When HotWax CEO Mike Bates met SPEL Technologies Founder Radhika Grover, he knew they had to work together. Grover was the creative genius behind a new learning platform that would make online coding education accessible for visually impaired students. Bates was the grandchild of a remarkable blind woman who’d also been an unstoppable learner. “My grandmother earned multiple college degrees, raised a family of six children and dozens of grandchildren, and was a pianist and renowned composer,” says Bates. “When I learned about the groundbreaking work SPEL Technologies was doing, I immediately felt a strong connection.”
Grover, a computer engineer and award-winning educator, had worked for years on community projects for blind and visually impaired students—so she knew first-hand about the barriers to learning that stood in their way, especially when it came to online coding education. She’d explored the online learning platforms out there and found that they worked great for average, visual learners. For auditory and tactile learners, not so much. And for people with disabilities like visual impairment, not at all.
So she set out to change things, finding a true champion for her cause in Bates. “Mike let me know that our project resonated with him personally,” says Grover. “His passion for our work has made a real difference.” Today, SPEL Technologies and HotWax Systems have brought Grover’s vision for inclusive learning to life, creating the world’s first truly customizable and accessible learning platform.
Online learning for the many, not the few.
With technological support and OFBiz consulting guidance from HotWax Systems, an online, subscription-based learning platform for SPEL Technologies was born. Conceived from Grover’s vision for an accessible online experience to help students learn Python, the platform had to be engaging and inspiring on the front end while easily managing new subscriptions and payments on the back end.
“We evaluated many potential partners before deciding on HotWax,” says Grover. “As the leading experts in OFBiz, they stood out from the crowd. They were also willing and able to integrate our learning product, Merscythe, into the website they were building for us.” With their extensive commerce knowledge, unparalleled OFBiz expertise, and affordable HotWax Commerce platform, HotWax Systems was able to build a fully customized commerce solution for the platform in just three months.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do this without HotWax,” says Grover. “With their expertise, we cut down our development time and cost to a fraction of what it would have been.” Central to the open-source commerce solution is the HotWax Commerce e-commerce and ERP platform, which enables users to effortlessly subscribe to the learning platform while also making it easy for SPEL Technologies to verify payments and manage product sales.
Ultra accessibility means ultra engagement.
Taking the form of an interactive, story-based game, SPEL Technologies’ product, Merscythe: Adventures with the Codue, will help students learn the Python programming language in whatever way they learn best and is scheduled to hit the market soon. With both audio- and text-based tutorials and practice exercises woven through the story, along with game levels that are unlocked by solving programming problems, Merscythe weaves entertainment into the learning process. The design includes an integrated text-to-speech capability designed by SPEL Technologies that, among other capabilities, can selectively read out pertinent sections of code. This software, dubbed Loquacious, makes it possible for people who are blind or vision-impaired to easily learn to code.
Putting accessibility at the forefront of every design and development decision, HotWax created an interactive website that can be easily customized for the needs of each individual learner. Far beyond adhering to standard ADA guidelines, Merscythe will include accessibility features not found on most websites today. Important preferences for the visually impaired, like font size and contrast, can be saved for individual users—so the platform will always be set up to meet their needs, every time they return to it.
With the ability to vary levels of feedback for different types of learners, the platform is designed to help every student succeed at their coding goals, and to do it on their own terms. “We want to encourage, engage, and excite learners,” says Grover. This starts, she explains, by providing equal access and customizable settings for all students.
Making technology a force for good.
With the world’s first truly customizable and accessible learning platform ready to launch in mere months, Grover hopes to change the online learning landscape, so that anyone who wants to learn can learn—and can have fun doing it. “I hope we will make a real impact on the lives of the people using our learning platform,” says Grover.
For Bates, it’s an ideal partnership—one that merges both profits and purpose. “By helping SPEL Technologies adapt to market opportunities quickly and manage the subscription processes efficiently, we believe they can maximize their business opportunity and do some real good in the world,” says Bates. With help from HotWax, Grover also believes it’s possible. “Our vision will become a reality,” she says. “And it will be largely due to our partnership with HotWax. They truly care about the success of their clients.”
To find out more, request a demo, or subscribe to Merscythe, visit their website.
HotWax Systems is the leading global service provider for Apache OFBiz application development, and creators of HotWax Commerce, the world’s leading open-source Unified Commerce Platform. In 2017, HotWax Systems expanded its portfolio to include a full set of consulting services and custom business solutions based on the Moqui Ecosystem of open source projects.