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Successful Collaboration to Further Identity Federation for K-14

Dec 02, 2015, by Emily Eisbruch
Tags: InCommon

It’s inspiring when collaboration in the community “clicks,” when partners work cohesively together to create something bigger than would be possible alone and succeed to advance research and education in new ways. A case in point is a recent effort spearheaded by The Quilt, Internet2, and InCommon that involved partners in eight states, the Quilt InCommon K-14 Identity Federation Pilots.

Leaders of the Quilt InCommon Pilots participated in a Quilt InCommon Federation Workshop at the Quilt Winter Meeting, February 2014

Image: Leaders of the Quilt InCommon Pilots participated in a Quilt InCommon Federation Workshop at the Quilt Winter Meeting in February, 2014.

The pilots focused on how to bring to K-12 and community colleges the efficiencies that higher education has realized through identity federation. For example, too often K-12 teachers spend precious time entering lists of names (which later require manual updating) so students can gain access to learning management systems and other resources. Much like university faculty, teachers could also benefit from simplified access to collaboration tools and cloud services. Implementing identity federation policies and practices at all levels of the educational system will enable a much improved experience for students and teachers alike.

“Each of the pilots developed and shared their plans for proving a targeted approach to K14 federation and were successful in achieving their initial goals and objectives. Several of the pilots worked with industry partners in forming their plans and providing identity services to their constituents,” said George Laskaris, President and CEO of the New Jersey’s Research and Education Network (NJEDGE.Net), and member of the Quilt Board of Directors. He led the Quilt InCommon pilots effort between 2013 and 2015. “We were pleased with the results of the collaborative efforts and are eager to see the work move forward.”

The pilots shared their challenges and successes throughout the program-- and provided each other with ideas and support -- on biweekly conference calls.

“The regular pilot conference calls and connections made with other projects allowed us to hear and benefit from those collective experiences and explore a wide variety of solutions and providers,” said Technology Project Manager Scott Isaacson, who led the team in charge of the Nebraska Educational Service Units Coordinating Council pilot. “Our pilot project is currently serving 7 school districts which are a cross section of sizes and geographic locations, serving just over 60,000 students within the state.”

Each pilot organization provided individual pilot summaries. Laskaris and Mark Scheible, senior lead IAM solutions architect at pilot participant MCNC, authored an informative white paper on this collaborative work. Additional background information on the pilots is found on the Quilt Incommon Pilots wiki.

The Quilt InCommon Pilots included:

  • MCNC (North Carolina)
  • Maryland Research and Education Network (MDREN)
  • Merit (Michigan)
  • NCSA & IlliniCloud, Collaborators and the Technical Partners for the Illinois Shared Learning Environment (ISLE)
  • Nebraska Educational Service Units Coordinating Council (ESUCC)
  • OARnet (Ohio)
  • Utah Education Network
  • WiscNet (Wisconsin)

Shelton Waggener, Internet2 Senior Vice President, is enthusiastic in his support and commitment to expanding the benefits of Federated Identity to a broader education community.   “The Quilt InCommon Pilots for K-14 Identity Federation provide a terrific example of the strength of community collaborations to address common problems and move us all forward. We thank all the partners in this important work and express special appreciation to George Laskaris for his exemplary vision, leadership, and effort to bring the benefits of InCommon to more students and educators across the country.” 

While the current Quilt Incommon pilots structure has concluded, the effort continues to enhance identity federation for K-12 institutions and community colleges. The InCommon Federation and MCNC are working on a “Steward Model” approach to provide new avenues for spreading identity federation to K-14 constituencies.

Laskaris, Scheible, and others will share insights and results from the pilot work during the March IAM Online webinar, March 9, 2016 at 2pm ET. The webinar will also provide details about what’s next in the expansion of identity federation to K-12 and community colleges.