ServerCentral Turing Group Helps Oral Roberts University Use AWS to Deliver Reliable Academic Testing to Students Worldwide
ServerCentral Turing Group is an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner
ServerCentral Turing Group (SCTG) helps Oral Roberts University deliver reliable academic testing application for nearly 1,000 students, gain better visibility into application issues, and create a framework for future testing initiatives. SCTG, an AWS Public Sector Partner, built an AWS-based capacity-testing tool using AWS Lambda functions to run the entire test-taking process.
Searching for Reliable, Scalable Testing Technology
Oklahoma’s Oral Roberts University (ORU) is committed to providing the best technology experience for more than 4,000 students attending classes across the globe. For the university’s IT department, this became a challenge when it needed to support a class taught by the school’s President. The mandatory class is attended by approximately 1,000 students and is the largest class on campus.
“Every time students took a quiz, the learning management system would lose steam from the traffic. We couldn’t have technology fail for our President,” says Mike Mathews, the Vice President for Innovation and Technology at Oral Roberts University.
To solve these types of problems, ORU’s learning management system team, Desire2Learn (D2L), decided to move to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud for elasticity and scalability. However, the university needed a technology partner to help stress-test the system to ensure the students could simultaneously log in, access, and submit an instant pop quiz.
SCTG Deploys a Capacity-testing Tool on AWS
ORU chose to work with ServerCentral Turing Group (SCTG), an AWS Managed Service Provider, Public Sector Partner, Government Competency Partner, and DevOps Competency Partner, to design a cloud-based testing application environment. SCTG offers cloud strategy, development, and management for global customers.
“ORU needed a testing solution that performed flawlessly for students throughout the world,” says Andy Stocchetti, Associate Director of Software Development at SCTG. “However, we wanted to do more than just design a load test to support traffic spikes during a quiz. We chose to architect an environment that could be repurposed for testing in other areas across the university.”
SCTG built an AWS-based capacity-testing tool that uses AWS CloudFormation templates to launch testing agents worldwide. The solution relies on AWS Lambda functions to run and simulate a student’s entire test-taking process, including logging in, answering questions, and submitting the test. Using AWS Lambda, SCTG created a puppeteer script that can easily be deployed across multiple regions.
SCTG also used AWS Step Functions, a serverless function orchestrator, to coordinate data collection and aggregation and store it in Amazon DynamoDB. The solution leverages Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) to store metrics, which are then presented to users in a dashboard. The dashboard gives a high-level overview that shows the percentage of system failures in each region or overall. SCTG worked alongside the ORU IT team to test the solution, working out issues before deploying the system to students.
“ORU needed a testing solution that performed flawlessly for students throughout the world. However, we wanted to do more than just design a load test to support traffic spikes during a quiz. We chose to architect an environment that could be repurposed for testing in other areas across the university.”
- Andy Stocchetti, Associate Director of Software Development, SCTG
Flawless Testing for Nearly 1,000 Students
The SCTG solution worked seamlessly, enabling all ORU students to take pop quizzes at the same time. Running the SCTG testing solution on AWS, ORU easily scaled to simultaneously support the students. The tests also ran several milliseconds faster, an important metric considering a quiz may only be 1 minute long.
“The entire semester went perfectly. In fact, during a class, the President thanked IT for improving access to quizzes, which of course made us feel this effort was worth it,” Mathews says.
Gaining Better Visibility into System Issues
Using its dashboard, ORU has stronger visibility into application performance and system failures. For example, ORU teachers and IT staff can view details on each step in a quiz, using information from more than 10,000 data points. Using AWS, SCTG can present the data in a form that clearly shows where there are opportunities for improvement. ORU can also dig deeper to analyze specific technical reasons for performance degradation or failure points. As a result, SCTG is providing peace of mind to ORU in terms of the solution’s success.
A Framework for Future Testing Projects
SCTG architected the ORU testing environment to be repurposed for future capacity testing. The SCTG team created a framework for subsequent projects by writing a script, keeping it separate from the testing logic and building an interface between the two. Now, SCTG can simply update the script to prepare for future testing applications.
“By running on AWS, we have peace of mind as well as the ability to innovate further across our organization."
- Mike Mathews, Vice President for Innovation and Technology, Oral Roberts University
ORU is already planning to expand the SCTG solution to support additional use cases. For example, the university plans to move its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to AWS, and will also conduct testing on purchasing, student registration, and other activities.
“By running on AWS, we have peace of mind as well as the ability to innovate further across our organization,” Mathews says.
About Oral Roberts University
Oral Roberts University (ORU) is a Christian university located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Founded in 1963, ORU serves students from 50 states and 116 nations, representing over 50 denominations. ORU offers over 150 majors, minors, concentrations, and pre-professional programs, plus NCAA Division I athletics.
About ServerCentral Turing Group
ServerCentral Turing Group (SCTG) is a Chicago-based AWS Managed Service Provider, Public Sector Partner, Government Competency Partner, and DevOps Competency Partner. Its goal is to deliver on the promise of AWS technologies for its customers and those who rely on them.
Published January 2021