Open Assessment Technologies Unlocks Personalized Education Using AWS
Open Assessment Technologies (OAT) began as an idea at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology, and is now a leading provider of open-source online assessments for schools, universities, professional associations, and public sector employers in 194 countries. Since migrating its digital platform TAO (Test Assisté par Ordinateur) to Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2014, OAT has been able to run hundreds of thousands of tests concurrently and deliver a total of 100 million tests online. Using AWS, OAT has improved performance and security, and managed costs by scaling capacity to match demand during busy exam periods.
By building TAO Cloud using AWS, we’re able to use the most advanced cloud technology to deliver mission-critical, large-scale assessment programs globally.”
Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Open Assessment Technologies
Open Assessment Technologies Unlocks Personalized Education Using AWS
OAT began as a concept developed at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology for flexible, computer-based, online adaptive testing. OAT has since become a leading provider of open-source assessments for schools, universities, professional associations, and public sector employers in 194 countries.
The company provides a digital test platform called TAO and empowers educational providers to accelerate their digital transformations to improve student experience. “Offering tests and exams in the cloud unlocks the promise of high-quality, personalized education for students,” says Marc Oswald, co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) at OAT.
OAT migrated TAO to AWS in 2014. Since then, it’s delivered more than 100 million tests and is able to run hundreds of thousands of tests concurrently for learners taking online examinations. Using AWS, OAT has improved performance and security, and managed costs by scaling capacity to match demand during busy exam periods.
An Open Platform for Millions of Test-takers
TAO is open-source and open-standard. It can be integrated, extended, and adapted to virtually any assessment need. At the user end, it supports a wide range of question types, from simple multiple-choice, to complex problem-solving interactions that measure 21st-century skills.
In 2009 the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) deployed TAO as its platform of choice to deliver the demanding large-scale Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) exam. Managed by OECD—an intergovernmental body founded to stimulate economic progress and world trade—PISA is used in more than 80 countries to measure 15-year-olds’ abilities by applying their reading, math, and science skills to problem-solving scenarios.
Outside student education, OAT services have been used by professional associations, including the National Center for Construction Education & Research (NCCER), which certifies more than 2 million construction workers in the US each year.
Running 100,000 Concurrent Users on AWS
The OAT team first decided to run TAO on AWS to demonstrate that the system could handle more than 100,000 concurrent test-takers in preparation for a customer pilot with CTB/McGraw-Hill, a publisher of educational assessment solutions.
OAT was able to meet this demand and control its costs by automatically scaling capacity as needed using Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), which provides secure and resizable compute capacity, and Amazon ElastiCache, which unlocks microsecond latency and scale with in-memory caching. OAT kept personal student information secure and protected the system from attacks using AWS WAF – Web Application Firewall and AWS Shield, a managed Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) protection service.
During one test session, TAO experienced a massive DDoS attack. The attack was successfully and automatically dealt with by AWS Shield, with no information compromised, and online exams continuing without any disruption.
The success of the demonstration convinced OAT to continue investing in its infrastructure, using AWS to deliver large-scale online testing for education organizations and assessment bodies all over the world.
The flexibility of AWS has enabled the company to scale up capacity when, for example, hundreds of thousands of students are taking an exam at the same time, and scaling down when no tests are being taken. To realize further efficiencies and cost savings, OAT adjusts its compute resources for TAO before the beginning of busy periods when many exams are taking place.
Helping OAT Succeed on Exams
Using AWS has helped OAT win contracts and new business. “AWS has been a procurement driver for our sales pipeline,” says Patrick Plichart, co-founder at Open Assessment Technologies. “We can clearly show our capacity and diligence measures through the spec of AWS services.”
Customers trust that building TAO on AWS ensures that digital assessments will be carried out reliably. “It’s difficult to overstate how important it is to get examinations right—for governments and education providers, and also for the students, whose futures may be influenced by test results,” says Plichart.
TAO’s open-source architecture is used by education ministries in France, the UK, the US, and several other OECD countries, and those in Lithuania and Norway. With this framework, users can adopt TAO for online assessments within their own technology infrastructure and can ultimately become TAO customers by investing in TAO Cloud services.
An Efficient and Agile Future on AWS
OAT is continually working to become more efficient and agile. It’s reduced staff time necessary to prepare systems and test environments in advance of large-scale examinations, using Amazon Aurora Serverless, an on-demand, auto-scaling relational database. This gives the organization greater control to adapt and tailor its offerings to clients with lower investment of resources.
The company continues to look to AWS for its next era of development. “By running TAO on AWS, we’re able to use the most advanced cloud technology to deliver mission-critical, large-scale assessment programs globally,” says Oswald.
About Open Assessment Technologies
Open Assessment Technologies partners with world leading education institutions with the mission to accelerate digital transformation by delivering advanced assessment solutions that guide teaching and empower learners to succeed.
Benefits of AWS
- Ran assessments with more than 100,000 concurrent test-takers
- Secured student data and test environment
- Scaled to meet peak demand during busy examination periods
- Managed costs from using on-demand compute resources
AWS Services Used
Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) offers the broadest and deepest compute platform, with over 500 instances and choice of the latest processor, storage, networking, operating system, and purchase model to help you best match the needs of your workload.
Amazon ElastiCache is a fully managed, in-memory caching service supporting flexible, real-time use cases. You can use ElastiCache for caching, which accelerates application and database performance, or as a primary data store for use cases that don't require durability like session stores, gaming leaderboards, streaming, and analytics.
AWS WAF - Web Application Firewall
AWS WAF is a web application firewall that helps protect your web applications or APIs against common web exploits and bots that may affect availability, compromise security, or consume excessive resources.
AWS Shield is a managed Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) protection service that safeguards applications running on AWS. AWS Shield provides always-on detection and automatic inline mitigations that minimize application downtime and latency, so there is no need to engage AWS Support to benefit from DDoS protection.
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