VAN IN and icapps: long-term partners
Seven years ago, when VAN IN and icapps were practically neighbours, both parties decided to discover the possibilities of educational tablet apps together: VAN IN had the right content, and icapps had plenty of experience in app development. This resulted in a first joint project, leading to the app Woordtrainer En Action. In the years to follow icapps and VAN IN collaborated on several projects, with most recently Bingel Raket. “One of icapps’ key strengths is their ability to build advanced, complex digital platforms with a very clever and straightforward interface,” says Lieven Bossuyt, Product Owner at VAN IN.
Pioneer in digital publishing
VAN IN has been a digital frontrunner for years. They were the first major publisher to use floppy disks at first and CD-Roms later on. It was no surprise to anyone that VAN IN was also the first to launch a successful online adaptive learning platform in Belgium, called Bingel.
Bingel’s huge success exceeded VAN IN’s expectations, and they needed some time to find the right approach to further build the platform. Local development, external development, partial outsourcing... All options were explored, until the current situation was reached. Right now, VAN IN manages and develops back-end as well as front-end infrastructure for the core products, whereas more specific projects, such as mobile app development, are outsourced.
Raket, Bingel’s mobile extension
This was also the case for Bingel Raket, the mobile extension of the online Bingel platform, geared towards the many tablet PC’s available to teachers and students, both within and outside the classroom environment. “Research has shown that there are over 20.000 tablets available in schools all over Flanders, and that they are mostly under-utilized. Launching a native tablet app that uses the device's built-in camera seemed like a good means to increase the use of tablets in those schools”, says Lieven Bossuyt, Product Owner at VAN IN.
To this purpose, VAN IN worked very closely together with some of the parties involved: teachers, students, and education experts. “But we have mostly looked for teachers’ feedback: after all they are the ones who will decide whether the app will be used or not. So they were closely involved in many choices around user interface.”
icapps, an ideal fit
In addition to the extensive and detailed user feedback, VAN IN also needed a reliable partner to create the mobile platform. A team of people that is used to involve user feedback, and to quickly respond to it with new and adapted features. “icapps proved the ideal partner: they suggested involving the teachers even before they knew VAN IN was already doing this”, comments Lenny de la Fontayne, Project Manager for Bingel and Bingel Raket at VAN IN. “This was for us a confirmation that we had the same work ethos: always keep in mind the people that you are building the solution for, and involve them as much as possible.”
But icapps was the ideal fit in other aspects as well. Their technical expertise and approach allowed for a short project timeframe, which was one of VAN IN’s requirements. “At times, we had 15 of our people working on this project, together with 5 of VAN IN’s developers. A pretty large team, but after a while the collaboration and information exchange went perfectly,” recalls Alperen Unlu, Project Manager at icapps. “The short development cycles and efficient feedback handling process have contributed to the project’s success. The fact that VAN IN was used to agile development methods has definitely been an asset: we understood each other even without saying a word.”
Lenny de la Fontayne, Project Manager for Bingel and Bingel Raket at VAN IN, adds: “Timing was crucial, in order to give schools enough time to discover the app. Their feedback is quintessential for the project’s success. We want to make tools that teachers feel ‘make a difference’ since this is exactly what they try to do, every day of the year, for every pupil. In this personalized approach apps like Bingel Raket are a valuable asset.”
“We want Bingel on the classroom floor”
With Bingel Raket, 100% optimized for the tablet, VAN IN expects to increase the use of Bingel as an everyday teaching tool. Lieven Bossuyt, Product Owner at VAN IN: “We have already demonstrated our app to 400 schools, and more than 95% of the principals, IT coordinators and teachers responded enthusiastically to Bingel Raket. We are confident that the app will contribute to various positive evolutions: a higher learning impact because the tool can be used in the classroom by everybody (also those students that don’t have a computer or tablet at home), more personalized study materials, and an added incentive to get acquainted with the tablet as a working tool.”