Higley Unified School District improves online security with PassKeys
Higley Unified School District values the role of technology in building stronger connections with its constituents and supporting student success. However, managing a secure electronic environment posed some challenges.
Multiple password log-ins result in more support requests
The district stores all user information in its active directory, supported by a strict password security policy for logging in to its system. Tech-savvy teachers and other users also access numerous other online sites. But keeping track of the multitude of passwords was difficult.
“One of the biggest challenges we had was being inundated with constant phone calls and tech support requests,” recalls Benjamin Harrison, Educational Technology, TOSA, Higley Unified School District. “Often, teachers requested our help for third-party website logins, but we didn’t have the access or ability to support them.”
Also, security was compromised when passwords were recorded on sticky notes that were left on staff monitors, desks, and under keyboards. “The security issue of remembering passwords grew exponentially with the use of additional online applications and systems, which have additional password protection policies,” explains Harrison.
Schoolwires provides safe, single sign-on framework
Today, Schoolwires PassKey Manager is providing the district with a single sign-on framework for its users to safely and securely access designated web-based applications through the district’s Schoolwires Centricity2™ web platform. In addition to the framework, it includes a library of pre-configured single sign-on “PassKeys” as well as a wizard that makes it easy for IT to create additional PassKeys for many third-party web-based services. Higley Unified School District went live with the solution in August 2011.
“We looked at other wholesale single-sign-on solutions, but nothing else seemed to flow as well as PassKey Manager,” says Harrison. “We’ve integrated our active directory with Centricity2 to authenticate each user’s login to the system. With PassKey Manager, we can warehouse several different third-party passwords in one location, and develop a library of PassKeys specific to what our users need.”
PassKey Manager maximizes learning time
“A main focus of our district is to minimize classroom disruption and maximize learning time for students,” emphasizes Harrison. “With PassKey Manager, teachers can navigate quickly to various sites and be more efficient in how they enhance learning for their students. Additionally, our support staff can do their jobs more quickly, and be more effective in their response times to the schools.”
The Higley IT staff created about a dozen PassKeys which they made available to teachers immediately upon going live. Teachers can request additional PassKeys. When approved, the new PassKeys will be made available to all teachers.
Higley Unified School District was part of the beta test team for PassKey Manager and worked closely with Schoolwires staff to improve the product before it was released for general availability.
“The entire beta testing process was a very positive experience,” recalls Harrison. “The Schoolwires staff was amazing to work with. Our feedback was welcomed, and our emails, posts and phone messages were returned promptly.”
“PassKey Manager is extremely simple to use,” concludes Harrison. “And the lives of our staff are simplified because they can login to the system and their most used websites with a single sign-on, accessing anything instantly. That is a tremendous advantage.”
Located in Arizona, Higley Unified School District is comprised of 10 schools staffed by about 500 teachers serving approximately 10,600 students.