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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.

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