An Apple of a Password Management System for Extending the Walls of the Classroom

An Apple of a Password Management System for Extending the Walls of the Classroom

One password management system for students, alumni and staff.

When you say the word ‘school’ or ‘class’ for many, the image of ivy covered halls or a room filled with posters of scientists, philosophers and historic figures immediately come to mind. If you ask someone to describe a school or a class they particularly enjoyed, most are likely to speak about people and memories that occurred outside of the institution. When educators speak about extending the walls of the classroom, they are referring to such events along with the inclusion of parents, alumni, faculty and staff in the learning community.

For schools to extend beyond the classroom, they require a unified online password management system with self-service password reset capabilities. Simply stated FERPA regulations or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 govern access and release of student records. FERPA applies to elementary, secondary and postsecondary institutions receiving funds from the U.S. Secretary of Education. FERPA laws distinguish between educational records that are either ‘directory’ or ‘protected’. Depending on the student’s age, parent, spouse and third party access privileges to FERPA records apply differently and a password management system may require features like two factor authentication.

A password management system leveraging business rules and workflow automation can automatically extend password policy enforcement to students, parents and alumni in addition to faculty and staff as a unified solution. Additionally, self-service password reset and password management capabilities improve information security while reducing IT administration and lowering cost. A unified password management solution encompassing the school’s entire ecosystem literally opens opportunities that previously could not be considered. Today, a password management system should not be evaluated solely on affordability, because the security and operational improvements are considerable if an enterprise-class solution is selected.

The Metropolitan Community College (MCC) in Omaha, Nebraska presents an interesting case in point. MCC represents an eclectic mixture of students at all stages in life ranging from teens to seniors. Many MCC students are parents who work while enrolled in either the college or a continuing education program. In June of 2012, MCC deployed Password Station, a password management system with self-service password reset tools to over 200,000 students. Today, MCC’s password management system not only includes college students, but also participants in their continuing education programs. In less than a year, over 300,000 students and alumni use MCC’s password management system and the number will reach over 500,000 by the end of the year. With an unlimited number of licenses, MCC is positioned for growth.

When you consider an industry-accepted cost of $13 to $14 per password reset request, mass enrollment alone represents an astounding $4,000,000 savings to MCC.

For a school like MCC, the next step in automating IT FERPA compliance operations relates to access management and identity management privileges. For an educational institution like MCC, IT automation presents a particularly interesting value proposition to both the school and the greater metropolitan community. Access to resources for students, parents, faculty, staff and alumni, which extends beyond the classroom, is now a prime consideration and opportunity. An identity manager, like a password management system, will result in similar IT security and cost benefits for access management, access certification and group management. With an identity manager, educational institutions can lower costs and improve security in scaling beyond their classroom facilities. To learn more about how to meet FERPA regulations through IT automation, self-service and built-in IT audit controls, Avatier will be at the Educause 2013 Annual Conference from October 15 to 18 in Anaheim, California. We look forward to seeing you there and sharing stories.

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Written by Thomas Edgerton

Thomas Edgerton, Avatier's MVP award-winning Market Analyst and Performance Consultant in information technology, IT security, instructional technology and human factors, blogs on topics ranging from leadership to national security, innovation and deconstructing the future.​