Category: Education


Solving Educational Data Interoperability Challenges Using the Ed-Fi Data Standard

School districts and State Departments of Education are managing an increasing number of technology products and services that impact students and faculty. As state education agencies (SEAs) and local education agencies (LEAs) integrate more of these tools into their operations, the amount of student data being generated grows.

Because these systems remain largely disconnected from one another, SEAs and LEAs are unable to secure, store, analyze, and report on the data in a unified way. The Ed-Fi Alliance seeks to change that by providing a data standard that allows previously disconnected educational products to connect, and effectively help generate data insights to be used by teachers, superintendents, and state agencies.

AWS and Ed-Fi Take on Data Interoperability

AWS worked with the Ed-Fi Alliance to build an automated template that will help districts and states standardize, structure, and store their data using the Ed-Fi Data Standard and Operational Data Store (ODS) on AWS. Users can deploy the AWS CloudFormation template in minutes to launch a pre-configured infrastructure on AWS to support the Ed-Fi technology stack.

With this template, SEAs and LEAs no longer have to think about purchasing, maintaining, and upgrading on-premises servers with expensive upfront costs. With Ed-Fi on AWS, the infrastructure is deployed securely on AWS using pay-as-you-go pricing. Projects that previously took entire budget cycles and carried large financial risk can now be set up in minutes and taken down over summers and school breaks to minimize cost.

“We’re excited about the possibilities offered to districts and states that exist by running Ed-Fi on the AWS Cloud. The speed and cost savings that are natively available in AWS allow for more school systems to be far more agile with Ed-Fi, ultimately helping more students,” said Troy Wheeler, CEO of the Ed-Fi Alliance.

One early adopter of Ed-Fi on AWS is Tulsa Public Schools. They knew that they could do more with data and made the decision to work with Ed-Fi and AWS to develop a solution that turns their data into actionable insights to improve student outcomes.

About Tulsa Public Schools

Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) is the second largest school district in Oklahoma, serving approximately 40,000 students. The nearly 7,000 employees at Tulsa Public Schools include teachers delivering instruction at over 80 school sites, bus drivers traveling over 70,000 miles each week, custodial staff maintaining over 37 million square feet of facilities, child nutrition staff serving 130,000 meals each week, and an IT team supporting 50,375 devices. The mission of Tulsa Public Schools is to inspire and prepare every student to love learning, achieve ambitious goals, and make positive contributions to our world.

Tulsa applied for the City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge and, as a winner, received AWS Promotional Credits for their big idea on student data. They wanted to leverage the compliance data they were required to collect on dropout rates to predict and design interventions for at-risk students. They are using the AWS Promotional Credits to build a recommendation engine that measures the effectiveness of their interventions and looks for patterns and correlations using AWS Machine Learning. The engine will tailor and improve recommendations over time, based on previous outcomes all in the interest of improving student achievement.

A key piece of the puzzle for TPS was ensuring that all the various systems through which they collect data are standardized in a central data store for analysis. With the support of AWS, TPS adopted the Ed-Fi Data Standard to provide the unifying data model that allows them to store their data in a structured way.

“The Ed-Fi Data Standard and Operational Data Store hosted on AWS will allow us to reach our goal of providing tailored recommendations to teachers and students more quickly and more affordably than if we were to host this work on premises,” said Stephen Fedore, Chief Analytics Officer at TPS. “Hosting on AWS has allowed us to move faster in every facet, from financial planning and approvals to the time it takes to build out the environment. We don’t worry about infrastructure and instead focus on meaningful outcomes for students.”

Getting Started

Is your district ready to harness the potential of all the data it collects on a daily basis, just like Tulsa Public Schools did? We encourage you to check out resources available from Ed-Fi on their Getting Started page, and to leverage the AWS CloudFormation template available on the Ed-Fi Exchange.  For support in getting started, please email aws-education-k12-edfi@amazon.com.

Yonsei University Accelerates Student’s Cloud Capabilities with AWS Educate

Yonsei University, one of the most prestigious universities in Korea, will migrate its IT infrastructure to the AWS Cloud to prepare itself and its students for the 4th Industrial Revolution.

The 4th Industrial Revolution is a term indicating technological trends such as IoT, big data, and cloud computing are expected to create new ways of life and business. Among them, cloud technology is considered a critical enabler of the new revolution across industries including education. As part of an effort to realize the vision of becoming the leading university in highly advanced learning environments, Yonsei University plans to migrate all of the websites for the university and its internal institutions to the AWS Cloud.

At the same time, it expects to introduce AWS Educate as part of its teaching curriculum for about 2,000 students. Additionally, the university is considering introducing Amazon WorkSpaces and the video management service in its computing training facilities. AWS Educate will support the university’s mission by accelerating students’ capabilities on cloud computing skills, helping them to acquire the expertise that is increasingly relevant for their future employment.

President of Yonsei University, Yonghak Kim, said, “Cloud is an essential element to prepare for the 4th Industrial Revolution. With the AWS Cloud services that deliver the broadest and deepest set of functionality and superior performance and security, we will be able to innovate our computing environment while providing world-class educational programs to our students. I hope it will serve as momentum for Yonsei University to become the global prestigious university.”

“A number of prestigious universities around the world are already using AWS Cloud for high scalability and huge cost savings to support their backend mission critical applications, as well as delivering course content more seamlessly,“ said Peter Moore, Asia Pacific Managing Director of Global Public Sector, Amazon Web Services Singapore Private Limited. “I am so pleased that a leading university in South Korea like the Yonsei University is laying the foundation for future innovations with two important initiatives – migrating all of its IT infrastructure to the AWS Cloud and leveraging the AWS Educate program for its educators and students. We are honored to work with Yonsei University to help them nurture the talent for a cloud workforce, which is a key driver for the country’s economic growth.”


Learn about the new AWS Educate Educator Portal.

Introducing the New AWS Educate Educator Portal

The new AWS Educate release is here to help teachers better integrate cloud technology into their curriculum with new content, tools, and professional development.

Take a look at some of the new features now available in the AWS Educate Educator portal:

  • Get Content: The “Get Content” section of the site allows you to collect, curate, and download content specific to your classroom. Search for key assets and browse the wide variety of resources. Resources are pre -grouped into specialty areas like Software Development, Cloud Architecture, and Big Data and Analytics. Save the content you want into custom course collections and download into formats compatible with most Learning Management Systems (LMS).
  • Tools and Credits: In the “Tools and Credits” section, you can request AWS Promotional Credits for your class as either a promotional code that you manage in your account or as individual codes for students. This includes an automated educator central code to request AWS Credits for every student in your class, regardless of whether they have already requested their individual code. If you need more AWS Credits – for GPU-intensive coursework, for example – you can create a special request. Also, encourage your class to enroll in AWS Educate individually via automated signup through a Learning Tools Interoperability integration with your LMS. You can use those credits to try out new services and facilitate classroom projects. This section is loaded with additional tools. For instance, you can also browse and download sample scripts, public datasets, Amazon CloudFront templates, and learn about Amazon Machine Images to integrate into your course.
  • Professional Development: Check out the “Professional Development” area to boost your AWS Cloud knowledge. Discover the online AWS Essentials class – a no-cost AWS training option – and explore discounted AWS certifications exclusively available to AWS Educate members. You can also experience AWS Educate from the student side by logging in and exploring cloud career pathways.

We hope you find the Educator Portal helpful as you build or manage your class. Get started today by logging into your account or by signing up at www.awseducate.com.

 

How EdTechs are Helping Get Students Powered Up for School

To help power up teachers and students with the latest technology as they head back to school, AWS has launched an EdTech startup accelerator – AWS EdStart.

Let’s take a look at how AWS EdStart is working with innovative startups. Focusing on the next generation of online learning, analytics, and campus management solutions on the AWS Cloud, we connected with four different EdTech startups from AWS EdStart to learn how they are ramping for back-to-school success.

Vocareum: Vocareum offers cloud-based learning and assessment labs for computer and data science classes. Its platform capabilities include grading automation, plagiarism detection, team projects, and peer reviews for improved assignment management, assessment efficiency, and student engagement.

This school year, Vocareum expects to have over ten million auto-graded homework submissions on its platform, coming from over 100,000 students this year. Sign up for a demo to learn more.

“By moving student work to the cloud and leveraging cloud computing resources, we make it possible to deliver cost-effective and current computing labs to our partners,” said David Lin, VP Business Development, Vocareum. “AWS has enabled us to quickly build and scale our business to meet the growing need for cloud learning environments in computer and data science education. “

Sown To Grow: In Sown To Grow, students set learning goals, track their own progress, and write reflections on the strategies that work best for them (or new ones they want to try). Teachers set expectations, monitor growth, and provide feedback on student reflections. The platform provides scaffolding with learning strategies that are proven to work and insights for teachers to better reach struggling students. The result? Students care more, focus on growth, and become better, more empowered learners.

As the new school year kicked off, Sown To Grow passed the mark of over 20,000 users and has seen a 350% increase in teacher registrations.

“The reliability, scalability, and relative ease of use of AWS enable Sown To Grow’s small development team to focus on improving the application to meet customer needs, instead of spending time setting up and troubleshooting infrastructure,” said Colin Gilbert, Product and Marketing Strategy Manager, Sown To Grow. “Sown To Grow is still in a stage where we’re constantly iterating. AWS allows us to deploy new features, updates, and bug fixes quickly, enabling us to create smoother experiences for teachers and students.”

Gradescope: Gradescope allows instructors to grade handwritten, digital, and coding assignments in less time. The tool supports almost any format (paper exams, book problems, quizzes, programming projects) and any type of question. Class time isn’t spent collecting homework, since students can upload images or a PDF of their work directly to Gradescope, and students get their work back as soon as it’s graded, rather than having to wait until the next time they see their instructors.

Gradescope is used in over 1,000 courses around the world. In total, this means instructors have trusted Gradescope to grade over 17 million pages of work. The user base has grown by over 2000% over the past few years.

“AWS lets us get started quickly with a solid, reliable architecture, without needing to worry about every single detail,” said Arjun Singh, Cofounder and CEO, Gradescope. “More recently, we’ve taken advantage of AWS Lambda, which lets us run our machine learning algorithms over huge amounts of student work nearly instantly, even with the bursty, irregular load that we see.”

Learnmetrics Inc: Learnmetrics is a smart data company that aggregates, analyzes, and activates learning data to reveal the information that’s too hard to find, understand, standardize, or work with. The tools uncover these hidden insights, giving educators valuable clues about how best to ignite the potential of each and every student, and to refine the efficacy of learning organizations at-large. They take all of their tools and data sources and transform them taking them from disparate, opaque, and inadequate to connected, transparent, and workflow-oriented insights.

“We work with student data, which is a privilege and an honor, but also comes with serious responsibilities and potential ramifications. Working with AWS has allowed us to leverage world-class cloud services with proven security and reliability,” said Julian Miller, Founder & CEO, Learnmetrics Inc. “This allows us to live up to those responsibilities while focusing on our customers’ problems and needs, rather than our operational ones.”

Build Your Teaching and Learning Solutions on the AWS Cloud

Each of these EdTechs is a member of AWS EdStart. The EdTech accelerator enables startup educational technology companies to innovate faster by providing AWS Promotional Credits, community engagement, office hours, customized trainings, live events, and specialized support to these startup EdTech industry pioneers.

“AWS EdStart has enabled us to work at the bleeding edge of technology to support teaching and learning. We are testing new strategies and deploying technologies at scale and at pace, which wouldn’t otherwise be possible at our size,” said Julian from Learnmetrics.

Learn more about how AWS EdStart can help you build teaching and learning solutions on the AWS Cloud.

Get Your University Ready for NIST 800-171

The deadline to implement National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication 800-171 is fast approaching. Beginning in January 2018, you may miss out on government funding that stipulates its implementation if you have not taken action.

In 2015, NIST published Special Publication (SP) 800-171 – Protecting Controlled Unclassified Information in Non-federal Information Systems and Organizations – introducing the standards for non-federal entities, such as academic institutions working under a government contract. NIST 800-171 was meant to take the security controls from a larger NIST publication, NIST 800-53, and assist non-federal agencies to apply controlled unclassified information (CUI) controls to their environments. When NIST 800-171 was published, it specified a grace period that ends on December 31, 2017. Therefore, compliance with the framework is mandatory beginning in 2018.

Many universities are turning to AWS to leverage the robust controls in place to maintain security and data protection in the cloud and be compliant with NIST 800-171 rather than overhauling their existing environment or data center facilities. For example, as Purdue University mentions in a recent article published on Educause, AWS allowed them to create a separate domain for controlled research without negatively impacting their existing facilities.

AWS makes compliance easy by providing free NIST 800 Quick Starts. The Quick Start is a reference deployment guide that discusses architectural considerations and steps for deploying NIST 800-53 and 800-171 on the AWS Cloud. In addition, the Quick Starts include an AWS CloudFormation template that automates the heavy lifting required to deploy the reference architecture. Also, the Quick Starts include a security controls matrix, which maps the architecture components to the requirements specified in NIST 800-53 and NIST 800-171.

To get started, view the Quick Start guide in HTML or PDF. To launch the Quick Start, either click on the following link in your browser, or from the AWS console, paste the following URL  into the CloudFormation console in US-East-1 as shown below: https://s3.amazonaws.com/quickstart-reference/enterprise-accelerator/nist/latest/templates/main.template

 

If you need assistance with an enterprise implementation of the capabilities introduced through this Quick Start, AWS Professional Services offers an Enterprise Accelerator – Compliance service to guide and assist with the training, customization, and implementation of deployment and maintenance processes.

Please contact your AWS Account Manager for further information, or send an inquiry to: compliance-accelerator@amazon.com.

Recap of the AWS Public Sector Summit – Canberra

We just wrapped the AWS Public Sector Summit in Canberra, Australia where 900+ attendees participated in workshops, roundtables, bootcamps, breakout sessions, and a keynote delivered by Teresa Carlson, Vice President of Worldwide Public Sector at AWS.

Teresa was joined onstage by Australia Post, Geoscience Australia, and an adviser to the Australian government, who shared how they use the AWS Cloud to strengthen cyber security, improve service delivery to the public, and innovate faster.

Watch the keynote video on-demand.

Throughout the packed day, attendees could opt for sessions spanning Data and Analytics, Security, Industry & Innovation, and Developer tracks, based on their business and technical interests.

A few featured sessions include:

  • How Novel Compute Technology Transforms Medical and Life Science Research: Genomic research has leapfrogged to the forefront of big data and cloud solutions. This session outlined how to deal with “big” (many samples) and “wide” (many features per sample) data on Apache Spark. Attendees also learned best practices for keeping runtime constant by using automatically scalable micro services such as AWS Lambda, as well as how AWS technology has powered research at CSIRO.
  • Terraforming Geoscience with Infracode: Geoscience Australia welds science and technology with tools such as Terraform on AWS, to examine the geology and geography of Australia. The organization gave us an inside look at how it secures Australia’s natural resources, builds Earth Observation infrastructure, and analyzes geoscientific data. Learn how Geoscience Australia is taking advantage of this and other innovations – including Packer and CI/CD – to drive change, improve developer experience, and deliver value to users.
  • Robots: The Fading Line Between Real and Virtual Worlds: Our Summit audience got to witness how live, virtual 3D worlds rendered with Amazon Lumberyard – a complimentary, cross-platform, 3D game engine – interconnects with IoT devices in the real world. This session illustrated how AWS IoT can be used to remotely control inanimate objects such as Sphero robots, using Bluetooth. Attendees observed how AWS IoT and AWS Lambda empower users to create bi-directional communication between moving robots, which can detect collisions in a virtual world created through Amazon’s game engine. Learn how voice commands control physical and virtual robots using AWS IoT through Alexa Skills Kit and the Amazon Echo.

View all breakout sessions videos.

Interested in attending more AWS Summits? Find them in cities near you.

Five Key Trends for Education in Canada

Since the launch of the AWS Canada (Central) Region in December 2016, Canadian educational institutions have been using the AWS Cloud to help facilitate teaching and learning, launch student analytics initiatives, and manage IT operations.

From data center migration to workforce development, primary schools and universities have been focused on five key trends:

  1. Data residency is top of mind: Customers can run their applications and workloads in the Canada (Central) Region with two availability zones. End users based in Canada can leverage the Canada Region to avoid up-front expenses, long-term commitments, and scaling challenges associated with maintaining and operating their own infrastructure. Echo360, an APN Partner, recently announced that they moved to the Canada Region to address data privacy and security concerns for Canadian colleges and universities.
  2. Website migration is a great place to start: The University of Alberta, a leading research university and the Province’s fourth largest employer, recently moved hundreds of websites and resources that comprise its digital environment to the AWS Cloud. “Power and scalability was extremely important to us,” said Jennifer Chesney, Associate Vice-President, University Digital Strategy. “We needed to move our digital brand to an infrastructure management partner that could provide the university the highest quality optimization of our complex environment. We are excited about the Canadian Region, as it opens up further cloud possibilities for Canadian organizations.” Learn how to get started on the cloud.
  3. Train students for cloud computing careers: To fuel the pipeline of technologists entering the workforce, the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), one of Canada’s largest post-secondary polytechnics, is constantly looking for ways to bring innovative technology to their students. Whether it is equipping students with cloud computing resources through AWS Educate or partnering with technology companies to understand the skills necessary to succeed post-graduation, BCIT is an example of the importance of industry and education working together to meet the increasing demand for cloud employees. “We brought in our first cloud computing class four years ago, and recently we made the decision to only teach AWS. Instead of breadth, we decided to give students depth on AWS so they can easily transition into the workforce,” said Dr. Bill Klug, Cloud Computing Option Head & Instructor, British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). Bring the cloud to your classroom with AWS Educate.
  4. Simplifying Access to Learning Resources: Amazon WorkSpaces is a fully managed, secure Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) solution that helps higher education institutions and primary school districts give students and instructors consistent access to teaching and learning software on any device. The University of Maryland University College uses Amazon WorkSpaces in a virtual environment giving students a desktop ready for their learning needs. Watch the webinar.
  5. Partners can help institutions migrate: On-demand compute, storage, and database services help higher education, primary, and research IT teams build secure environments for mission-critical applications, freeing them to focus on student success. As more educational institutions move to the cloud, it is important for our customers to be able to identify specialized APN Partners to assist them in this segment. Congratulations to Advanced APN Partner D2L, which has achieved the AWS Education Competency designation.

Learn more about AWS in Canada here.

Automatically Discover, Classify, and Protect Your Data

In our post, Building a Cloud-Specific Incident Response Plan, we walked through a hypothetical incident response (IR) managed on AWS with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). With the recent launch of Amazon Macie, a new data classification and security service, you have additional controls to understand the type of data stored in your Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). Amazon Macie can also help you meet your compliance objectives, with the ability to set up automated mechanisms to track and report security incidents.

Amazon Macie is a security service that uses machine learning to automatically discover, classify, and protect sensitive data in AWS. Amazon Macie recognizes sensitive data such as personally identifiable information (PII) or intellectual property, and provides you with dashboards and alerts that give visibility into how this data is being accessed or stored. The fully managed service continuously monitors data access activity for anomalies, and generates detailed alerts when it detects risk of unauthorized access or inadvertent data leaks.

Benefits of Amazon Macie for public sector organizations include:

  • Superior Visibility of Your Data – Amazon Macie makes it easy for security administrators to have management visibility into data storage environments, beginning with Amazon S3, with additional AWS data stores coming soon.
  • Simple to Set Up, Easy to Manage – Getting started with Amazon Macie is fast and easy. Log into the AWS console, select the Amazon Macie service, and provide the AWS accounts you would like to protect.
  • Data Security Automation Through Machine Learning – Amazon Macie uses machine learning to automate the process of discovering, classifying, and protecting data stored in AWS. This helps you better understand where sensitive information is stored and how it’s being accessed, including user authentications and access patterns.
  • Custom Alert Monitoring with Cloudwatch – Amazon Macie can send all findings to Amazon CloudWatch Events. This allows you to build custom remediation and alert management for your existing security ticketing systems.

Customers including Edmunds, Netflix, and Autodesk are using Amazon Macie to provide insights that will help them tackle security challenges. Learn more about how to get started with Amazon Macie. If you are a first-time user of Amazon Macie, we recommend that you begin by reading the Macie documentation.

An Educator’s Guide to Getting Started on AWS

Bring the cloud to your campus with the help of this short checklist video, which highlights how to set up and manage your AWS accounts, as well some best practices for getting started.

Whether you are looking for best practices for using the AWS Cloud, or want to take advantage of discounts earned through the service, our complete AWS for Education video series aims to serve your administrative cloud needs. Choose from seven videos on topics spanning AWS Organizations, adding contacts, Identity and Access Management, billing, auditing, and networking.

Take a peek at the checklist basics below:

  • When you set up your AWS account, make sure to choose your security questions, alternative contacts, and enable your multi-factor authentication.
  • Leverage AWS Organizations for billing purposes for your AWS accounts. This service also enables you to create groups of accounts and centrally manage policies, without custom scripts or manual processes.
  • Enable AWS CloudTrail in all regions. With CloudTrail, you can log, continuously monitor, and retain events related to API calls across your AWS infrastructure.
  • Create an Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) access log bucket and enable S3 access logs for important buckets in each account.
  • Configure Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) to have control over your virtual networking environment, including selection of your own IP address range, creation of subnets, and configuration of route tables and network gateways.
  • Establish campus connectivity options to AWS services and VPCs (VPN, AWS Direct Connect, I2).

Watch the full Getting Started in AWS for Education video series to learn more.

 

Arizona State University Brings Voice-Technology Program to Campus

Arizona State University, with support from the Amazon Alexa team, has created a voice-technology program on campus designed to enhance students’ ASU experience by giving them touch-free access to information and services tailored to campus living — and prepare them to become leaders in voice-technology development.

As part of the effort, engineering students moving into Tooker House, a new residence hall for engineers on the Tempe campus, can choose to receive a new Amazon Echo Dot, a hands-free, voice-controlled device used to play music, make calls, send and receive messages, provide information, read the news, set alarms, read audiobooks, and more.

With the use of the Amazon Echo Dot, students will become part of the first voice-enabled residential community on a university campus.

In addition, students can sign up for one of three courses that will teach new concepts focused on building voice-user interfaces with Alexa. These will be offered through the Ira Fulton School of Engineering. Incoming freshman engineering students will be able to build their own Alexa skills or capabilities, and join the growing community of voice developers globally.

ASU also introduced an ASU-specific Alexa skill to enhance the campus experience for students, faculty, staff and alumni. Anyone with an Alexa-enabled device can use the ASU Alexa skill to get information about the university and the campus.

Read more about the ASU program in their blog post, learn more about how you can use Alexa in education, and discover how other schools are using Alexa to build apps for their students.