Liferay Portal Development for Community Collaboration and E-learning

  • Modular web portal with a built-in CMS
  • Integration with payment services
  • Customizable portlets supporting end users’ activities
Expertise
Web & Enterprise Portals
Content & Document Management
eLearning & Online Training
Collaboration Solutions
Verticals
Education

Iflexion implemented a Liferay-based web portal that enables users to join communities of interest and subscribe to educational services.

  • Java
  • JavaScript
  • MySQL
  • Zimbra
Calendar
7
Months
Gears
22
Person-months

Context

The customer, a provider of learning and communication technology solutions, wanted to develop a new product that could offer broader functional capabilities to their current clients and attract a new audience. The customer planned to launch a portal uniting social and educational features. The major goal was to create an easily manageable and customizable web solution that hosts online communities and lets users with similar interests communicate, collaborate, and participate in educational programs.

To build the requested solution, the customer decided to go for outsourced web portal development. They chose Iflexion as their software engineering partner to handle the task.

Solution

After analyzing the customer’s existing technological stack, Iflexion came up with a concept of a Liferay-based portal. There were several reasons for choosing Liferay as the core technology:

  1. The platform is open-source, which could help the customer to lower the TCO of the solution while providing broad customization options owing to numerous ready-to-use plugins.
  2. The Liferay architecture ensures painless deployment in various infrastructures. It is compatible with different operating systems (Linux, Windows), application servers (JBoss EAP, Tomcat, WebLogic, Wildfly, etc.), and databases (MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL, DB2, etc.).
  3. Liferay is written in Java, which could guarantee easy integration of the portal with the rest of the customer’s Java-based software suite.
  4. The modular logic of Liferay applications enables their owners to ensure a stable performance of portals at peak loads. It also facilitates maintenance, migration, and integration with third-party solutions.

With the approved concept of the future solution on hands, Iflexion started Liferay portal development. To make the portal attractive for end users from the technological standpoint, the team developed two independent modules that could be implemented either as one solution or separately, depending on particular business needs. Each module consisted of a customizable CMS and a feature-rich user-facing website built with adjustable portlets.

Community of Interest (COI) Module

The COI module enables users to join online communities for people with similar professions, interests, or activities.

The user-facing part of the module includes several default customizable portlets, each of them covering specific functional areas:

  • Profile Portlet contains the key information about each user and allows them to manage their personal profiles.
  • Contact List Portlet displays all user contacts with the possibility to manage them (add new, remove, block, add to favorites).
  • Search Portlet leverages the capabilities of Liferay Dynamic Search and allows users to search for content and people across the entire portal while refining search results according to preferences.
  • Communities Portlet displays the communities that users participate in, making it possible to manage memberships (join new communities, leave them, invite new members, etc.).
  • User Content Portlet displays the latest content items added by a user (blogs, events, wiki articles, etc.). Users can tune the way other community members see their content (by date, topic, and popularity) and add metadata for other portal users to find their content easily. While publishing their content, users can benefit from the improved Liferay image and media selector.
  • Community Content Portlet displays the content published by members of the COI. The community administrator can define the way other people see the content (by date, topic, and popularity).
  • Collaboration Portlet represents a portal area where community members can message each other and share files (documents and media).
  • Calendar Portlet displays community events if there are any, and allows users to note down important dates.
  • Administration Portlet enables the COI administrators to see all registered accounts and content published on the community page.

E-learning Module

The module enables users to take part in e-learning activities as learners or tutors. Depending on a user’s role, the portal fulfills various functions offering different sets of portlets to students and their mentors.

The module follows the logic of the COI module. Users with similar e-learning objectives and knowledge interests can set up communities and get involved in collaborative e-learning activities. Overall, the module contains all the manageable default portlets available in the COI module. Additionally, for e-learning specifically, the module offers the following:

  • Wiki Portlet displays the newest assets added to the shared knowledge base. Users can fine-tune the content they see in the portlet and filter it according to their preferences.
  • Training Portlet for trainees shows available training, both online and on-demand, in the selected learning area. If a user applies for a training session, it is automatically scheduled in the Calendar Portlet. When the portlet is used by mentors, it serves to announce upcoming training and manage all the related information (topic, date, time, region, price, etc.)
  • Learning Progress Portlet displays a user’s training history and gained scores if the passed training contained assessment.

The set of implemented portlets in both modules isn’t rigid. Portal owners can enable all default portlets, disable any of them, and add new ones when they need custom features for their users.

At the same time, customizable layouts allow portal owners to change the portal layout and color scheme within predefined templates.

Both modules support paid content and subscriptions. To provide users with online payment capabilities, the portal was integrated with popular payment platforms, including PayPal, Braintree, and Authorize.Net.

With such functionality, the solution suits both corporate and commercial scenarios. It can be used as a corporate collaboration and e-learning solution, and it can be launched as a customer-facing portal for users globally. Liferay supports over 30 languages, so the solution can be localized and used by multilingual communities.

Development Process

While Liferay was selected as the solution’s core engine, the team also used Spring and Hibernate frameworks, which ensured security and flexibility of the final solution.

Apart from the key capabilities of two custom modules, the solution leverages Zimbra as a mailing module, which enables email collaboration within the portal.

When integrating the portal with online payment gateways, the developers introduced additional scheduled services on the application side for user subscription management.

Since a new version of the platform was released in the course of Liferay portal development, the customer decided to upgrade the portal and get the benefits of Liferay’s latest capabilities. Iflexion’s team handled the upgrade successfully. 

Results

The developed solution represents a fully featured web portal where people can create their own communities or join existing ones. Additionally, the portal provides access to educational services supplied by authorized e-learning providers.

The portal is integrated with three payment services: PayPal, Braintree, and Authorize.Net, which allows end users to select optimal payment methods.

Overall, the selected approach to the Liferay portal development brought several benefits:

  • Rapid portal development, owing to the open-source nature of the platform
  • Easy integration with external applications and payment services
  • Simplified management and support of the portal
  • Broad customization capabilities

Iflexion keeps assisting the customer with the portal maintenance and fine-tuning to adapt it to the needs of end users.

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