AWS Public Sector Blog

Carnegie Mellon Gives Students Hands-On Cloud Experience with AWS Educate

Carnegie Mellon University’s online cloud computing course made its debut on the list of offered courses in the spring of 2013.  That first semester, 55 students enrolled in the course, then 155 students the following year, 250 students in 2015, and now, 200-300 students from Carnegie Mellon’s global campuses enroll in the course every semester.

At the outset, Professor Majd Sakr and his team had to work to get the cloud resources the class needed to achieve their learning objectives and design the course and projects for the students to understand and gain experience building and using cloud services. There is a growing demand for developers and information technology (IT) professionals who not only have knowledge of cloud computing, but also hands-on experience.

Carnegie Mellon “practices what they preach,” since they not only teach students how to use the cloud, but also their course infrastructure is all built on the cloud. Carnegie Mellon has taken advantage of AWS Educate to provide educators with the resources needed to accelerate cloud-related learning endeavors and the Computer Science Department has built an end-to-end cloud solution for tutorials, autograding, feedback, logging, and cheat checking.

For Professor Sakr, it is important to provide that real-world experience with real-world data sets and scenarios. “We have the ability to give students the opportunity to work and learn relevant skills on commercial infrastructure in all of its colors – good, maturing, and brand new.  This is important for students to wrap their heads around. It is not the world of make believe,” said Majd Sakr, Teaching Professor within the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University, “Now we can offer projects at scale, be innovative, explore and do new things without the need to buy any on campus resources.”

To offer a course for 100+ students worldwide without worrying about infrastructure is a game changer.  Educators can focus on learning objectives and helping students with their projects. “AWS Educate hasn’t just been beneficial; it has been transformative. Scale is a big deal and we don’t worry.  AWS can handle it,” Professor Sakr said.

To create a community of practice, Carnegie Mellon runs day-long workshops, where the faculty shares ideas and lessons learned from those who have already leveraged the cloud within their classrooms.  Within this community, educators recognize that they have the support network they need and can get their most challenging questions answered. Now, over 22 faculty in the school of computer science have migrated a portion of their projects to AWS in the last academic year and over 20 courses have adopted the cloud in one way or another.  (In Professor Sakr’s case, he is 100% in the cloud).

“We are delighted at what AWS Educate has done. It has streamlined processes, given us access to credits, and opened up forums where educators can ping each asking, ‘how do you do X or Y.’ This type of community is important, since we are all treading on new water. If we can work together, then it is wonderful,” said Professor Sakr.

With AWS Educate, you can add cloud to your curriculum at no cost to you or your students.  You’ll have access to instructor-contributed content, as well as free credits to design lessons and give students the freedom to experiment on the same technology used by companies worldwide.  Learn about the new features of AWS Educate and add AWS Educate to your lesson plan by joining today!