AWS Public Sector Blog

Virtual exchange is transforming the global classroom

Virtual exchange, student at laptop

Each year, millions of students travel abroad to study and enrich their personal development and global perspective through international student exchange programs. Virtual exchange is becoming an important part of digital learning environments due to its student-centered, cost-effective, and equitable means of advancing international education.

ImmerseU is a virtual exchange learning platform developed by Class2Class, an AWS EdStart Member. The platform helps colleges and universities create and enhance collaborations through its online environment, by fostering cooperation globally across classrooms, nonprofits, governments, and the private sector.

Using Amazon Web Services (AWS), Class2Class created a secure and affordable global platform to give every student equitable access to cross-cultural exchanges and empower democratized learning.

“Through AWS EdStart, we have gained access to cutting-edge cloud tools, including reliable and stable data storage, video support, artificial intelligence (AI) applications, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) assistance, and help expanding into China, as well as invaluable training, webinars, and marketing support,” said Matthew Hightower, chief executive officer and founder of Class2Class.

The platform enables instructors to model 21st century skills for collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, perseverance, grit, project-based learning, interconnected thinking, pro-social behavior, and intentional community building.

“This is an answer to our prayers. We can train faculty on what virtual exchange is and in this same space they can find partners, build out their collaborative course, and deliver it. It’s everything in one place and for the first time makes scaling possible,” said Mirjam Hauck, head of internationalization of the campus at Open University UK, Erasmus + Virtual Exchange Researcher and project lead.

Prior to starting ImmerseU, Class2Class used a virtual private server (VPS) provider for their initial product Oleo. While reliable and affordable at the time, Class2Class knew as soon as they began development on ImmerseU there would be high demand. This is when the team identified the need for a highly secure, reliable, and scalable provider that included all the future services they would need and be able to grow into.

Class2Class used AWS Elastic Beanstalk, an easy-to-use service for deploying and scaling web applications and services developed with Java, .NET, PHP, Node.js, Python, Ruby, Go, and Docker on familiar servers such as Apache, Nginx, Passenger, and IIS.

“Today, and the ImmerseU app run 100 percent on the AWS Cloud. AWS has allowed us to quickly and easily develop prototype and production-ready features by utilizing the consolidated services offered. The simplicity of spinning up AWS Elastic Beanstalk instances to ‘test a theory,’ for example, is second to none. By our measurements, we would easily need a software team twice our size to accomplish this with other solutions. With a startup our size, we could not expand to a global reach like we have without the infrastructure of AWS,” said Brian Broerman, chief product officer of Class2Class.

Class2Class was also looking for a secure and reliable way to integrate audio, video, chat, screen sharing, breakout spaces, and recording options to create a meaningful virtual classroom experience. Class2Class selected Amazon Chime SDK and deployed it with their lean engineering team within just a few days.

AWS EdStart, the AWS Educational Technology (EdTech) startup accelerator, is designed to help entrepreneurs like Class2Class build the next generation of online learning, analytics, and campus management solutions on the AWS Cloud. The program is designed to enable EdTech startups to move faster with specially tailored benefits. View other AWS EdStart stories and apply for membership.

Learn more about AWS EdStart, cloud computing for education, and AWS for higher education.