We often get asked about the differences between My Esri and ArcGIS Online accounts in educational settings, and how the two are related. We wanted to document a few items to keep in mind - indeed, they are two different accounts, which could bring confusion.
My Esri - portal to manage your customer account information:
Update contact and account information.
Review order history and maintenance status.
Access license information and generate provisioning files for users.
Access software downloads.
Create technical support cases.
Manage conference registrations.
Add users with customizable access levels, including adding users for Esri Training and GeoNet access (though not necessarily recommended to add students/faculty/staff for purpose of providing access to Esri Training, GeoNet, etc., more below).
Your My Esri account is your identity to My Esri – this is your customer record.
ArcGIS (ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise) named user account:
Your ArcGIS account is your identity in the organization/portal, it is how you get access to ArcGIS Online and are provided various privileges and capabilities to work with ArcGIS, depending on your role (User, Publisher, Administrator, etc.).
If you enable Esri Access for an ArcGIS Online account, users can access Esri Training and GeoNet with their ArcGIS Online credentials. Hopefully those are enterprise accounts – i.e. your organization in Educational setting has enterprise logins enabled (SSO).
If you are an Administrator, this ArcGIS account is used to grant entitlements for SAAS products (apps, ArcGIS Pro, etc.), also to enable Esri Access, and a number of other functions.
This account stays with your institution, however, you may transfer any Training History to a personal (or other) account by reaching out to Esri Customer Service.
A few additional facts:
If you already have Esri account for training, enabling Esri Access on ArcGIS Online account is not going to link that ArcGIS Online account to any existing Esri account (and to the training history, support, event registration, etc. associated with it)
An individual could have Esri account tied to a personal email address, so that they can retain their training history after they leave the institution.
If you are a student or faculty/staff, you can be linked to your institution’s My Esri (customer record). Note that we don’t necessarily recommend this, unless this individual will be helping with management of downloads files, generation of provisioning files, calling Technical Support, and other similar functions.
If you have purchased a license from Esri (Personal Use, Student Use), you will have your own Esri organization.
Therefore, you may have multiple Esri accounts.
A single email address may be tied to multiple ArcGIS Online accounts, but to only one Esri account (Exception: ".edu" and ".esri.com" emails may have multiple).
When logging to Esri Training or GeoNet, one must use (a) an Esri Account, or (b) an ArcGIS Online account with Esri Access enabled.
There are various approaches for management, but we typically don’t recommend adding students to the My Esri organization, as this would impose manual admin work to grant such access, and work for students to accept email invitations the correct way and with the correct account, and to keep track of which account is used for what. This may appear to be an acceptable option for managing a class or two, but not for empowering your whole institution to use ArcGIS.
We do recommend enabling Esri Access via ArcGIS Online accounts – if an institution has implemented enterprise logins, this is an automated process for anyone joining the organization (no additional work for admin or students).
Additional information for recommended way to share downloads/executables/provisioning files is here, so that it does not have to be done through My Esri for everyone in an institution.
Any of the above options make it challenging to retain Training History (certifications from courses, etc.) – the solution for now, for whoever wishes to preserve their training history upon leaving the institution, is to reach out to Customer Service and request their training history be transferred from their institutional ArcGIS account to a public one.