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The 7 Characteristics of Effective Digital Learning Environments

September 06, 2022

When developing new Digital Learning Environments, the challenge is finding tangible ways of doing so. At Compro Technologies, our experience has enabled us to identify the key factors that must be considered if a learning environment can truly be considered as 'Next Generation'.

The 7 Characteristics of Effective Digital Learning Environments
The 7 Characteristics of Effective Digital Learning Environments

NGDLE as a concept has been with us since 2015 and seven years in technology is more than sufficient time for ideas, theories and practice to be practicably and successfully proposed and implemented. Compro Technologies have developed practical, workable and world-class solutions that take the concepts of NGDLE to realistic implementations.

Resilience, agility and adaptability are at the core of any successful educational digital infrastructure. Resilience to change, technological acceleration and data security are necessary for success. Similarly, agility and adaptability to new societal, economic and educational challenges. Having an effective and clear strategy for a digital infrastructure and the concept of an NGDLE is still relevant and indeed more pressing than ever before.

Across the world, governments and educational institutions increasingly see the need to facilitate remote and/or virtual learning for all ages. Hardware, software, connectivity, platforms and teaching and learning resources have been installed in schools, universities and homes at an unprecedented speed and scale. Education leaders recognize the importance of new thinking around digital learning environments - to innovate and transform strategic directions, develop new value propositions in how technology is put to use, whilst maintaining the educational integrity and data security required.

The need to 'future proof' education via a coherent and practical digital transformation strategy is a vital and immediate activity that should be central to every CIO's thinking, but one that must take into consideration some key factors - :

What is NGDLE?

NGDLE - Next Generation Digital Learning Environments is used to describe a technology environment that allows for interoperability, personalization, analytics, collaboration, accessibility and universal design. Since no single application can deliver all these elements, an NGDLE allows individuals and institutions to construct learning environments tailored to their requirements and desired outcomes.

Avoiding Large Vendor Lock-In & Promoting Technological Flexibility

A larger vendor environment may only support integration with applications created by the vendor or its designated partners. These may not be the most effective options but will be the only ones available to the client when a sole vendor infrastructure exists. From an IT perspective, this could lead to failures which can render an organization vulnerable to exploitation in monetary as well as technical terms. However, of equal importance, educational outcomes can be sub-optimal if the client is tied to a limited proprietary suite of tools and resources. Therefore, this potential large vendor technology lock-in can have a negative impact on both learner confidence and on institutional reputation. Using interoperable, complimentary tools - often from a number of smaller vendors - promotes flexibility and avoids institutions being tied into limited options.

Creating a Bespoke Exosystem

A technological exosystem that serves your organization's precise needs can be achieved by gathering a confederation of individual tools, rather than all tools from a single source. This gives you the control over development and changes required to future-proof and enable reacting to the environment. It also gives you control over the data moving in and out of the system and helps define your own rules of interoperability. Furthermore, the Gartner Hype Cycle For Education Report in 2019 describes exo-structures as a priority that will have a high level of future benefit.

For example, large publishers with multi-disciplinary product portfolios have successfully transitioned away from traditional learning platforms (one of every discipline / business unit) to a distributed exosystem which allows them to support multiple products and continuously evolve them.


Digital Exosystem - is a digital structure that functions largely independently of individual technological components but is able to enhance, organize and integrate these components more effectively to achieve effective, coherent holistic outcomes.

Digital Exosystem - is a digital structure that functions largely independently of individual technological components but is able to enhance, organize and integrate these components more effectively to achieve effective, coherent holistic outcomes.
Digital Exosystem - is a digital structure that functions largely independently of individual technological components but is able to enhance, organize and integrate these components more effectively to achieve effective, coherent holistic outcomes.

If we think of a bespoke exosystem in terms of a computer motherboard, we can add to and change components, so each one is and remains a specialist in its class. This means building an exosystem by selecting the best-of-class technologies that are specialists in their niche area such as identity management, entitlements and activations, ecommerce, collaboration services, class management, analytics etc. These can all be sourced individually by assessing their fitment-to-the-need and the vibrancy of their supporting communities. This approach gives the flexibility to replace existing components with more advanced counterparts as and when they emerge in the technological marketplace.

The comproDLS platform provides foundational building blocks of such an exosystem. It achieves this by providing out-of-box core learning components which are agnostic of disciplines, subject matter and pedagogical models.

Learn how Cambridge University Press uses Compro Technologies Exosystem? View More

Replicate, Scale and Sustain (RSS)

Firstly, begin building the exosystem with core features that can be tested on a smaller scale. The next step is to gradually add more functions and components, so it is immediately upgradeable as and when required and manageable for architects and users as it develops. Of course, an exosystem is not a static organism. It needs to be continually evaluated and the different components scaled up to an organizational level as they are tested and found dependable. Finally, ensure growth is sustainable by regularly reviewing and refining the components of the exosystem.

Learn and Relearn

A major advantage of this component model is that each of these components are in active use in other exosystems. Every component may have already gone through its own 'trial-by-fire' at cloud-scale by serving many thousands or millions of concurrent users in other systems.

Adhere to Open Technology Conventions

All components or applications are products of different IT organizations, communities & technologies. Ensure those selected and used adhere to a set of well-tested, robust, and scalable software service patterns.

Keeping It Cost Efficient

Education is expensive to deliver. An advantage of the motherboard concept is the ability to select cost effective components from different sources. Being tied into a single large vendor removes this flexibility and choice. Choosing components for different but interoperable sources, creates an agile, up-to-date system that remains economically advantageous.

Being Data Smart

Ensure your exosystem motherboard is able to effectively and securely collate, standardize and secure your data at all points and at all times. Data that is generated by different members of your exosystem, should be able to be standardized and stored by the exosystem, but at the same time be accessible to different levels of management, so analytics can be used effectively to drive improvements and efficiency.


The educational need for effective next generation digital environments is now greater than ever, and the technology exists to be able to deliver them. Compro Technologies have created, tested and implemented [what we see as] the next phase of NGDLE thinking and tactical application. Our vision is that of the NGDLE 2.0 where theory is put into practice and comproDLS delivers this for educational publishers and end-users.



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