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Exploros Improves Student Engagement with AWS EdStart

2020

Exploros is a startup dedicated to helping K–12 teachers increase student engagement and comprehension. “Teachers have very few enterprise tools to assist with social instructional workflow in their classrooms,” says Bradley Heilman, Exploros chief executive officer and cofounder. “They are expected to come up with their own solutions to meet extensive needs, and then somehow glean data from disparate solutions into a cohesive picture. These kinds of challenges have led to reduced levels of teacher optimism.”

To address these challenges, Exploros developed device-enabled, guided social learning experiences that help teachers engage students and simultaneously allow them to gather analytics to aid ongoing instructional improvement. “Educators traditionally have almost no learning progress data with which to support effective instruction,” says Heilman. “They only have assessments, which are often too late to help.”

Delivering software-as-a-service (SaaS)–based learning experiences and analytics capabilities to schools throughout the US requires computing power. At first, Exploros leaders relied on a WebSocket backend service and physical servers. But as the company began to grow, Exploros leaders realized they needed more reliable, flexible, and scalable technology.

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The fact that we can rely on AWS services to dynamically adjust to meet our needs means we can move forward with confidence."

Bradley Heilman
Chief Executive Officer and Cofounder, Exploros

Building a Better Foundation with AWS

Exploros selected Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its cloud provider. The company takes advantage of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) to provide highly secure, scalable compute capacity and backup in the cloud, and it relies on Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) to store and help protect data. “AWS is a reliable and reputable cloud provider,” says Heilman. “AWS helped us tune the hardware for the database servers, which we could start from light Amazon EC2 machines and grow as needed into stronger database servers.”

Exploros also focused on scaling databases. The company chose Amazon DynamoDB to deliver a fully managed, multiregional database with built-in security, backup, and restore. “Amazon DynamoDB serverless was a natural next step that allowed us to solve the issues we faced in scaling databases,” says Denis Wolf, senior architect at Exploros.

Fine-tuning its architecture lowered maintenance and administration costs and enabled the Exploros team to work smarter and more efficiently. “Fifteen years ago, if we wanted to increase our data storage, we would have had to send a person to a data center and replace hardware disks,” says Wolf. “Now we can just click a few menus in the AWS console, and it’s done.”

The AWS team conducted architectural reviews as Exploros began to scale. “We want to use the newest technology, and sometimes that involves risk,” says Wolf. “On AWS, we can set up a separate environment to test things. After testing, we can move to QA and then to production. That was a huge plus.”

With a stronger technology foundation in place, Exploros leaders turned to the AWS EdStart program for support and guidance in building the business. AWS EdStart helps entrepreneurs quickly build the next generation of online learning, analytics, and campus management solutions in the AWS Cloud. Exploros leaders participated in community programs, including the AWS EdStart International Builders Conference, and leaned on the AWS EdStart team for technical architecture assistance. “We appreciate the ability to network with others in the AWS EdStart community, the technical expertise, and being able to hop on a call with AWS EdStart advisors to get answers and input,” says Heilman.

Bolstering Student Success

Exploros used AWS services to seamlessly scale and improve security and flexibility, enabling the company to grow substantially. Exploros is now used by 2,400 schools, 9,700 teachers, and more than 450,000 students across the US. It has delivered over half a million teacher-guided, social media–style lessons to date. Better student engagement achieved with Exploros has also led to academic success. According to one statewide case study, 94 percent of campuses that used Exploros improved on state testing, and the average gain was 29 percent. “Real-time, cloud-enabled data and the ability to help teachers react to that data is low-hanging fruit in education,” says Heilman. “It flips the classroom to a student-centered approach. Teachers gain a lot of confidence because the kids like it, they start learning more, and everything begins to move in a positive direction.”

In addition, Exploros has been able to secure new school contracts. According to Yoel Givol, Exploros cofounder, “Our work with schools involves a lot of data sharing. Privacy and security are hugely important to us and critical to our business. AWS services are highly secure and relied on throughout the world, which gives our customers confidence. On many occasions we received the stamp of approval from districts simply by letting them know we are hosted on AWS.”

Recently, the company’s use of cloud-enabled instruction also helped existing school customers shift more easily to online education. For educators and students who use Exploros on AWS with real-time services, the transition from face-to-face to remote instruction was seamless. “This will be increasingly important as society adjusts to the need for viable remote learning options going forward,” says Heilman. 

Exploros is currently prototyping additional ways to augment teaching with a machine learning teaching assistant powered by AWS that will further guide teachers on how to conduct successful classroom learning experiences. “We want to help teachers teach,” says Heilman. “The machine learning teaching assistant will make our lessons smarter, so teachers can become more effective both in the classroom and in their preparations.”

In the future, Exploros expects demand for its services to continue to grow. Heilman says, “We plan to scale dramatically, and the fact that we can rely on AWS services to dynamically adjust to meet our needs means we can move forward with confidence.”

To learn more, visit aws.amazon.com/education/edstart.

Architecture Diagram

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About Exploros

Exploros created an enterprise SaaS-based instructional platform that enables the delivery of strong, social pedagogy to K–12 schools. Exploros is also pioneering real-time data interoperability and machine learning teaching assistance.

Benefits of AWS

  • Scales its solution to enable fast growth
  • Prioritizes customer privacy
  • Can prototype a machine learning teaching assistant to augment teaching
  • Enables scalability to serve 2,400 schools, 9,700 teachers, and over 450,000 students
  • Has delivered over half a million teacher-guided, social media–style lessons

AWS Services Used

Amazon EC2

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale cloud computing easier for developers. Amazon EC2’s simple web service interface allows you to obtain and configure capacity with minimal friction.

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Amazon S3

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance.

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Amazon DynamoDB

Amazon DynamoDB is a key-value and document database that delivers single-digit millisecond performance at any scale.

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AWS EdStart

AWS EdStart, the AWS educational technology (EdTech) startup accelerator, is designed to help entrepreneurs build the next generation of online learning, analytics, and campus management solutions on the AWS Cloud.

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