We hear so much today about the importance of student privacy. That’s certainly a matter that needs to be protected and managed, much like health care privacy. An identity management system breaks individual identities down into digital “attributes,” and then those attributes can be shared using a method called “Federation.” There are times where sharing information to the right constituents may be beneficial. But who are the “right” constituents—and who should decide?
Does our education system matriculate students as effectively as possible? Do high schools accept eighth-graders with optimal information to optimize education? And on and on up through higher education? And what about entry into the workforce? This by no means diminishes the importance of counselors, testing, and GPA sharing. But in today’s high technology world, is that the best we can do? Or would it be better to share more information than we currently do? It is my opinion that more information can and should be shared, but this must be done at the discretion of administration and also within a secure IT infrastructure.
As stated earlier, Identity Management is the technology that articulates individual’s digital identities into attributes that can be managed by the institution. These attributes can be pervasive or simple. And importantly to this discussion, they can be managed. Federation is the notion that these attributes can be shared.
As we look at trends in ed tech, we have observed instances where Identity Federation has come off the rails, resulting in parent concern over student privacy. Of course, if you allow a commercial service provider to control the federation principles, they will likely glean as much information about students as they can. But if we ensure federation is controlled by the IdP (Identity Provider), likely a more productive and tenable result will occur.
With good Identity Management and Federation to create a framework to share only the right information with the right parties, we can ensure optimal progression for our example student. Allowing optimal progression for students creates a more equitable infrastructure that supports leveling the playing field for all, providing a more equal opportunity in education. Additionally, it supports the theme of any student, any time, on any device having access to all the services they need to succeed in a secure manner. This concept is being piloted already in many parts of the country with the help of Internet2’s “InCommon” initiative called The Quilt. Readers may be interested in further exploring The Quilt InCommon Federation Space and also considering use of the resources of Identity Management solution providers, such as Aegis Identity Software.
Bob Lamvik, President/COO/Co-Founder of Aegis Identity Software, Inc.