBASE also allowed Collaborative Classroom to create a mobile, user-friendly interface for delivering assessments in real-time. Educators are now able to seamlessly move throughout the classroom from student to student, recording observations as they go. As Collaborative Classroom prepares for the 2019-2020 school year, Millen is excited to see how the application performs in the classroom.
“Everyone we’ve shown it to so far has just been blown away,” says Millen. “They sit there in stunned silence because they can’t believe how fast and intuitive everything is now.”
The solution is also having an impact on the organization’s bottom line. Even though the organization’s previous SQL solution was free, Millen reports that TCO for the assessment database has decreased with jBASE.
“Free is never free,” he explains. “Building a SQL database, you have a lot of costs from just the infrastructure alone. jBASE is running on a lightweight server—as minimal as you can get—with rapid development. So, the overall cost is way under what we would have with a typical SQL environment.”
And with more customers anticipated to adopt the assessment technology, Collaborative Classroom hopes to use that data to help make their programs even better. This new technology will help them get even closer to their customers, guiding teachers with personalized recommendations at both the class and student level in real time. To King and his colleagues, that insight is invaluable.