PHP Based eLearning Web Application for Pulp Friction CIC

Pulp Friction Smoothies CIC is a social enterprise based at the Nottinghamshire Fire and Safety HQ. Established in 2009 Pulp Friction has been aimed at supporting people with learning disabilities to gain wor-ready skills in order to support them with independent living. The social enterprise was started following the struggle that was found by Jessie (One of the directors) and her abilities to get a role in the hospitality sector.

Starting with just a phone, a laptop and a smoothie bike, the social enterprise has now grown into a business that has supported people across the Midlands to gain the skills necessary to move into employment and independent living.

In December 2020 I was honoured to be approached by Jill another of the directors at Pulp Friction Smoothies. She had an idea for an eLearning application, where their members would be able to log on and completed short courses on the modules they were covering around the HQ. They would also have the opportunity to take part in classes and collect badges that would support them through their journey with Pulp Friction.

How did we complete the project?

Planning

This project comprised a lot of planning, the team over at Pulp Friction had a good idea of what they wanted from the app but didn’t know exactly what was capable. They wanted to collect badges have quizzes and make the web application as accessible and user friendly as possible so that people with a wide range of varying abilities.

My initial response to this project was to create the web application using HTML, CSS, JavaScript and SQL framework, and so we continued under this notion.

Development

Following the creation of wireframes and confirmation of needs and desires, we then moved on to the development of the web application. The development commenced in January 2021 and continued through to December 2021, so for 12 months, the web application was in the development stage.

When we began developing the app, I quickly noticed that the framework that we were attempting to use was going to be far too reliant on huge amounts of code which would cause a massive amount of strain on the code when been ran live. I quickly went back to the drawing board, I was keen to use a framework that was widely recognised and required as few web files as possible without using too much inline development. In October 2021, moved from using the chosen framework and moves the app into a PHP database allowing for secure storing of personal data and fast running times of the front end web application.

The needs of the app were extremely complicated for a web application and so we needed to think of new ways around them, the key features for the application were going to be Text to Speech and Speech to text capabilities. without the app on a mobile, it is extremely difficult (because of security on the user’s devices) to access microphones on devices through browsers. We also had the problem of the great varying abilities of the members of Pulp Friction and so when developing the TTS and STT we needed to be mindful of these abilities.

I chose to use an external source for the Speech-to-Text I used a PHP add-in called the AT Bar which was developed by students at Stanford University and offered a completely unique approach to accessibility on the web. The app (and users browser) was not made capable of that ever so important Speech-to-Text Capabilities.

Accessibility

when planning and developing such a complex web application, for members such as those of Pulp Friction, we needed to be sure that the web application was as accessible as possible and gave the users the same capabilities as the staff members around the enterprise.

When making note of the accessibility of the PHP web application, we were sure to focus on a few key areas of the app development:

Fonts and Interfaces

We decided to use the GoogleFont Poppins which is the recommended Webfont when building accessible websites and web applications as suggested by MenCap

So, we selected this font to use as this was the one suggested by MenCap.

Labels and Images

Wherever was possible in the PHP web application development, I chose to use tooltips to demonstrate the capabilities of the app and how various parts are supposed to be used.

When developing the PHP web application, accessibility and ease of use were at the forefront of my mind.

Going Live

In March 2022, we began staging the app to go live and at present (Monday 9th May 2022) we are still staging the app to all members and supporting the enterprise in developing essential add ons that will support the members needs.

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