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Oxford University Press

From books to digital platforms

We helped digitise the learning process for all ages


  • Web

Our role

  • Strategy
  • Development

Oxford University Press (OUP) is a department of the University of Oxford. It is their mission to further the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Oxford University Press has a clear mission which informs everything they do—to create the highest quality academic and educational resources and services and to make them available on a worldwide scale.

The pilot

Initially, OUP tasked us with digitising the ‘Gradebook’ section of their user dashboard. They were keen to get a sense of what we could deliver on a small, low-risk project. We provided a slick and intuitive interface for their current Gradebook, with some really nifty features such as heat-mapping and real-time updates of student performance tables.

We applied our usual consultative approach, working in an agile way to deliver functionality at speed. In the early stages, we made suggestions on new functionality and opportunities that hadn’t been considered previously as well as using our initiative and over-delivering on timings to showcase our value to the team. OUP were impressed with our performance and asked us to take on a much larger scale project based on this success.

The brief

This would be the biggest digital transformation project in the education press landscape. OUP had worked with a development agency up to that point but didn’t have confidence that things were moving in the right direction and were concerned about risk and lack of scalability.

A key element for us was to get up to speed and establish trust and confidence early on, especially because OUP stakeholders hadn’t had a positive experience with their previous development agency. First, we got familiar with what had been built so far and formed a picture of how to work with existing challenges. There was a need to address existing tech debt in addition to moving forward with launching a digitised enrolment services platform.

So, they approached us to help them de-risk the front-end aspect of their project. The objective was to digitise the classroom across all ages, from reception and Year 1 all the way through to Year 12 students. When we came on board, a lot of the development work had already been completed, but not to a great standard so we needed to spend some time unpicking what had been done and understanding what was required from us.

Bigger fish

With the previous development agency, most work had been done in isolation, with teams working separately from a front-end and back-end perspective. Communication hadn’t been strong so we were keen to bring our expertise to the table in an effort to enhance the process.

We worked on two platforms as part of this large scale project:

Oxford Reading Buddy: A coach for children and a friend to teachers. It gives every child a virtual reading service that develops deeper comprehension skills and makes reading fun!

Common Enrolment Services: Everything needed for students to register and enrol in courses at the University.

Building trust

To start, we focused on a few elements of over-delivering to gain the trust of OUP stakeholders. We brought everyone (and we mean everyone!) into a room to share the vision and plans. This meant having 600 people in a room, but it was essential to getting everyone on the same page.

Once we had delivered the first few elements of the new platform, OUP stakeholders began to distance themselves from the project and focus on other tasks. This meant we were trusted to get on with our work and do what we do best - it was another key indicator of the trust we had built with the team.

As trust grew, we began to notice that OUP stakeholders had adopted much of our narrative and ways of working. This was fantastic to see and showed the strength of our mutual partnership.

Digital Detox are great to work with because you can work with them as part of your wider team, they are willing to share their experience, challenge you in different ways, think about new approaches, but you can also trust that the quality of what they deliver it’s going to be spot on.
Stuart Brown, Oxford University Press


Moving forward we held a workshop to discuss new technologies and how these could be incorporated into the new digital platform for learning.

On most Digital Detox projects, the team includes a Subject Matter expert, Client Services Manager and Project Manager. This gives us a really well rounded skill set that ensures no critical requirements are missed and that we can move forward at pace.

Different departments at OUP had differing views on what requirements were important and we needed to help them prioritise. Using an agile approach to prioritisation, we added key ideas of how we could design the new platform to be more automated, slick and usable. This highlighted the importance of a cross-functional team working together - it gave rise to fresh thinking and new ideas. Our output also showed the importance of working closely with all stakeholders and team members from both organisations.


Once we had built the new digital platforms, we handed these over to the OUP for testing, starting with a number of schools in the Spanish market. Within a short timeframe, they had over 11 million students using the platform with ease. Now, they plan to roll out the new digital learning platform to wider global markets - we can’t wait to hear the results!

Final thoughts

From a Digital Detox perspective, we are thrilled with the outcome of the Oxford University Press project. We feel proud to have proved our value as a thought leader by showing rather than telling. Most of all, we gained trust from an established and highly respected organisation who initially used us as a service provider but now view us as a strategic partner.

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