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Thread Learning: Coordinated Autism Education Powered by Realtime Data Sync and Offline-first Capabilities

Each day, special education teachers manually track thousands of data points related to student progress. At the end of the day, they graph that data with a ruler and analyze the results. The process is incredibly cumbersome and time consuming, and paper-based data has significant limitations.


Thread Learning is advancing the way that teachers, parents, and therapists educate children with special needs and autism. Thread Learning’s behavioral data collection platform allows caregivers to record student data using an iPad. The platform then automatically graphs and analyzes the data, provides quality control, and shares the results with all members of a child’s care team, including parents.

Armed with electronic data, a caregiver team can more efficiently coordinate the work of all members to better serve the needs of the student. For example, a child may be working on speech skills with three classroom teachers, as well as a speech therapist and behavioral analyst after school. Thread Learning syncs data in realtime across all team member devices. More informed caregivers means better quality instruction and improved student outcomes.

Building a Coordinated Care Platform

To deliver on their vision of coordinated care, Thread Learning needed a data handling solution that could allow caregiver teams to collaborate in realtime. One of the co-founders was exposed to Realm in a graduate school computer science class. He recognized its potential to enable advanced features that would otherwise be impossible to implement as a nascent startup.

“Realm really helped accelerate our development timeline. We were up and running in weeks instead of months.”
- Sam Raudabaugh, Co-Founder & CTO, Thread Learning

The Thread Learning team initially developed their app using the Realm Mobile Database. This allowed them to bypass the typical headaches of MySQL and an ORM, as well as the technical and resource debt that comes with non-object oriented data solutions.

After the Realm Mobile Platform was released, the Thread Learning team found it a natural progression to explore its more robust data handling and realtime synchronization capabilities. They had been using a REST API to handle data flows, but Realm’s data sync capabilities offered a much better solution. Two-way data synchronization enables a team of caregivers to work simultaneously on the same set of data in realtime.

“We tested Realm against our REST API and the results were impressive.”
- Sam Raudabaugh, Co-Founder & CTO, Thread Learning

Offline-First, Simplified

As school WiFi networks are often unreliable, Thread Learning also needed robust offline capabilities, so that caregivers could still input and access data regardless of connectivity. One of the founders’ early mentors had advised them to avoid offline functionality entirely because it’s “too hard and complicated.” However, the Realm Mobile Platform enables Thread Learning to easily handle networking complexities, such as data updates and conflict resolution, without the issues that typically arise with REST APIs.

Because data loss has historically been a big issue with paper-based processes, Thread Learning especially appreciated Realm’s built-in support for offline-first use cases. With Realm’s client-side database, all app data is stored locally and remains fully accessible when offline, providing a continuous, responsive offline user experience. When connectivity is restored, updates are automatically synced with the Realm Object Server and across all care team devices. Realm’s conflict resolution capabilities ensure that data is always up to date.

“With Realm, we don’t have to worry about what happens when devices go offline and data conflicts happen.”
- Gregory Brill, Co-Founder & CEO, Thread Learning

As the Thread Learning team works on evolving their platform, Realm’s transparency around new feature development helps them plan their own feature roadmap. This helps them better manage their growth and support their mission to serve 1m+ autistic children in the U.S. within the next five years.

“Realm allows us to leapfrog the competition.”
- Gregory Brill, Co-Founder & CEO, Thread Learning

Realm Team

At Realm, our mission is to help developers build better apps faster. We provide a unique set of tools and platform technologies designed to make it easy for developers to build apps with sophisticated, powerful features — things like realtime collaboration, augmented reality, live data synchronization, offline experiences, messaging, and more.

Everything we build is developed with an eye toward enabling developers for what we believe the mobile internet evolves into — an open network of billions of users and trillions of devices, and realtime interactivity across them all.

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