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Brown Extends Grouper Across a Broad Array of Applications

April 4, 2011

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Solution Summary

Brown University used Grouper to consolidate the management of group access to a variety of applications across departments. The project not only made an overwhelming task manageable, but improved user experience and service management in the bargain.

Brown University and Grouper logos Collaborators

  • Brown University

Products & Services

Community Resources

Funding Sources

  • Internet2
  • National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant No. OCI-0330626, OCI-0721896, and OCI-1032468
  • Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) (UK)
  • University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, Duke University, University of Washington, University of Memphis, University of Bristol (UK)

At Brown University, students expect to access an integrated online learning environment that includes a Learning Management System, email lists, wiki, access to controlled information in Apple’s iTunes U and the campus Fedora repository, and other applications. Faculty and staff serve on project teams and committees within and across departmental boundaries, using in-sourced and out-sourced applications (e.g. Google Apps for Education) to support their work.

Academic departments must keep track of a variety of communities, such as undergraduates, grad students, course enrollment, faculty, staff, and “friends” from other departments and other universities. The departments need to grant such communities access to many services and documents; sometimes, there is a need to strictly control access.

Historically, each application maintained its own group roster information. With that model, keeping the access rights consistent across the myriad of services became an overwhelming task.

The Problem

Within the campus community, there is a huge number of groups. For example, there are course groups, departmental groups, associations, project teams, and several hundred student activity groups. Brown needed a groups management tool to effectively manage this environment.

A key requirement was the ability to reflect new information and status changes from Brown’s identity management and course enrollment systems. It was also essential that the groups management tool should track and provision group data for and into the applications. A customizable user interface was desired so that stakeholders throughout the campus could define and update all manner of groups. And all of this had to be driven by an integrated institutional policy allowing appropriate delegation of group membership and permissions.

The Solution

Brown chose Grouper to combine improved groups management capabilities with a better user experience. According to John Spadaro, Director, Technical Architecture, “Feeds from the person registry and the course enrollment system, together with user management to fine tune group memberships and Grouper’s set arithmetic capabilities, provide Brown with a centralized group management tool across a wide variety of applications. The recently implemented synchronization with groups to Google Apps has opened new possibilities.”

Through use of Grouper, Brown has also developed a valuable information asset—a database that can report on who can do what. Reports from that database can be used to improve service management, as-built IT architecture, and security.

The Result

Since Grouper works across multiple applications, Brown University’s Instructional Technology Group now spends significantly less time setting up and maintaining groups in different applications, particularly at the beginning of each semester. Instructors, team leaders, project leaders, and departmental managers all find that Grouper simplifies their group management task. In addition, the automatic provisioning of many groups ensures that permissions are assigned and revoked on a timely basis.