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Using single sign-on to streamline edtech access

Here are the questions to ask before adopting single sign-on

Digital educational materials have provided many benefits for K-12 educators and students, including computer adaptive assessments to tools that allow students to collaborate and communicate 24/7. At the same time, tech programs have their own set of challenges, particularly when it comes to logging on. For years, users have needed to create and memorize a username and password for every system and app. During the edWebinar “Simplify Digital Access in K-12: Learn How District Leaders Eliminate Barriers,” the presenters discussed the importance of adopting a single sign-on program to manage digital access, the questions to ask when choosing a vendor, and tips for rolling out the new system.

First, many programs have different protocols for creating login information, causing students and educators endless frustration. They spend more time trying to remember how to access the program than actually using it, and they clog IT channels trying to recover passwords. Due to the variety of logins, students end up writing access information on sticky notes, in notebooks, etc., which compromises security. Or, to avoid writing them down, they create basic passwords that are easily hacked. Without a single sign-on, students may need to memorize multiple URLs and access paths and have difficulty getting to learning resources at home.

Once a district has decided to adopt single sign-on, the administrators vetting the vendors should ask several key questions.

1. How strong is the company’s K-12 track record? Will they understand the market’s unique needs and have relationships with other vendors in the industry?

2. How big is their library of single sign-on applications? Educators won’t want access to a limited number of tools and instructional resources.
3. Do they support multiple login options, including ID cards, facial recognition, etc.? This can be important when working with younger students or those with different physical capabilities.
4. Do they support a range of authentication methods, such as LTI or Google? Again, the single sign-on decision should not negatively impact the tools teachers already use.
5. Does the vendor support easy access to files from the different applications?
6. Does the application deliver class rosters to the different tools?
7. What analytics does the program provide? Does it go beyond basic usage?
8. Is it customizable? Can schools and districts add colors, logos, etc.?
9. What additional features, such as a parent portal, are available?
10. What are the vendor’s security and data privacy policies?

Finally, as with all new edtech, a successful rollout depends on having a well-thought-out plan. The presenters emphasized the need for user training—faculty and students—before full implementation, starting with a small portion of the school first, and communicating with students and parents across all avenues about the new system. Most important, schools should celebrate their single sign-on because they will spend less class time on troubleshooting and more on learning.

About the Presenters

Dr. Barbara Nesbitt is an educator with over 30 years’ experience. She has been a teacher, instructional and technology coach, consultant, coordinator, and director. She is now the executive director of technology for the School District of Pickens County (SC). She has served on various boards including the K-12 Institutional Board for IMS Global and the National Council on Digital Convergence. Currently she is the chair of the IMS Global K12 Institutional Board.

Jan Mills, vice president of Sales for ClassLink, spent 17 years with Irving (TX) Independent School District as an educator and instructional technology director before leaving to work with various education technology companies. She has over 20 years of experience selling and leading sales teams in the K-12 marketplace.

Kimber Nelson is an educator with over 20 years’ experience. Nelson has been a classroom teacher, technology resource teacher, and is now the instructional technology coach for secondary schools for the School District of Pickens County (SC).

Betsy Masters is a 24-year career educator, spending most of those years in the elementary setting. As technology for the classroom becomes more readily available, she has made it her mission to stay abreast of these ever growing and changing trends, while guiding and assisting others along her technology journey. She currently serves as an instructional technology coach for the School District of Pickens County (SC).

Join the Community

Technology in Schools is a free professional learning community where district administrators, school leaders, and all educators can share ideas, examples, and resources that relate to integrating technology effectively in schools.

This broadcast was hosted by and sponsored by ClassLink.

The recording of the edWebinar can be viewed by anyone here.

[Editor’s note: This piece is original content produced by View more events here.]

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