Wednesday, May 27, 2015

INTRODUCING: Learning on the Log

Learning on the Log is an activity center and preschool for children with a variety of developmental delays that focuses on teaching them how to build relationships.  For many children with autism, ADHD and related disorders, summer camp and team sports are not an option.  LOTL fills that void with programs that emphasize what campers can do, rather than what they can't.

Learning On the Log - Part 1 - What is Learning on the Log? from Jim Ross, CinematixHD on Vimeo.

I learned of LOTL when I was looking for day camp and preschool options for my then-3-year-old son who has severe ADHD and sensory processing disorder which led to developmental delays.  The preschool he had been attending kept repeating how much trouble he was and was taking time and resources away from the other kids in class.  An occupational therapist recommended LOTL for preschool and for day camp.  PJ took to the program right away and his ability to function in a classroom gradually improved, as well as his willingness to talk.  To quote his teacher, Miss Wendy, "Anyone who thinks this child can't be taught can go suck it."  That was the first time I wasn't judged because my son wasn't hitting the standard milestones "on time". 

However, their original website did not convey the quality and depth of the programs.  The staff were using a DIY website builder provided by Network Solutions.  I don't care how "easy" those programs are made to appear on commercials, DIY kits are very difficult to use and get a professional result.

The new site that I built is based in Drupal 7.  This CMS allows for fine-tuned permissions for each user that has to interact with the site either as a family registering for programs or an administrator managing their content.  The theme was designed around their logo and other branding styles and is built in HTML5 and CSS3 with JavaScript to make it completely responsive.  (Give it a try on your tablet or phone - all of the content and blocks visible on your laptop or desktop can also be accessed on your smaller devices.) 

The content types were customized so that an office administrator can just add the type of information they want (front page news announcements, blog posts, the slideshow of sponsors in the bottom right corner) and it shows up where it belongs.  No one has to torture themselves figuring out how it works, just follow the steps to add the information and it just goes where they want it to go.

There is a fully-hosted e-commerce system.  First to launch is the swag shop with t-shirts and tchochkies.  Later on, this will be expanded to include an online class/activity reservation system.  That should be live and working no later than January.  Again, the facility's admin staff were instructed in how to manage the store merchandise independently, review their reports, track stock levels, etc.  The payment gateway is a combination of PayPal and WorldPay, the latter accessed via PayPal's Payflow system, acquired from VeriSign.

Newsletters are distributed via Constant Contact.  Self-hosting newsletters is more trouble than it's worth between authentication setup and spam algorithms.  That "Newsletter" box at the top of each page will start the double-opt-in process to sign up.

Other third-party integrations include Facebook (using the new Page Plugin that replaces the deprecated "Like Box"), Instagram, and Twitter.  Videos are embedded individually from YouTube and Vimeo, as well as a slideshow of videos introducing Learning on the Log on the front page.  Like all of the other content types, the staff can change the videos, including the slideshow, at any time through a custom interface created for that purpose in only a couple of steps. 

Each page has the ability to display a completely different full-width header image.  During editing, a selection of photos is available.  The admin selects the one they want to display on each page with a checkbox in only a second.  Stay tuned as more images are added to the site for use on different pages and blogs. 

The next stage has begun development.  In the final version of this site, families will be able to establish accounts and register for classes or day camp right on the site and then check out through the shopping cart already established. 

I'm especially proud of this project.  Even with all of the features, building and designing it was a one-woman job.  I hope all of LOTL's families and friends enjoy and have an easier time accessing their childrens' programs.

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