It Couldn’t Get Much Harder to Access Digital Content and Services – The Case for Single Sign-On for Schools
Terry Smithson, President
Holiday shopping recently, I overheard a customer in the Apple Store getting help with her iPad. “I’m a schoolteacher and I have a thousand passwords. Some can’t use this… Some can’t use that… I can’t remember them all!”
And she’s right. That doesn’t even take into account her students and especially younger students. Students and teachers on average have to remember at least 25 passwords and an average of 5 minutes per lesson is lost recovering passwords, accessing web-based services or hunting down technical support in both classroom and lab settings.
Technology enables so much – except when it doesn’t. This problem of access only grows exponentially worse as the volume and use of digital content and services and platforms increases, negatively impacting instructional time. Making access to web-based resources easier and safer can not only make more time for teaching and learning but increase utilization, customer satisfaction and renewals.
If a school uses multiple applications that require logins and these applications are web-based, the school could benefit from single sign-on (SSO). Period.
The real question isn’t really one of need but one of cost and benefit. Fortunately, what used to be the domain of only the largest and most technologically advanced, is now feasible for schools and districts of all sizes and types. Services are increasingly cloud-based and relevant whether there’s a 1:1 environment, BYOD program and anything in between. The cost of SSO implementation is more affordable and scalable (or even free), and the available solutions are far less complex than they used to be. This leaves potential SSO customers free to evaluate benefits without excessive concern for cost.
Consider what the ramifications of users only needing to remember and enter a single password might be. They would obviously be less likely to forget or write down their password, more inclined to use stronger passwords, and have lower incidence of login difficulties. These improvements combine to provide organizational benefit in the form of increased productivity, enhanced security and reduced support costs.
Elimination of password fatigue alone can greatly improve security efforts. Users who are forced to memorize multiple passwords often dismiss and avoid approved security practices to the extent possible. This might be achieved by resisting the use of strong passwords, using simple patterns which expose a group of passwords should one be determined, or any one of a number of such behaviors that expand the possibilities for cracking. Users might instead just write their passwords down, committing a security breach of the first order.
Sometimes users also need to be protected from behaviors that aren’t deliberate. Creating an environment where logon only happens once, and does so with a familiar interface, can significantly reduce the possibility of phishing success. SSO also enables technology staff to implement and enforce uniform authentication/authorization policies across the organization, and with the use of federated authentication, ensures secure access to external resources.
At EduTone, to help the growing need for SSO support in educational environments, we recently rebranded our SSO platform and modules as the Global Grid for Learning, a solution which is perpetually free to schools (with premium upgrades available). To make living with the reality of SSO and a world of web-based resources more scalable, we added a try-and-buy Marketplace that makes subscribing to new digital content and services and provisioning them very easy. To benefit as many students and schools as possible, the Global Grid for Learning remains operating system agnostic and works on any personal or institutional internet-enabled device via web browser or mobile app. In 2015, we will be also customizing regional Grids for Learning beginning with select U.S. states. State Grids will have a state’s recommend OERs and purchased resources built into the SSO platform and available for free to all educators, students and parents in that state to further encourage access and usage.
To learn more about SSO for schools, the Global Grid for Learning or opportunities to collaborate, please visit www.globalgridforlearning.com.
Terry Smithson is the President of EduTone. A dynamic speaker with a passion for education and influencing positive change, Terry has served as the Director of Marketing for JES & Co., VP of Huntington Learning Centers and the Education Marketing Manager and Education Strategist for Intel Americas. During his Intel tenure, Terry created and led the Hurricane Education Leadership Program (HELP Team) which was awarded the 2007 EdNet Rookie of the Year award. Terry also created the highly coveted School of Distinction Award Program. Terry developed the Intel Model School Program, the Intel Visionary Conference, and the Classroom of Distinction Interactive Forums held around the country. For his work in education, Terry has received 42 awards including 2 congressional awards, 2 Senatorial awards, the Empowerment Award (eSchool News), 2 Intel Americas Achievement awards, and has even been presented with keys to 4 U.S. cities. Terry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.