Foothill College
"We saved almost 30 months of work and easily $50,000."

- Nilesh Deshpande of LightSpeed IT Solutions Pty Ltd


Foothill College
Los Altos Hills, CA USA

MathCap was developed by Light Speed Solutions for use at Foothill College.

MathCap allows instructors to:

Build custom courseware from published courses.
Provide assignments to students with tighter control on start and end times.
Coordinate student assignments.
Track student progress.
Analyze student responsiveness in real time.
Provide feedback to students regarding their answers.

MathCap allows students to perform their assignments from anywhere over the Web, which presented several unique development challenges to:

Ensure two students will not be asked the same questions.
Ensure the student does not log onto multiple computers (e.g., practice on one machine and do the assignment on another).
Track the number of attempts so that students start where they left off.
Allow the instructor to lock down a particular class to prohibit students from working on assignments during the lecture.

One of the most unique features of MathCap is the ability to translate a string into mathematical representation as the student types. This allows them to visualize the solution better. As the student types each character, the graphical representation shows the mathematical format.

Once the student logs in, they see the list of their current enrolled courses.

When students open an assignment, they see all the sections in that assignment. This screen shows the status of each part of the assignment in terms of attempts, tries, best score, and points scored. It also shows they have started the part, finished it, etc. The students can start their work from where they left off with the auto save feature.

Once students open the part, questions appear based on the courseware design and students' prior history with subject, as well as their "attempt and try" number.

All the data, including concepts and skills, examples, problem statements and answers, are defined as fields in the database where the course administrator can make modifications.

After the student types in his answers, MathCap provides feedback based on the answer (defined in database for various scenarios).

This application was designed from the ground up with Iron Speed Designer. Another team tried to write the application in Visual Studio, but was unsuccessful. Iron Speed Designer's ability to automatically adjust to an evolving data model helped us tremendously as we iteratively refined MathCap's requirements.

Application size and scope

The MathCap application accesses one Microsoft SQL Server database. It comprises 61 views and has about 300 Web pages. The largest data base has one million records in the table, but we are planning a system that can purge and archive data each semester. Currently, approximately 90 students use MathCap per semester, though this can grow exponentially if the program is accepted by other universities.

There are a huge number of transactions per month. Every instance of a question prompted to the student is kept to aid in the decision of which question to next show the student. Each decision is based on history, category, attempts, pass/fail, etc.

The project

Iron Speed Designer was used to develop 90% of the MathCap application. Three developers worked on the project, which was developed in a record five weeks. Our client first approached us during the 2007 Thanksgiving holiday and wanted the project completed by New Year's Day to accommodate the first class session on January 7, 2008.

Code extensions and customizations

We wrote approximately 5,000 lines of custom code for the MathCap application, including:

Selecting courses and classes based on student.
Allowing instructors to custom build their application.
Allowing instructors to pause during the class.
Integrating PayPal, allowing students to pay their course dues.

We incorporated two third-party components, Telerik and DevExpress.

This was one of the tightest schedules we'd ever worked, and there was no option for an extension. We didn't keep track of how long it took to write the custom code, but we were busy day and night.

Page layout customizations

We used Iron Speed Designer's Table and Record controls extensively with customizations to the page layout. Overall, the application is what Iron Speed Designer produces out-of-the-box, except that we modified the user interface slightly.

We created a custom design theme because consistency was important.

Iron Speed Designer impact

This project would not have been feasible without Iron Speed Designer. The requirements were not defined and there was a tight timeline. Iron Speed Designer was the only choice, as there is no other product available with the robust technology and flexibility to cater to our needs. The first unsuccessful prototype was done by a different team of four over eight months. The Iron Speed Designer version had a team of three developers who finished the entire project in five weeks. We saved almost 30 months of work and easily $50,000.

Next steps

Steve Bisset is busy sharing MathCap with various universities. Many faculty members are very interested in this model.

We will definitely be adding more users and deploying to additional sites in the future.

About the developer

Nilesh has BS in Electronics from Karnataka University and completed a Diploma in Advanced Computing from the Center for Development of Advanced Computing. He is certified in MCP, MCAD for .Net MCSD for .Net and Sun Certified Java Programmer.

Nilesh worked as a software consultant with several Fortune 500 companies as well as with start-up companies. This gave him a broad range of experience in various industries — manufacturing, pharmaceutical, financial and banking, software product development and management consulting. Nilesh excels in assessing his clients' needs in order to provide comprehensive solutions.

Nilesh provides quick and innovative business solutions and not just software programs through his firm Lightspeed Solutions.

Terms of Service Privacy Statement