DigitalChalk is an online learning system that gives anyone from credentialed professors to independent instructors the ability to easily create online training videos. Using DigitalChalk, instructors can build, publish and sell video-based courses online within a matter of minutes by simply uploading digital video or audio files, slides, HTML and images, and then synchronizing the elements into a complete video training lesson.

Training videos can be on a variety of topics, including college curriculum, employee training, and fitness instruction. DigitalChalk packages these on-demand web-based courses into an online learning delivery system, which includes detailed student management, reporting, tracking, and course payment.

When the DigitalChalk team, based in Asheville, NC, starting building their application in early 2007, they quickly realized that they couldn’t meet their go-to-market strategy from their existing managed hosting provider. Seeing Amazon Web Services (AWS) as a promising alternative to a traditional data center, they began moving their application to the AWS Cloud.

According to Tony McCune, VP of Sales, “We chose AWS for three key reasons: reliability, the ease and security of the web service interface, and detailed reporting. But our favorite feature is the ability to pay only for the resources we consume.”

The core DigitalChalk system is built on AWS using Java and runs in a clustered configuration. "We currently utilize Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS), and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) in our production, test and development environments," explains DigitalChalk’s CTO, Troy Tolle. "We use the Amazon SQS to manage media files between our production application and media transcoding servers. This configuration allows the system to dynamically scale as the demand changes."

Moving to AWS provide to be a valuable decision for DigitalChalk from both a business and technical perspective. DigitalChalk forecasts a first-year savings of over 75% using AWS instead of a traditional data center. Technically, DigitalChalk benefits from the availability of rapid server deployment to test and release product features quickly while controlling costs. The company has been able to hire additional software engineers with the savings from reduced system administrative staff and hardware infrastructure costs.

Since its release, DigitalChalk’s Software as a Service (SaaS) model has appealed to universities and corporate clients as an easy way to deliver their training content. DigitalChalk has begun pilot programs with several universities to deliver distance learning for continuing education and has announced a Latin American partnership to introduce multilingual support.  "We are also exploring automatic payment distribution options using Amazon Flexible Payment Service and export utilities using Amazon SimpleDB," says McCune. "We are in discussions with several university partners interested in licensing the technology for internal delivery of DigitalChalk on their own managed AWS account through DevPay."

“AWS has provided us with a compounded benefit of increased focus on our core business and faster time to market," he concludes. In today’s competitive landscape, there is no time to get bogged down in building skills that don’t deliver value for your customer. Amazon Web Services is a critical component in the continued success of DigitalChalk.”

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