Posted on November 22, 2022 by childrenslearninginstitute
By David Fanucchi
When the Children’s Learning Institute (CLI) at UTHealth Houston created a cost-effective, digital delivery system in 2014 to disseminate early childhood program improvement tools across the state, there was trepidation as to how well the platform would be received among preschool teachers.
But a pilot program with Houston ISD, Dallas ISD, and Fort Worth ISD – in partnership with the Texas Education Agency – immediately put the resource into the hands of 2,450 teachers. The e-learning platform contains resources for curriculum, family engagement, and classroom observation and monitoring, as well as professional development tools. Three years later, the CLI Engage platform was used within school districts statewide.
Brian Herod, director of CLI programs, started planning how to scale up the platform to accommodate its rapid adoption and growth, as well as its continual updating and enhancement. Herod figured that a shift to the cloud was the only solution. The migration had many risks.
“We were very concerned about a number of strategic and technical risk factors, most notably how we were going to migrate the entire platform and transition to the cloud, without any disruption for users,” Herod said. “The roadmap to get there required a long process with a massive amount of support and collaboration across the UTHealth Houston IT Department and cooperation from teams across the Children’s Learning Institute.”
A roadmap was formed in 2019 with the target to begin testing in 2020, hire a vendor to take on the move in 2021, and to finally optimize all applications using cloud technologies by the end of 2022. The target date to go live was September 8-14, 2021, just as the school year was beginning across Texas. The team hit their mark.
“The original goal for initial implementation was to ‘lift and shift’ the application as much as possible into the cloud,” said Michael Seils, senior manager of systems administration in IT. “As we navigated the complexities of the migration, it became apparent that we would need to reengineer some parts of the application to account for the differences of the on-premise and the cloud implementation. That was one of the unexpected challenges.”
As the migration stages were taking place, CLI Emerge grew from 25,000 teachers and 270,000 students engaged, to now 47,000 teachers and over 580,000 students, while new progress monitoring tools were added to the platform and a state-adopted Pre-K curriculum was provided at no cost.
The entire migration project was a massive collaboration between UTHealth Houston IT Infrastructure, CLI Engage, third-party software engineering partners at SunNet Solutions, numerous engineers at Amazon Web Services, and UTHealth Houston IT Security.
“The migration of our online platforms to the cloud offered opportunities to ensure that these systems, and the resources they provide at no cost, are available and accessible to our continually growing programs,” said April Crawford, PhD, associate professor and co-director of the Children’s Learning Institute, and the Meg and Dick Weekley Distinguished Chair in Childhood Reading and Learning and Michael Matthew Knight Memorial Professor in Pediatrics at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston. “We are so grateful for our continued partnership with the UTHealth Houston information technology team. They helped us grow this platform within the university’s existing infrastructure, and were strategic collaborators as we advanced through the cloud migration. Only through this close partnership was this migration completed without any disruption in service to our many users.”
Andrew Hannan, cloud solutions architect, led the IT infrastructure team that was responsible for designing and implementing foundational network and infrastructure to support the CLI Engage move.
“This was the largest cloud-based project that we have accomplished to date,” Hannan said. “It has become a shining example of what IT Infrastructure plans to continue to do for UTHealth Houston in the years to come.”