Acadience Learning is dedicated to providing leadership in the field of education. They conduct high-quality research and create innovative assessment solutions and educational tools to help improve student, teacher, and school outcomes.
Acadience Learning is a seasoned developer of K-9 educational assessments and solutions, with a focus on improving student learning efficacy and empowering educators to more effectively identify learners’ needs. With decades of experience in educational testing, the company has a longstanding reputation for developing tools to accurately identify areas in which students are struggling and help them progress.
The company was looking to bring its industry-leading, K-9 reading and mathematics student assessments online to better serve learners, educators, administrators, and policy makers—chiefly, in measuring, benchmarking, and ultimately improving student outcomes via more widely available, streamlined access to their solutions. Emberex, an experienced developer of education/research-focused web and mobile applications, was initially brought on to develop the online version of its assessment process; the project included both a web application for conducting assessments and managing the resulting data, as well as tools for supporting teachers, schools, and districts through the process of conducting student assessments.
On the recommendation of Emberex, Acadience Learning brought in BitPusher to design, develop, and implement the solution. The project initially entailed developing a tablet-based offering for use per student; however, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting global shift to online classrooms, Acadience Learning instead opted to migrate the solution completely online. This presented a myriad of challenges, as security, scalability, and high availability issues were now front-and-center for the project’s developers and stakeholders. Although Emberex (a leading developer of custom research and educational software) was already writing the solution’s web application code, it required BitPusher’s unique expertise to plan and build out a secure, robust cloud infrastructure which could scale to support the nation’s largest school districts.
Following the successful development and launch of its cloud solution, Acadience has signed on several prominent education authorities and agencies as customers, and is currently in the midst of rollouts with other major educational players.
Acadience Learning’s original assessment approach continues to be a highly effective offline instrument for measuring and benchmarking a student’s learning journey—however, designing and delivering a cloud-based adaptation of this approach presented numerous challenges to the team. Historically, the company’s track record of successes were mostly offline; in moving its core services to a tablet platform (and eventually into a cloud-based solution), Acadience was at once faced with crucial issues related to security and scalability.
Chiefly, Acadience Learning and Emberex looked to BitPusher for:
- Technical advice grounded in sound business objectives
- Guidance in addressing cost-to-value and scaling/availability concerns
- Security and privacy expertise, especially for anticipating and addressing the privacy/security concerns of different school districts
For example, the solution needed to be highly available/scalable, cost-effective, and responsive to the shifting demands/consumption patterns of existing and future clients’ users, and its user interface intuitive and friendly enough for non-technical users. On the backend, the system required the capability of ingesting student rosters from a variety of legacy systems. Security and privacy were of course critical concerns; in particular, varying school districts imposed different regulations regarding data privacy and security. Overall, the solution required strict adherence to several compliance standards like the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA), and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).
“Working with BitPusher gives us the confidence to deliver services to a larger and more demanding audience than we’ve served before.”
— Nate Bernstein, CTO Emberex
After an initial assessment, BitPusher was able to comprehend Acadience Learning’s unique requirements and operational/business environment, as well as translate these requirements into pragmatic terms and actionable insights (e.g., business requirements vis-a-vis scaling/security).
Specifically, BitPusher identified several key requirements for the solution, including the:
- ability to scale up and scale down based on demand which changes through the school year
- monitoring which shows how each component of the infrastructure is performing
- encryption of data at rest everywhere application data is stored
- auditing of access control and security methods/practice
- automated processing of roster files uploaded by school districts
- visibility into cost drivers
Throughout the design and implementation process, BitPusher served as a crucial, trusted business partner to both Acadience and Emberex, providing continuous technical advice and proactively identifying avenues for improvement and optimization. In this capacity, BitPusher provided critical analysis regarding cost-to-value-to-scale-to-availability, as well as key insights from a technical partner who could understand the commercial side and address the technical requirements for meeting those needs. BitPusher was instrumental in helping Acadience bridge the business-technical gap in offering both technical and good advice.
Last but not least, BitPusher provided critical guidance in architecting a solution that could address the various privacy/security concerns of different school districts. For example, when the New York City Department of Education voiced its concerns regarding security, BtPusher went over its detailed checklist to address their inquiries and mitigate their concerns. In fact, through delegating ownership of its cloud infrastructure and service quality to BitPusher, Acadience is confident enough to roll out its cloud offering across the country’s largest school districts.
Selecting Amazon Web Services (AWS) for Cloud Services
AWS was selected as the cloud infrastructure provider for the solution, due to its industry-leading suite of offerings and brand recognition (e.g., AWS was a familiar brand to most of Acadience Learning’s customers). Additionally, AWS’ highly granular security tools and controls were key to satisfying the stringent security requirements for protecting younger learners’ (i.e., children) sensitive data—suffice to say, these criteria were essential, as the solution would be supporting some of the biggest school districts in the country; in fact, initial development on another cloud platform was discontinued due to security shortcomings and cost requirements.
For example, the solution was designed to encrypt all data at rest with AWS Key Management Services (KMS). Additional security measures included the use of dedicated subnets and security groups for enforcing network isolation—a more stringent security implementation than what was provided by AWS out of the gate but was anticipated by BitPusher. And through the use of rapidly deployable, high scalable AWS architecture components, BitPusher was able to design and implement a dynamic/adaptable solution for accommodating new requirements around entering rosters, without sacrificing high availability and quality of service (QoS). BitPusher also leveraged AWS Transfer Family and Lambda in the design and implementation of student roster auto-ingestion—a feature that enables school administrators to upload student rosters for automated ingestion into the system.
Results and Benefits
The solution developed was in line with the planned high availability and security requirements of the project; in turn, the platform’s users—school districts, educational institutions, custodians of young learners’ private data—can rest assured that their data is being protected to the highest, industry-compliant standards.
And as new customers are brought on board, the AWS-based solution has successfully scaled to demand with minimal configuration effort and difficulty. Recent state and local government agencies to adopt the solution include New York City and the The State of Utah.
BitPusher continues to partner with Acadience Learning and Emberex in building out and evolving the industry-leading student assessment platform, with ongoing maintenance, updates, and technical refreshes in the works.
BitPusher is a DevOps company offering project work and ongoing management at a higher quality and lower, more predictable cost than consultants or in-house teams. Over the past 20 years Bitpusher has developed a delivery model based on reusable engineering components and a collaborative approach which allows for the right combination of availability, scalability, security, performance, and a cost-efficient use of hosting resources.
BitPusher is an advanced tier AWS consulting partner, an AWS public sector partner, and part of the AWS solution provider program.