The Ultimate Checklist for Higher Ed Identity Management in Remote and Hybrid-Learning Environments

Ian Reay

August 24, 2020

Last spring, as universities and colleges closed in response to Covid-19, higher ed institutions were faced with a cascade of Herculean tasks: quickly and safely empty campus, translate course work for online learning, and adapt already complex identity and access management (IAM) processes. 

For many schools, identity management was already a complicated system plagued by challenges specific to higher education’s unique structure (.e. ever-changing populations, overlapping roles and identity sources, and dynamic, collaborative partnerships). The addition of new remote considerations only further tangled this web with new priorities and requirements — specifically the need for secure, unified communications and more remote support options.

Identity Management Systems for Higher Education

Because of unique academic structures (either broken down by college or department), identity management systems for higher education are often incredibly segmented. Attaining and maintaining a scalable, reliable system requires that those silos come down. The same standards, rules, and safeguards need to be in place for every student and faculty member whether they are matriculating or employed as an instructor in the school of communication, arts and sciences, or business, for example. 

By working with one, centralized system, schools are able to organize multiple data sources into one system to automate provisioning, synchronize systems of record, and streamline appropriate access through the identity lifecycle with a highly secure yet publicly accessible identity solution. 

As universities begin their fall semesters with remote and hybrid classrooms (largely unchartered territory), it’s essential that their identity and access management systems are as robust as their curricula. This list of imperative IAM structures and features will be key to their success:

Strong, Easy-to-Use Password Management

Whether remote, on campus, or a blend of the two, strong password management must be an identity management priority for colleges and universities. With the constant cycle of new users and changing roles (most of whom will now be onboarding remotely), higher ed requires a password management solution that provides fast and reliable password reset and synchronization across all systems. Self-service and assisted password reset will help minimize remote support needs as well.

Reliable Connectors 

Even in enterprise applications, IAM systems do not exist in a vacuum. Connectors allow admins to easily integrate the tools required to effectively and efficiently manage their systems. The increase in remote access — often from a wide array of personal devices — adds another layer of difficulty for IAM solutions. In the complex world of higher ed, connectors bring email, student directories, HR, file systems, and more together for a more integrated, streamlined, but still secure, experience. An IAM solution that allows you the bandwidth to integrate the connectors you need will help avoid scaling headaches later on.

Flexible Group Management 

Higher ed’s unique, fluid identity lifecycles can make group and list management challenging. A group management tool that allows admins to easily create, delete, and manage attributes and memberships of user groups with similar use cases will ensure your system has the flexibility it needs to adapt to whatever new requirements and environments may arise.

The security of students and staff and their personal data has always been a top priority for institutions of higher learning. As the system continues to evolve — both in response to Covid-19 and technological and societal changes ahead — reliable, flexible, and scalable identity management that can grow with your institution is a prerequisite.