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What is ArcGIS Online?

ArcGIS Online is a collaborative, cloud-based platform that allows members of an organization to use, create, and share maps, scenes, apps, and data, and access authoritative basemaps and ready-to-use apps. Through ArcGIS Online, you get access to Esri’s secure cloud, where you can manage, create, and store data as published web layers. Because ArcGIS Online is an integral part of the ArcGIS system, you can use it to extend the capabilities of ArcGIS for Desktop, ArcGIS for Server, ArcGIS Web APIs, and ArcGIS Runtime SDKs.  Read more here.

How do you access ArcGIS Online? 

You can access ArcGIS Online through web browsers, mobile devices, and desktop map viewers, as well as directly through other components of the ArcGIS system, for example, the ArcGIS apps and ArcGIS for Desktop.  There are two types of ArcGIS Online accounts:  public and organizational.  

A public account can access ArcGIS Online.  This may be how you have used ArcGIS Online before, or how you may first try the platform.  You can set up a free public account here. These accounts are not associated with an organization and offer a limited set of functionality, but are a great starting point for learning ArcGIS Online.  A public account allows you to use and create maps and share your maps and apps with others.

With an organizational account, you can share your work with other members of your organization, participate in groups, and save your work.  You see the organization's customized view of the website and have access to the organization's authoritative data and other geospatial content that you can use to create maps and apps.  Organizational accounts offer expanded analysis functions.  Esri is offering free organizational accounts to US K-12 schools.  To try out an organizational account yourself, set up a free developer's account here ('credits' are limited so you can't perform many analyses but you can get a feel for the available functions). Once you partner with an educator or school who enrolls in the program, you can become a user or administrator on their school organizational account to assist them.


To learn more about the functionality difference between public and organizational ArcGIS Online accounts, go here.  For a high-level view of ArcGIS Online Organizations for use in K12 schools, go here.

What can you do with ArcGIS Online?

Learn more about the functionality of ArcGIS Online here.

Or, specifically learn or review how to:

The ArcGIS Online team maintains about 30 short, how-to videos that are a great way to quickly learn how to do something in ArcGIS Online.  In about 3 minutes you can learn how to create a map, create an app from a map, or create a 3D scene. Each video includes captions, a transcript, and options to download the video or transcript.

Additional information and discussion about ArcGIS Online can be found through Esri’s blog. 

Questions? Email geomentors@aag.org.