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Amidst COVID-19 closures, many educators have sought to virtualize ArcGIS to support their courses. One of the ways is to leverage the AWS Educate Program, which provides EC2 instances (virtual computers), among other AWS services, as well as enhances student’s knowledge of cloud environments in general.


Given recent experiences shared by a couple of educators, we wanted to take the opportunity to share lessons learned and provide further guidance in terms of running ArcGIS on EC2.


With the AWS Educate Program, there is a an option for a AWS Educate Starter Account, and "regular" AWS Account. The AWS Educate Starter Account does not support access to AWS Marketplace for EC2, which means that access to preconfigured Marketplace AMIs will not be available.


Esri does provide preconfigured AMIs on the AWS Marketplace, which come with pre-installed ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcMap (not ArcGIS Pro), and hence are not available with a Starter Account.


  • Starter Account
    • No credit card required sign-up
    • Eligible for free credits through AWS Educate
    • No access to Esri's ArcGIS Enterprise AMIs in Marketplace; have to share your own custom AMI to students, or have students install ArcGIS on their own.
  • Regular Account
    • Credit card required for sign-up
    • Eligible for free credits through Educate
    • Access to Esri's ArcGIS Enterprise AMIs in Marketplace; can share your own custom AMI to students, or have students install ArcGIS on their own.


The ArcGIS Enterprise AMIs are a wonderful way to start but are highly customized and have a large footprint/overhead. Unless you are teaching ArcGIS Enterprise in your course, if your intent is to just provide access to ArcGIS Pro and ArcMap, the recommendation is to create your own custom AMI, and share that with your students.  Alternatively, have your students start from an appropriate base Windows AMI and install ArcGIS on their own.  


Advantage of creating one’s own AMI, then making it available to the whole class is that you can also include other helpful tools in your own image (7-zip, Notepad++, Chrome, Atom, PyCharm, etc.).  When this approach is taken, you would need to ask the students to send their AWS account IDs, then share the AMI with those IDs (i.e. an additional step).


In terms of covering any outstanding costs, AWS has provided codes that could be distributed to students and redeemed for AWS credits, so consider reaching out to AWS directly.  


Also, it should be mentioned that, yet another approach is to have an AWS centralized account for the class/department, and instructor or staff spins the instances for the students, using a similar pre-configured AMI approach. The advantage of a centralized account is that the students do not need individual AWS accounts (i.e. lesser amount of steps), which has worked well for some institutions. However, there are associated costs, though AWS could also provide codes/credits for educational purposes to cover the costs.


Feel free to review the following webinar on “Enabling Remote Access and Virtualizing ArcGIS, outlining additional virtualization options.


If you are considering Azure as an environment, the videos below from our colleagues from Esri Canada will be very helpful.



Thank you to Peter Knoop, University of Michigan, and James Detwiler, Penn State, for sharing their experiences above.

Spatial data science is receiving a lot of attention in higher education. Some institutions are setting up new programs or reorganizing existing ones that center around data science. Many instructors are starting to integrate spatial data science methods and technologies in their courses. Students are anxious to learn skills to benefit them in a future career.


If you teach geospatial technology, data science, or a related subject, consider including spatial data analysis and visualization in your course using ArcGIS to enrich your students’ experience. One easy way to get started is to use Esri e-learning resources in your course.


With hundreds of items in the Esri Academy catalog, it can be challenging to figure out which items pertain to spatial data science, and which ones are most applicable to the topics you are teaching or learning. That’s why we created a curated Guide to Esri E-Learning for Spatial Data Science.


E-Learning Guide for Spatial Data Science, first two pages

The guide lists items in three broad groups—Learning plans, Technology, and Capabilities—and categories, such as ArcGIS and Python Scripting, and Predictive Analytics, so that you can see the big picture.


Resources listed include:

  • Self-paced web courses
  • Training Seminars and videos
  • Tutorials
  • Videos and story maps


Each resource is briefly described, allowing you to quickly identify items of interest. When you’re ready to dig into the details, just click a title to access the full catalog description.


Keep in mind that courses may be available for different software versions. Before assigning or taking a specific course, please visit the catalog page and verify that it is available for the software version you will be using.


Future updates to the Guide will be made using the same link so that you can bookmark it and always be sure you're looking at the latest version. We welcome your comments below. You can also reach us with questions about courses at, or with questions about ArcGIS product licensing at

It's a (rare) rainy day here in Southern California. A good day to cuddle up with a good.... story map?


If you've been looking for GIS activities to do with your kids, here's a story map (built on a map presentation) version of an exercise I often do in classrooms: taking printed maps, looking for clues, and solving the mystery of where (or what) in the world we are looking at!


Indoor mapping: Map detectives
My map detective looking for clues


When you finish guessing, fill out the survey on how many you got right (it's right there in the story map) and see how you match up to others. 

The recent update of ArcGIS Online brings exciting improvements and new capabilities.  


Key Improvement


With the recent update, ArcGIS Online users now have the ability to download the ArcGIS Pro installer directly from the new My settings page in their profile. 


  1. Log into your ArcGIS Online account
  2. Go to “My settings”
  3. Choose “Licenses”
  4. Find the link to download next to ArcGIS Pro


Download ArcGIS Pro by ArcGIS Online User


This option is available if the user already has an ArcGIS Pro license assigned to their ArcGIS Online named-user account. If your institution has migrated to the new Education Institutional Agreement, you can assign users the “GIS Professional Advanced” user type, which includes an ArcGIS Pro license by default. Otherwise, you can assign users the “Creator” user type and then assign ArcGIS Pro as an add-on license in their account. In either case, ArcGIS Pro extensions can be added afterwards as add-on licenses.


This option provides a better experience for faculty members and students to install ArcGIS Pro in their own machine.


Other improvements and new functionalities


  • HTTPS readiness: As of December 2020, HTTP support will be discontinued and references to HTTP URLs will no longer work in ArcGIS Online. ArcGIS Online notifies users about the upcoming change.
  • Map Viewer Beta: Highlights include enhanced label authoring with support for multiline labeling, scale-dependent labels, and rotation.
  • Sharing and collaboration: You can also embed videos in item page and group page descriptions.
  • Configurable apps: New Minimalist (beta) configurable app built using the 4x version of the ArcGIS API for JavaScript.
  • Data management: When purchasing an ArcGIS Online organizational subscription, you can now choose the region—United States or Europe—where your geospatial data will be stored.
  • 3D: You can drape feature layers onto integrated mesh scene layers for better 3D visualization. You can replace the contents of a scene layer you published from a scene layer package.
  • ArcGIS Security Advisor: Security Advisor delivers recommendations based on your current settings.
  • GitHub account: New social login: Developers and other GitHub users can sign in or sign up using their GitHub account credentials.
  • ArcGIS Notebooks (beta): ArcGIS Notebooks are now available in ArcGIS Online via a public beta. ArcGIS Notebooks integrates Jupyter directly within ArcGIS Online.
  • ArcGIS StoryMaps: Newly added functionalities: Map actions, Guided Tour block, a navigation bar, updates to sharing.
  • ArcGIS Dashboards: Operations Dashboard renamed to ArcGIS Dashboards.


For complete list of updates, access the following:


As always, please contact for questions or requesting more info. 

One of the easiest ways to teach and learn with online GIS tools, data, and activities is with Learning Plans and Learn Paths because they offer a sequenced way of learning specific content and tools.   What are they and how can you use them?


I.  Learning Plans


A Learning Plan is a set of resources (readings, hands-on activities, videos) that is sequenced for learning about a particular topic.  You can choose plans from a wide variety of topics, scales, and specific Esri GIS tools.  By signing in to Esri training (, you can track your own progress through plans that you have chosen, identify plans that you would like to take in the future, and assign plans to your students.



A sample Learning Plan, for Spatial Data Science, showing the courses, videos, and seminars that comprise it.


Dozens of Learning Plans are available.  We’ve highlighted a few below, and you can browse the catalog for others (filter by Format) based on your interests and needs.


Recommended Learning Plans for new GIS users:

  1. ArcGIS Online Fundamentals:
  2. GIS Fundamentals:
  3. Fundamentals of Mapping and Visualization:

Recommended Learning Plans for select topics:

  1. ArcGIS Technology for Spatial Data Science:
  2. Image classification using ArcGIS:


II.  Learn Paths


A Learn Path is a set of resources (readings, hands-on activities, videos) from the Esri Learn ArcGIS collection that is sequenced for learning about a particular topic.   You can choose from among many tools and topics; each of which features Learn lessons that have been created by instructors at Esri and at universities.  Each path and lesson is kept current with the latest tools and data sets.  To discover available Learn Paths, see:


Dozens of Learn Paths are available.  We’ve highlighted a few below, and you can browse the Learn collection for others (filter by Type) based on your interests and needs.


Recommended Learn Paths for new GIS users:

Getting Started with Maps and Data in ArcGIS Online.

1.  A beginner’s guide to ArcGIS Online.


2.  Try ArcGIS Pro.

Get started with the essentials of ArcGIS Pro.


3.  Resources for Teaching with ArcGIS Pro.

Learn path for your students to become familiar with ArcGIS Pro.


Recommended Learn Paths for select topics:


1.  GIS in the Age of Community Health.

Arm yourself with hands-on skills and knowledge of how GIS tools can analyze health data and better understand diseases.


2.  For Geospatial Analysts:

Create a project, ingest data, process data, analyze data, share/publish results.


3.  Solving Problems with GIS and public domain geospatial data 1 of 3: 
Learn how to find, evaluate, and analyze data to solve location-based problems through this set of 10 chapters and short essay readings, and 10 hands-on lessons:




Sample Learn Path, for Geospatial Analysts activities in the path.   

Esri Academy is now offering a Cartography MOOC course that will start on April 22 to June 3, 2020.   This no-cost online course is an excellent way to learn how to make beautiful maps using ArcGIS Pro,  from wherever you are, with coaching from the experts. Registration is open now.  All data and Esri software are provided.


Cartography MOOC


Visit this webpage to:

  • View common question about Esri MOOCs
  • Submit a question

Struggling to engage students who are stuck at home? Esri offers mapping and analysis tools free to schools for instruction. "But, I'm a 'suddenly-teaching-parent,' while my kids' teachers are trying to learn to teach online! We need something relevant, and interesting, and fast!"


"Mapping Hour" is a collection of 20 informal one-hour instructional videos about ArcGIS Online for parents and teachers, with chunks that scaffold concepts and skills. They cover desires from the basic "I need a map my class can see" to the lofty "How do I help my child use these final weeks of high school to do something powerful?" Videos will be posted starting Monday April 6, with access remaining open to all, for free.


Watch Trailer


Charlie Fitzpatrick, Tom Baker, Kylie Donia, and Joseph Kerski, all from Esri's Education Industry team, present to parents and teachers a suite of software tools, academic content, and instructional strategies that help students from grade school to grad school learn to spot patterns, illuminate relationships, and build captivating presentations. A steady climb through ArcGIS Online, Survey123, Dashboard, Business Analyst, and StoryMaps, using resources from the Training, Learn ArcGIS, and Schools teams, will show viewers what is possible and equip them to engage young minds eager for opportunity.




  1. Mapping Hour videos roll out starting Monday April 6, at
  2. The first three hours will engage ArcGIS Online without requiring a login. Remaining activities will require an ArcGIS Organization login to replicate. Any user can use your own Org login ("Publisher" or equivalent), teachers can request software for your school (be sure to check your school's status on the map first), and parents or teachers without access can request a temporary Org login (Publisher level) from Esri Schools program (must be 18 or over).

As part of our continued efforts to support students and educators amidst COVID-19 university closures, we will offer free Student licensing until August 31st, 2020 – via Learn ArcGIS


The following Press Release was published, feel free to share widely - Esri Offers Students Free Access to Software for Continued Education through Coronavirus Closures.


In essence, we’re extending the Learn ArcGIS membership from the standard 60 days to August 31st, and anyone who signs up will have that extended access. The membership includes access to ArcGIS Online and over 20 apps including ArcGIS Pro, along with a library of lessons that are available in seven languages. New lessons on public health have just been added. To sign up for a membership in Learn ArcGIS, visit


This offer is retroactive for Learn ArcGIS users who registered since March 1. Any new signups may not see an immediate message communicating August 31 as an end date, but that is the effective end date. Messaging will be communicated later. 


Below is a lists of FAQ we have seen from Educators, please feel free to ask additional questions.


Q: What is Learn ArcGIS?

A:  Learn ArcGIS is a free resource for learning to use ArcGIS in the context of real-world problems.  It provides hands-on lessons for many products, such as ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Pro, Story Maps, Survey123, and more – over twenty in all.   

Lessons can be filtered by capability (e.g., mapping, spatial analysis, real-time visualization); productindustry; resource type; or geographic region.  Learn Paths are curated collections of resources on a given topic, such as spatial analysis or health, providing easy access to a series of activities. 


Q: My institution already provides ArcGIS, how is this different?  

A: If your institution already has ArcGIS deployed successfully, we recommend that students utilize the institution-provided licensing that is already in place. Therefore, this offer may not be applicable.  However, there are still students worldwide, who do not have access. Hence, we wanted to provide access for them.    


Q: Does this offer create another ArcGIS Online account? Are they related? 

A: This offer creates an account in the ArcGIS Online organization managed by Learn ArcGIS. This account is separate, and not related to any ArcGIS Online account provided by the university. To minimize confusion, if your institution already provides student licenses via their institution agreement (i.e. site license) AND if students are leveraging this free student license offer, please ensure that they are aware that the two accounts are separate.  


QHow do I copy content from my Learn membership to my university account? 

ACurrently there are three ways to copy content from one organization to another - 1) ArcGIS Online Assistant, 2) GeoJOBE Admin tools, 3) ArcGIS API for Python 

Q: Where do I get the installation files/executables to install ArcGIS Pro?  

A: Instructions will be sent via email when students register.  Students will receive one email message to activate their account, then a second message with instructions to download ArcGIS Pro Once you've received your account information, log into the Learn ArcGIS Organization and go to 


Q: Does my Learn membership include ArcMap?  

A: ArcGIS Desktop (ArcMap) is not included.  ArcGIS Pro is the desktop application included in the Learn membership.


Q: What support is offered (e.g., download and installation, general software use), and how do I get help? 

A: Community support is available in the Learn ArcGIS GeoNet community .  You can ask questions and search for information in the Content feed.


Q: I’m younger than 18 years; can I use this offer? 

A: No, this offer is available only for students 18 years or older, based on Esri’s Privacy Policies.  If you’re a student under age 18, a parent or guardian can create an account on your behalf. 



The first time I go into a classroom of younger kids we explorer imagery on a map. They love seeing places they know! I've put together a digital version of that exercise, so try it out and let me know how it goes! Parent and child doing indoor mapping

In a world turned upside down, here is some stability. The ArcGIS School Bundle will be renewed through July 2025, at no cost to users. All School Bundle licenses showing any online or desktop use in the last couple of years will be automatically renewed. Existing ArcGIS Online subscription users and their content will be maintained. Users do not need to do anything to make this renewal happen.


Map of US ArcGIS School Bundle sites


Across USA and around the world, primary and secondary schools and formal youth clubs can acquire and use the software for instructional purposes for free. Thousands of US schools started using GIS after Esri made it available for free in 2014. Thousands more schools around the world joined when Esri launched its global program in 2018, supporting activities like that seen on stage at Esri UC2019. And today, with distance learning and "school at home" mandated by the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands more are engaging with free resources, discovering what is possible.


Esri User Conference 2019 student presentation


It's a challenging time around the world. The ability to grasp changing conditions, spot patterns, illuminate relationships, and identify alternative strategies for moving forward is essential for our survival. All students will be able to engage the ArcGIS School Bundle [link to] to support this for free for instructional use, for at least the next five years, anywhere, on any device with internet access (computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone), whether issued by a school or owned by the family.

COVID-19 outbreaks are bringing the use of GIS technology to the forefront.  Many field surveys, maps, data, , dashboards, and story maps have been deployed by multiple agencies to better understand the coronavirus impacts and to inform the public.   As educators, students, and institutions migrate to online learning, these COVID-19 GIS resources are excellent for teaching and learning, and for student projects to help the local community.   


Official Esri Website for COVID-19

This official Esri website for COVID-19 is dedicated to helping you monitor, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19. It allows you to request GIS help, access GIS resources, view global maps and dashboards, get insights, and learn best practices on responding to COVID-19.


5 Steps to COVID-19 response. Take this proactive approach to understanding the potential COVID-19 impact on your organization or community.

Step 1: Map the cases– Map confirmed and active cases, deaths, and recoveries to identify where COVID 19 infections exist and have occurred.

Step 2: Map the spread– Time-enabled maps can reveal how infections spread over time and where you may want to target interventions.

Step 3: Map vulnerable populations—COVID 19 disproportionally impacts certain demographics such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. Mapping social vulnerability, age, and other factors help you monitor at-risk groups and regions you serve.

Step 4: Map your capacity to respond—Map facilities, employees or citizens, medical resources, equipment, goods, and services to understand and respond to current and potential impacts of COVID 19.

Step 5: Communicate with maps—Use interactive Web maps, dashboard apps, and StoryMaps to help rapidly communicate your situation.

More on How your GIS department can respond to COVID-19.


GIS Resources for Educators on COVID-19

These GIS resources on COVID-19 can give some ideas for student projects or as teaching materials.



  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) Apps - View over 200 maps, apps and dashboard on COVID-19 from around the world.
  • Get Insights - To view reliable, up-to-date content related to COVID-19 from trusted sources.


Finding Data

Authoritative Maps and Data - Explore authoritative geospatial data sourced from the global GIS community and our trusted partners, including  COVID-19 Provider Practice Locations from NPI.


Building ArcGIS Hub Sites, Infographics and Solution Templates


Best Practices









Educator Community Support

  1. COVID-19 Educator Support GeoNet Page – Visit this GeoNet page with curated content and resources for educators migrating to online learning. Connect with other colleagues, ask questions, and start a discussion.
  2. Higher Education Virtual Office Hours - If you have direct question related to tools, data, curricular materials, and teaching approaches in higher education, visit our virtual office hours.
  3. Questions on license agreement? Many higher education institutions have an Education Institution Agreement with Esri that provide access to many products. Contact your account manager with questions.
  4. Share Your Work - We want to hear from you. Send us your maps, apps, hub sites and story maps on COVID-19. We will share with the Education GeoNet community. 
  5. VitalSource Helps program – Students can take advantage of free access to Esri Press e-books now through May 25, 2020.


If you need any further assistance, contact the Higher Education Outreach Team at or the K12 Outreach Team at


Post examples of your students’ work on the Education GeoNet Space so others can learn and be inspired!


Together, through teaching, learning and research,  we can help to turn this challenging situation into an opportunity, to adapt, excel and make impactful contributions to the community and the world. 


Stay safe and well.

There are some great books out there (for children and adults) about journeys, and as we read we follow the characters across a map. Some books show the map, some don't. When reading a book like that, I find myself picturing the map as part of the story and what I know of the places adds to the world the story is building for me.


One such children's book that I really like is The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman by Darcy Pattison and illustrated by Joe Cepeda. Oliver is a man (made out of wood) who goes on a journey across the US. It's not hard to draw a connection from that storyline to a map! The book even has a map showing where Oliver went on his journey, but it's not front, center, or even in the main pages of the book - it's at the end.


In the fall, our local library was having an event and Joe Cepeda was one of the guests. My daughter and I made a story map of the book. While the book itself tells the story through a series of letters, we took Oliver's point of view, and we brought the map into view more -- and made it interactive! Check out our story map: 


ArcGIS StoryMaps > "My Journey" by Oliver K. Woodman 


While you don't have to know the original book to enjoy the story map, there are a few ways you could get it now. It is an AR book, and Accelerated Reader has it as a read-aloud book on YouTube: The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman by Darcy Pattison journeys lesson 23 AR read aloud - YouTube. It is also available on Kindle, and some libraries might have digital copies available for you to borrow, too.


What next?

What book do you like that could be turned into a story map? It could be a fun project to do! 


Or if you want to play with maps and books, check out some activities we have for seeing maps about some popular American Lit books - GeoInquiries for American Literature | High School Inquiry-Based Activities 

Like many of you, I'm currently working at home assisted by my children (7 and 4 years old). My oldest has had some GIS days in her classroom, but my little guy hasn't. So I was thinking of mapping things to do with them and approachable ways to even start talking about GIS. The result was some fun exploration of favorite color, and also wanting to see your favorite colors! So read our story map and add your favorite color to the map: 


ArcGIS StoryMaps > Mapping Favorite Color  

(Note: this might not be working well on all iPads right now... I'm looking into it)

When my kids first saw this story map, I had the favorites of some friends and family shown. My daughter's first observation was that so many people like blue. Ok, really that was second - first she wanted to know why I didn't include teal as a choice, and how, because of that, she wanted to pick two colors. So if you have two favorite colors, fill the survey out twice! And you can put your dot at your city, or state - don't feel you need to use your exact location - it's up to you exactly where you put your dot on the map.


As you read our story map, you'll find that we didn't just put our favorite colors on the map and look at colors other people like. We also did some analysis - first using a dashboard to see counts of the different colors, and how many people have added a color. And then we used hotspots to learn a bit more about the data (my son might have wondered off by that point, but my daughter wanted to play with the filters and see different datasets). 


I hope you enjoy our story map, and we'll check back to see what color is in the lead once you've added yours.

In summer 2012, teachers sufficiently skilled in desktop GIS could let an anonymous user create point data in an online map. I demonstrated this in the blog "Crowdsource Your Fieldwork," using a "breakfast beverage map."


breakfast beverage map


At the time, it was exciting, but tedious; documenting the steps to create a feature service, publish it, make it accessible in an app, and test it required a lengthy doc. Today, creating a vastly better experience is really easy, all online, on a PC/Mac/Chrome device, for viewing and doing also on tablet or even smartphone, using Map Viewer, Survey123, Dashboard, and StoryMap ... tools provided free to schools in the ArcGIS School Bundle.


app icons


Especially in times of school disruption and social distancing, educators may find the process particularly engaging for learners (of any age), since they get to generate data and see their results quickly, and in different ways. Educators can experience this by recording your current situation via, in a separate tab.


education and coronavirus survey imageClick to see StoryMap


Construction was a basic design experience: Conceive, sketch, build-test-tweak-repeat, release. The workflow in this case was:


  1. Conceive the end product (the storymap as the container, with a survey feeding a map feeding a dashboard). What end product data should users be able to explore? How will they be able to explore? What data need to be generated, in what format?
  2. Identify the products needed (the survey, the map, the dashboard, the story map) and the components to engage in each step.
  3. Build, in this case, as follows:
    1. Design the survey questions and choices, optimizing for "valuable data" (in a format the dashboard could make dance) and ease of use for the survey taker.
    2. Submit enough test data so each possible choice is engaged at least once.
    3. Set permissions of the survey.
    4. Generate a new map with the test survey data; symbolize the data, set the popups, set the bookmarks; save the map, share the map to a dashboard.
    5. Build the dashboard components, optimizing for power and interest; configure interactivity.
    6. Build the story map, optimizing for ease of use, engagement, and power.
    7. Share all components and test each step and link as an anonymous user.
    8. Delete all test data.
  4. Release and promote.


As usual, the hard part is conceiving the end product with enough clarity to build efficiently. It takes some familiarity with each of the tools in order to see how they work together, just like in cooking a family meal, planning an event, or building a doghouse benefit from some previous practice. Participate in/ View/ Study the story map and process above and see if you -- or, better yet, your students -- can replicate the process with something simple ... even just asking people their location, age, gender, and favorite breakfast beverage.

To support distance learning during the COVID-19 crisis, Esri Press e-books are made available at no charge for the students through the VitalSource Helps program starting on Monday, March 23, 2020


Info for Students


  • For students to participate, the school has to be a 2-year or 4-year college or university. You can find a complete list of eligible schools on this site.
  • Students will have access to up to 7 titles of their choice (from any publisher, but a total of 7 titles)
  • Students have to sign up with VitalSource and access e-books through Bookshelf using their school-assigned email.
  • Access is provided now  through May 25, 2020. After that, the e-book(s) will disappear from their Bookshelf library. Notes will still be downloadable
  • This program is currently extended to students in the US, UK, and Canada. For others, please contact


More details




Info for Educators


Esri continues to provide Educators instant access to Esri Press' library and immediate desk copy request.  Educators new to VitalSource must sign up here first.  Please use school-assigned email address when registering.


For more info or questions, contact us at

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