AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog

Highlights from Cloudorado: EDUCAUSE 2018 Recap

Over 5,850 education leaders traveled to Denver, Colorado, to engage on topics and discussions in higher education IT. Throughout the week, we shared ways to increase access to learning and improve student outcomes – from bringing Amazon Alexa voice technology to campus to improving current educational technologies with machine learning. In case you missed it, read on for key themes and takeaways.

EdTechs lower barriers to entry for universities interested in voice

EdTechs, like CDW and Canvas, shared solutions to make voice technology more accessible for higher education. CDW, a technology and service provider, announced an offering for higher education, using Alexa for Business. Canvas, Instructure’s learning management system, announced it is open-sourcing the code for the Canvas skill for Amazon Alexa.

“With the release of Canvas Skill for Amazon Alexa, we enabled users to link their Canvas account in the Alexa app, then simply ask Alexa for details about their courses,” said Melissa Loble, SVP, Custom Success and Partnerships, Instructure.

In doing so, Canvas enables their online community – nearly 350,000 members – to build applications and leverage community-created skills that can be deployed on Amazon Alexa. Canvas hopes to work with higher education institutions to support students and faculty with university-led hackathons. Please direct all inquiries to partners@instructure.com.

Universities sharing insights for cloud innovation

At a pre-conference workshop, Cornell University, Harvard Business School, and the University of Notre Dame provided insights on assessing university readiness for cloud migration. Arizona State University and Saint Louis University shared learnings and next steps for enhancing student life and driving deep learner engagement through voice applications in a campus setting. Universities are thinking big about Alexa beyond dorm room applications, evaluating use cases for tutoring, libraries, stadiums, classrooms, and conference rooms.

“We see voice as being part of almost everything moving forward,” said Kyle Collins, AVP – Technology Transformation, Saint Louis University. “We’re not trying to make the library obsolete, but rather, we’re partnering with the library to identify new ways to continue to better serve our student population. The goal is to enhance productivity and shift time traditionally spent on accessing information to actually working with that information.”

EdTech startups build teaching and learning solutions on the AWS Cloud

AWS was the sponsor of Start Up Alley, where 47 emerging EdTechs exhibited solutions involving machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data analytics. In addition to hosting conversations on Alexa in Education and AWS EdStart, we rolled out the Amazon Smart Life Airstream where hundreds of attendees walked through the newest technology to take back to their campuses. Eight startups competed at the Under the Ed Radar Pitch Competition and delivered six-minute pitches. Congratulations to Sense Education, who won first place, and Campus by Ucroo and Aula Education, who were runner ups!

“We are an early stage startup just beginning to work with major universities so getting validation from a group of expert judges elevates our brand,” said Akiba Covitz, Chief Business Development Officer, Sense Education. “A competition gives you the chance to step back and see how you are you doing across all the metrics.”

Learn more on the AWS Education Twitter feed and explore the #EDU18 hashtag.