Ashridge Business Perspectives

The challenge

When Ashridge Business School approached Associative Trails to come up with ideas for its Virtual Learning Resource Centre (VLRC), it quickly became clear that Ashridge's expertise and knowledge would provide some exciting opportunities for development.

Following consultation, it was agreed that what Ashridge required was something that used the existing body of knowledge contained in the VLRC, but opened it up for public consumption in a way that made it easy to administer, accessible across multiple channels and could be easily extended in future.

The solution

The Perspectives website is a news aggregation portal, edited by Ashridge's experts, that delivers up-to-the-minute business news and analysis. The use of open-source technologies during implementation allowed rapid development and deployment and a rich feature set that includes:

“Matt has been an inspirational product development partner, helping us to both clarify our initial vision and then deliver an outcome way beyond initial aspirations.”

Tony Sheehan, Learning Services Director, Ashridge

  • Easy management of hundreds of feeds and thousands of automatically imported news items.
  • The organisation of feeds into themes and sub-themes. These can be made private, allowing custom themes to be built for delivery to specific clients.
  • User clipping and rating.
  • A commitment to using open data standards wherever possible, e.g. RSS, Microformats, etc.
  • Republishing of aggregated feeds in multiple formats, e.g. RSS and iGoogle widgets, allowing users to consume the content in the way that is most convenient for them.

The outcome

The open-source stack enables us to use a low-cost yet powerful and quickly scalable hosting solution for the Perspectives portal. In future, the application will be used to audition innovative functionality before implementation in the main VLRC.

Tony Sheehan, Learning Services Director at Ashridge, explains: "The portal has turned RSS from a vague concept into a practical and valuable tool to many of our users - a great example of appropriate use of technology to serve user need."

Technologies used

Python, Django, MySQL, RSS, Microformats, XHTML 1.0 Strict, CSS, RSS, jQuery. Ubuntu, Apache, WSGI, Nginx, Memcache, Munin, Monit.

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