AWS Open Source Blog

Open source tools are scaling and expanding access to education

In recent months, open source technologies have helped universities and colleges around the world scale remote learning at an unprecedented rate. As educators sought online resources and collaboration tools, open source technologies provided a unique opportunity to scale their education in a fast and cost-effective way without compromising flexibility or quality. Additionally, these tools provided the ability to rapidly customize products to their specific needs

One of the most widely used open source tools in education is the learning management system (LMS), Moodle. AWS worked with a variety of partners to migrate the LMS to AWS to expand access to tens of thousands of students. In Spain, AWS-certified and Moodle cloud partner, 3ipunt, launched “Moodle for everyone” to help schools ensure continuity of teaching for their students and educators. They built a scalable LMS platform on AWS that enabled communication, collaboration, and remote learning for more than 300,000 students and 25,000 teachers in schools in Catalonia.

As it transitioned to remote learning, the London School of Economics (LSE) migrated its learning and assessment activities in March. One of the main drivers for their migration to cloud was the ability to scale and conduct online exams. Although their on-premises exam tool was capable of handling around 800 concurrent users, more than 2,000 LSE students took exams online after the school moved their tooling to the cloud.

Another technology driver behind this migration was the ability to scale to match demand. “We also wanted to do work on immutable infrastructure so we can build machine images that are identical and put them into service in test, development, and production environment,” says Chris Fryer, Senior Systems Administrator of Digital Education at the LSE. “We were able to do some of that on premises, but AWS allowed us to have all of our infrastructure as code, which gives us much better audit trail—what changed, when it changes, who changed it, and why. It also allowed us to close out some risks, such as delivering high data availability.”

Moodle on AWS enabled schools to resize computer and database capacity on demand, which was attractive for LSE leaders.

“We considered Moodle on AWS as a product and figured out the MVP on the weekend before exams, and are still working on enhancing features so that it goes from what is needed to what is desired,” Fryer says.

Migrating Moodle for the cloud also helped the University of Los Lagos, a state university in Chile, extend online courses to 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students. In addition to reaching more students online, the move allowed the university to carry out advanced analytics on usage of the platform, as well as student and teacher performance.

Another advantage of partnering with AWS and Moodle LMS partners is the flexibility. AWS and its partners help customers integrate their LMS with other services, including voice, chat, and machine learning. With managed IT services, universities and colleges can reallocate their scarce IT resource in order to focus on their strategic goals.

Graphic Era University is based in the northern region of India, and consists of four campuses that cater to students from remote areas in both India and Nepal. Some students come from underprivileged backgrounds and are offered education by the university at no cost. As the university closed its doors in March, it needed a cost-effective way to continue providing education to its students.

The university implemented an end-to-end Moodle deployment on AWS to move all their educational activities, including exams, online. They successfully conducted a three-hour exam for 18,000 students at the end of the semester. Students in remote areas with minimal internet access were able to take this exam online. Given the light open source application and its easy integration, students could access their exams via mobile devices. For their part, teachers are pleased with the ease of use, the integration of live classroom sessions, and the flexible range of activities they can conduct using Moodle.

The University of Witwatersrand (Wits University) in South Africa recently moved its LMS online. The university could not provide its population of 40,000+ students with remote education on its legacy IT infrastructure. They moved their open source Sakai LMS to the cloud, providing the university with scalability, security, and agility.

“AWS came at the right time for Wits University in that a perennial problem of the learning management system going down during critical times became a thing of the past,” Dr. Stanley Mpofu, CIO of the university, says. “The professional setup by AWS of guaranteed availability, security, and scaling assured 24/7 access from anywhere–giving Wits the edge. The architecture design was top standard leading to mobile network operators (MNOs) agreeing to zero-rate it after conducting extensive tests to ensure that the design mitigated the issues that MNOs  previously had regarding cloud-hosted solutions.”

From online classrooms, to collaboration and assessment, academic institutions are using open source technologies to continue delivering education to students. Read “Empowering girls with STEM education, safely and at scale” to learn more about how educational nonprofits are working with AWS using open source tools. Watch the “Moodle on AWS” video to learn more about how the LSE and the University of East London moved their learning and assessment solutions to the cloud.

Feature image via Pixabay.

Maysam Ali

Maysam Ali

Maysam Ali is senior program manager for International Education at Amazon Web Services.