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PupilFirst is a feature-rich open-source Learning Management System (LMS) that is built around the philosophy that true learning cannot happen by just consuming information; it happens when students attempt relevant tasks and get personalised feedback for improvement from domain experts.
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License: MIT Maintainability Test Coverage TeamCity Status for SVdotCO/pupilfirst



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Setup for development

  1. Install and configure dependencies
    1. Install third-party software
    2. Install Ruby environment
    3. Setup Javascript environment
    4. Setup ReasonML environment
  2. Set credentials for local database
  3. Configure application environment variables
  4. Setup Overcommit
  5. Seed local database
  6. Set up a reverse-proxy using Nginx
  7. Compile ReasonML, run Webpack Dev Server, and run the Rails Server

Install and configure dependencies

Install third-party software


We'll use Homebrew to fetch most of the packages on OSX:

  • imagemagick - brew install imagemagick
  • redis - brew install redis. Start Redis server after installation.
  • nginx - brew install nginx. Start Nginx server after installation.
  • postgresql - Install and follow its instructions, including the part about setting up command-line tools.

Important: Make sure that you start both Nginx and Redis after you install them. Instructions on how to do that will be printed to the command-line after they're successfully installed.

On Ubuntu

The following command should install all required dependencies on Ubuntu. If you're using another flavour of Linux, adapt the command to work with the package manager available with your distribution.

$ sudo apt-get install imagemagick redis-server postgresql postgresql-contrib autoconf libtool nginx

Install Ruby and Rubygems

Use rbenv to install the version of Ruby specified in the .ruby-version file.

Once Ruby is installed, fetch all gems using Bundler:

$ bundle install

You may need to install the bundler gem if the version of Ruby you have installed comes with a different bundler version. Simply follow the instructions in the error message, if this occurs.

If installation of of pg gem crashes, asking for libpq-fe.h, install the gem with:

# Find the exact path to pg_config.
$ find /Applications -name pg_config

# Use the path returned by the above command in the following one. Replace X.Y.Z with the same version that failed to install.
$ gem install pg -v 'X.Y.Z' -- --with-pg-config=/path/to/pg_config
On Ubuntu:
$ sudo apt-get install libpq-dev

Setup ReasonML & Javascript environment

  1. Install NVM following instructions on the offical repository.
  2. Install the LTS version of NodeJS: nvm install --lts
  3. Install Yarn following offical instructions..
  4. From the root of the repository, run the yarn command to install all node modules.

Set credentials for local database

We'll now set a password for the postgres database username.

Make sure that the PostgreSQL server is running. Once that's done, run the following commands:

# Run psql for the postgres database username.
$ psql -U postgres

# Set a password for this username.
\password postgres

# Quit.

Feel free to alter these steps if you're familiar with setting up PostgreSQL.

Configure application environment variables

  1. Copy example.env to .env.

    $ cp example.env .env
  2. Update the values of DB_USERNAME and DB_PASSWORD in the new .env file.

    Use the same values from the previous step. The username should be postgres, and the password will be whatever value you've set.

The .env file contains environment variables that are used to configure the application. The file contains documentation explaining where you should source its values from.

Setup Overcommit

Overcommit adds automatic checks that prevents us from making silly mistakes when committing changes.

$ overcommit --install
$ overcommit --sign

Seed local database

$ bundle exec rails db:setup

This will also seed data into the database that will be useful for testing during development.

Set up a reverse-proxy using Nginx

Use Nginx to set up a reverse proxy on a .localhost domain to point it to your web application running on port 3000 (the default Rails server port). Use following server configuration as an example:

  1. Place the following configuration at /usr/local/etc/nginx/servers/pupilfirst (OSX) or at /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/pupilfirst (Linux).

    server {
      listen 80;
      server_name school.localhost;
      location / {
        proxy_pass http://localhost:3000/;
        proxy_set_header Host $host;
  2. Restart nginx so that it picks up the new configuration.

    # OSX
    $ brew services restart nginx
    # Ubuntu
    $ sudo systemctl restart nginx
  3. You may also need to point the local school domain school.localhost, and the www and sso subdomains, to in the /etc/hosts file:

    # Append to the /etc/hosts file.       school.localhost

Compile ReasonML, run Webpack Dev Server, and run the Rails Server

Compile and watch ReasonML files for changes:

$ yarn run re:watch

Once the compilation is complete, start the Webpack Dev Server on another tab or window:

$ bin/webpack-dev-server

On a third tab or window, run the Rails server:

$ bundle exec rails server

You'll want all three of these processes running for best performance when developing.

If your Nginx reverse-proxy has been set up correctly, then visit the school using your browser at http://school.localhost.

Browse the school with seeded data

You should be able to sign in as (use the Continue as Developer option on the sign-in page), to test access to all interfaces. Test data has been seeded to the development database to make this process easier.

Automated Testing

The default settings expect Google Chrome to be installed to run specs. To execute all tests, run:

$ rspec

You can choose which browser the specs run in, using the JAVASCRIPT_DRIVER environment variable. Check the spec/rails_helper.rb file for its possible options.

Generating coverage report

To generate spec coverage report, run:

$ COVERAGE=true rspec

This will generate coverage report as HTML within the /coverage directory.

Updating GraphQL schema

If you make any changes to the GraphQL schema, you'll need to update the graphql_schema.json file by running an introspection query.

With the PupilFirst server running, run the graphql-codegen script.

$ yarn run graphql-codegen

It'll visit the local GraphQL end-point which is configured in the codegen.yml file, fetch the schema and store it in the graphql_schema.json file.


Background jobs are written using Rails ActiveJob, and deferred using delayed_job in the production environment.

By default, the development and test environment run jobs in-line with a request. If you've manually configured the application to defer them instead, you can execute the jobs with:

$ rake jobs:workoff


$ docsify serve docs -p 3010

The -p option sets the port. Visit localhost:PORT to view docs locally.

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