__ A success story with Open edX® and eduNEXT

Romero Virtual Campus is an initiative, which was developed in 2014 by the Romero Foundation in Peru, with the aim of generating educational opportunities nationwide, providing specialized knowledge to strengthen entrepreneurship skills in a dynamic and innovative way and powered by the Open edX platform.

The organization behind this initiative, the Romero Foundation, is a non-profit organization created in 1982, and besides the Campus Virtual, develops other projects that enhance the entrepreneurial capacities of thousands of Peruvians: the Entrepreneurs Portal, PQS.pe and the Prize to entrepreneurship “Para Quitarse el Sombrero”. 

Romero Virtual Campus and the Open edX Platform

When the Romero Virtual Campus initiative was first launched, there were many uncertainties in regard to how the needs of the consumer base would evolve and what technologies would be best to support such an initiative. After considering different alternatives, the decision was made to base the initiative on the Open edX Platform, which at that point was not widely recognized and for which there was not yet a translation to Spanish available.

eduNEXT took care of completing the translation to Spanish and provisioning the platform for the initiative, which led to accelerated growth rapidly, growing from a few hundred users in 2015 to tens of thousands of users within just one year. Through the consolidation of its position, as an innovative online learning provider, the addition of new courses, programs, and functionalities, and the strengthening of its partner networks, Romero Virtual Campus reached the mark of one million users in 2020, with more than 200 courses, 30 specialization programs, positioning itself as one of the largest virtual campuses in Latin America.

Throughout that journey, the Open edX platform has provided a very robust and reliable technology and eduNEXT has provided all of the support required for their evolving needs, starting with a cloud-based subscription, and at some point moving into an on-premise installation and support plan. Complementary applications, such as the website integration with Drupal, the eCommerce and Insights application, and the course discovery service, were added later to enable better marketing, programs, and analytics.

Some customizations have also been done along the way, such as the addition of support for the local payment gateway, the addition of HTML formatting for the email notifications, and improvements to the eCommerce module to handle other currencies to name a few. Such extensions have been made available to other initiatives based on the Open edX platform for their use.

Romero Virtual Campus facing Covid-19

During the course of this year, and partly as a consequence of the global response to COVID-19, the Romero Foundation, together with the government of Peru, has been promoting these online courses, in order to continue empowering young entrepreneurs, graduate students and even high school students throughout the country and the region by providing valuable student resources and support services. Additionally, the Romero Foundation announced a significant financial aid package in the form of 200,000 new scholarships aimed towards young entrepreneurs, who would be able to register and train through the Romero Virtual Campus and obtain certificates for their courses free of charge. This is yet another reminder of Romero’s Foundation’s willingness to continue contributing to the development of skills by offering financial aid to entrepreneurs during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The conditions created by the coronavirus pandemic brought the challenge of supporting a significant and relatively unexpected increase in demand and concurrent usage. As the Virtual Campus faced a tenfold increase in traffic, the Romero Foundation relied on the high scalability of the Open edX technology and the professional support services of eduNEXT to scale its architecture in such a way that it could respond to those needs with increased availability and solid performance during the current Covid-19 pandemic.

This is one of many examples of what the future of online learning is facing: increased interest as online learning becomes a standard component of student life, the need for a technology, which allows managing concurrent access to online courses by large numbers of users, and the growing demand for relevant and high-quality content to improve many different types of skills using innovative formats such as interactive labs, virtual tours, augmented experiences and more.  Luckily, the technology is available and the Open edX community at large is ready to meet this challenge.