Summer is over, and most colleges and universities are back in session. As with every year, the biggest challenge for IT departments presents itself during the lead-up to the first day of class and the first couple of weeks that follow. Unlike other industries, the education sector has specific identity and access management (IAM) needs. Provisioning accounts for new students and teachers, de-provisioning accounts of students and staff who have left, providing users secure access to the right resources, frequently changing users’ roles, and tracking changes to meet regulatory requirements are just the start.

With IT becoming an important part of the classroom, choosing an IAM solution that can meet all these demands is crucial for the day-to-day function of colleges and universities. Here are some pointers to keep in mind while shopping for an IAM solution that’s a fit for the education industry.

1. Dynamically Provision Accounts for Students 

User life cycle management in the education industry is complex due to the large number of students who come and go each year. Admins need to be able to deprovision and provision a bulk of users in a short period of time. An added complexity is that accounts must be provisioned for users across Active Directory, cloud applications, and e-learning programs.

When choosing an IAM solution, make sure it has bulk provisioning and deprovisioning capabilities. Some tools let admins dynamically provision users in bulk either by importing a CSV file containing student information or through templates specifically designed for user creation. Also, the solution must support provisioning across multiple platforms such as Active Directory, Exchange, G Suite, Office 365 and more.

2. Securely Control Who Has Access to What Applications

Another top priority should be ensuring that students and staff have access to applications—with just the right amount of privilege. Students change their schedule from time to time. Teachers could be reassigned to a different class. Capturing all these changes and making necessary adjustments in users’ group memberships within Active Directory is important.

To meet this requirement, the IAM solution should have granular group management capabilities in Active Directory. Automating or delegating group membership management through a predefined approval workflow feature will also help.

3. Less Logging In, More Learning

Keeping track of passwords is a challenging task, even for adults. The problem is exacerbated in the education sector as younger students are tasked with remembering multiple passwords. As a result, teachers end up spending valuable class hours assisting students with their forgotten passwords and login issues.

The IAM solution should have single sign-on capabilities, allowing students to log in once with one username and one password and have access to multiple applications. If the solution uses Active Directory as its authentication source, then it becomes even easier to manage users’ identities and control access permissions to cloud apps through organizational units and group-based security policies.

(Next page: 3 more tips for choosing an identity and access management solution)

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