A Mobile-First, Cloud-First Stack at Pearson

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Pearson, the global online education leader, has a simple yet grand mission: to educate the world; to have 1 billion students around the globe touching their content on a regular basis.

They are growing quickly, especially to emerging markets where the primary way to consume content is via mobile phones. But to reach global users, they need to deploy in a multitude of private and public data centers around the globe. This demands a mobile-first, cloud-first platform, with the underlying goal to improve education efficacy.

In 2018, Pearson will be announcing to the public markets what percentage of revenue is associated with the company’s efficacy. There’s no question; that’s a bold move. As a result, apps have to be built in a way to measure how users are interacting with them.

Front and center in Pearson’s strategy is MongoDB.

With MongoDB, as Pearson CTO Aref Matin told the audience at MongoDB World (full video presentation here), Pearson was able to replace silos of double-digit, independent platforms with a consolidated platform that would allow for measuring efficacy.

“A platform should be open, usable by all who want to access functionality and services. But it’s not a platform until you’ve opened up APIs to the external world to introduce new apps on top of it,” declared Matin.

A key part of Pearson’s redesigned technology stack, MongoDB proved to be a good fit for a multitude of reasons, including its agility and scalability, document model and ability to perform fast reads and ad hoc queries. Also important to Matin was the ability to capture the growing treasure trove of unstructured data, such as peer-to-peer and social interactions that are increasingly part of education.

So far, Pearson has leveraged MongoDB for use cases such as:

  • Identity and access management for 120 million user accounts, with nearly 50 million per day at peak;
  • Adaptive learning and analytics to detect, in near real-time, what content is most effective and identify areas for improvement; and
  • The Pearson Activity Framework (akin to a “Google DoubleClick” according to Matin), which collects data on how users interact with apps and feeds the analytics engine.

All of this feeds into Matin’s personal vision of increasing the pace of learning.

“Increasing the pace of learning will be a a disruptive force,” said Matin. “If you can reduce the length of time spent on educating yourself, you can learn a lot more and not spend as much on it. That will help us be able to really educate the world at a more rapid pace.”


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