As the world’s largest and leading professional body of management accountants, we were extremely excited to embark on a brand new project with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).

With an estimated 130,000 students across the world, CIMA wanted to create an integrated social platform to assist their students, in the hope that this would lead to increased participation in exams, improved pass rates and greater academic progression.

So our developers here BrightLemon set about creating CIMAConnect - a mobile friendly, support platform which provides students with a network where they are able to link with peers and share free study materials.

“It’s like an electronic library and social network rolled into one.” – BrightLemon developers

Networking with CIMAConnect

Inspired by the popularity of Facebook, which now has more than 1 billion users worldwide, the ultimate mission of the project was to provide CIMA students with their very own digital community.

Figure 1 - CIMAConnect Benefits Map

To do this, our developers combined profiles, friend’s lists, Blog posts and discussion boards in order to construct a successful social network where students can share advice and ideas.

Individually tailored activity streams were also developed to each account which are able to recommend suitable content to users based on their educational data.

Figure 6 – An example of the initial wireframe developed for the personalised activity stream

Creating a community structure

Another key purpose of the site was to encourage and motivate students to advance through the course and succeed in completing their exams.

In order to do this, a student progression CPD platform was developed to reflect the student’s progress based on their academic data. This is designed to guide students through specific educational pathways in relation to their skills, knowledge and experience.

A badge system was also created in collaboration with this, awarding students every time they complete an exam or milestone in their studies.

Figure 8 - An example of a student CPD platform and badge system

Some other key aspects of CIMAConnect include:

  • Activity notification emails sent out immediately or digested into daily/weekly
  • Content voting to allow students to rate the content
  • Flexible privacy controls

Challenges faced

One of the main challenges our developers at BrightLemon faced during this project, was the Siebel (CRM) integration, due to its complicated workflow.

Siebel acts as the master data storage and Drupal needs to authenticate and populate its users’ data against Siebel database and since there was no Siebel integration existed on, developers worked closely with CIMA technical team to implement a custom module, tailored specifically for their requirements on the CRM integration. Drupal core authentication is replaced with a PHP SOAP + WSSE header service that allows it to retrieve and verify user’s data from Siebel which also allows Drupal to keep its data in sync with the master.

16,500 students joined CIMAConnect in the first two months

The project was launched in November 2014 and has continued to receive great feedback. The social aspect of the site allows students to gain a more interactive learning experience and has enabled them to share and encourage each other’s learning.

CIMAConnect now has around 40,000 members and this figure is expected to rise as frequent maintenance and improvement is carried out. Working closely with CIMA, new features have already been introduced and more are planned in order to create even greater student engagement.