Enabling remote education in Guatemala with scalable learning platform Mineduc Digital
September 8, 2021: Amazon Elasticsearch Service has been renamed to Amazon OpenSearch Service. See details.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ministerio de Educación de Guatemala (the Guatemala Ministry of Education) made the decision to close public schools to mitigate the spread of the virus. The closing of schools gave the Ministry’s authorities the opportunity to implement new solutions to enable students, teachers, and parents to continue with the education experience.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) Partner ITZ Data (AWS Advanced Consulting Partner / Government Competency), with support from UNICEF and the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala, helped the Ministry launch Mineduc Digital—the country’s first online platform where students can access digital self-study guides from any device connected to the internet. Guatemala’s Ministry of Education implemented the solution in less than two months, paving the way for the digital transformation of their education system. The solution was built on AWS.
ITZ Data designed and implemented a cloud-native architecture on AWS to deploy Open edX—an open source software for massive online open courses (MOOCs) on a scalable infrastructure that is simple to manage—to create Mineduc Digital. ITZ Data integrated services such as Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS), Amazon Aurora, Amazon ElastiCache, and Amazon Elasticsearch Service (Amazon ES) and orchestrated using AWS Cloud Development Kit (AWS CDK).
edX offers courses from the world’s best universities and institutions to learners everywhere. The Open edX platform provides the massively scalable learning software technology behind edX.
ITZ Data focused on quickly building an agile education platform that provided public access for all students at a national level while also meeting the highest standards for availability, scalability, and security. To make the platform scalable and robust, ITZ Data’s engineering team used the open source Open edX software, the same massive and scalable learning software that powers edX. The solution was implemented on a cloud-native architecture on AWS to enable simplified administration, monitoring, automation, and scalability.
The deployment of Mineduc Digital was automated with AWS Cloud Development Kit (AWS CDK), which enables the creation of resources on AWS using everyday programming languages. Using AWS CDK, a cloud developer has more flexibility to create infrastructure, saving time creating resources by using constructors, which preconfigure resources with default values that are optimized and secure.
For high availability, ITZ Data deployed the solution using multiple Availability Zones (AZs) in the selected AWS Region. Resources were created inside an Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC), which uses public and private subnets to deploy the application and data layers. Within the Amazon VPC, a NAT Gateway enables resources in the private subnets to exit to the internet in a secure manner. A Bastion Host functions as an entry point for managing the AWS resources underlying Mineduc Digital. As part of the security configuration, ITZ Data assigned Security Groups to each deployed component, limiting at the network layer the level of access to different services.
For the application layer, ITZ Data deployed a containerized version of Open edX, using the open source Tutor project as a base. To orchestrate and manage containers, ITZ Data created an Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) cluster. The cluster is comprised of two Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances defined as worker nodes. Kubernetes Cluster Autoscaler enables an automated increase or decrease of worker nodes for the Amazon EKS cluster, working together with the Horizontal Pod Autoscaler for creating additional Kubernetes pods. This helps with the dynamic elasticity required for the solution, which is proportional to the demand coming from users.
Open edX integrates several storage solutions, depending on the type of data, to function correctly. To strengthen and secure the data layer of the application, ITZ Data used:
- Open edX configuration data on Amazon Aurora MySQL: To safekeep user information and their interactions.
- MongoDB deployed on Amazon EC2 instances: To store data from the courses available on the platform.
- Memcached on Amazon ElastiCache: For user session information storage on a cache layer.
- Redis on Amazon ElastiCache: For batch processing or scheduled tasks done using celery workers, which integrate a second cache layer.
- Amazon ElasticSearch Service: To enable Open edX search functionality for course content.
- Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3): Helps users share files to personalize their profile using images and interact in forums.
All the necessary private endpoints are registered by ITZ Data using Amazon Route 53, to simplify management, help obtain available domain names, and allow it to be available and accessible from the VPC.
The solution interacts between AWS services implemented through name resolution, which allows the platform to be elastic and scalable. Name resolution is performed using private hosted zones, which are information repositories that tell Amazon Route 53 how to respond to DNS petitions for domains and subdomains within the VPC.
ITZ Data also built interactive visualizations using Amazon QuickSight, integrating the SPICE engine to enable advanced calculations on data gathered from the platform. Among other things, it is currently used to analyze user interactions within the application.
The architecture created by ITZ Data for the Guatemalan Ministry of Education is highly available, scalable, and allows for simplified administration through automation. Mineduc Digital helped Guatemala’s Ministry of Education to respond quickly to the pandemic, and in the process become an agent of change in their region. Learn more about Mineduc Digital and the cloud for education.
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