Imagine you’re busy creating a world-class research paper. Now imagine you’re doing it whilst juggling multiple passwords and usernames to access all the online resources you need, as well as the many buildings you need to enter.
This was a problem in education before the UK’s cybersecurity strategy reiterated the importance of password safety. The UK Access Management Federation solved this problem some ten years ago, by giving access to multiple sites, through single sign on to trusted academic resources.
The UK Access Management Federation was born in 2006; currently the largest of its kind in the world and amongst commercial service providers too. Now, ten years on, with over 1000 organisations to its name, the federation is celebrating a decade of success.
In time with this anniversary, Jisc will be piloting the option of a self-service portal, for all service providers, schools, further, and higher education, which will also be free to use. The portal will allow system administrators to make changes behind the scenes without needing to contact the helpdesk. The helpdesk will remain a firm feature of the service however, for customers wanting a bit of extra assistance.
Tim Kidd, executive director of Jisc technologies said:
‘We’re really proud of this service, it’s gone from strength to strength since its inception. A cooperative, collegiate effort; across the sector and internationally, the UK federation is interoperable with eduGAIN, creating access worldwide with 38 partners globally”
Dr Rhys Smith, Jisc chief technical architect for trust and identity said:
“The self-service portal will allow knowledgeable administrators to make changes more immediately than at present - though the helpdesk will always be available to make changes for customers who want assistance in doing so”
Operated by Jisc, the sector’s support organisation for digital solutions, the federation enables staff, students, researchers and school children to access online resources and services using their institutions' credentials. When users request access a service or resource, their home institution authenticates them and in doing so confirms their identity so that they can access the resource.
Mark Toole, one-time chair of the UK Federation board said:
“This upgrade to the federation will allow us to have a slicker system to support the growing needs of students and researchers in accessing services online, and navigating ever-changing digital learning environments.
Open access and the Research Excellence Framework mean greater sharing of digital information, so it’s great to have a tried and tested service we can trust, particularly important as global collaboration grows.”
86% of colleges, 99% of higher education institutes as well as research bodies, publishers and schools have access to the Access Management Federation, saving money and allowing for collaboration through ease of access. Alongside the portal, service developments are taking place that focus on the methods of distributing metadata to reduce system requirements for education providers running their own systems.
Mark Williams, federation service manager at Jisc said:
“We’re thrilled to be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Access Management Federation, and to have seen it grown over the years to support so much of the UK education sector. It saves federated members huge costs in having multiple sign-ons, widens participation to all learners, and helps institutions to deliver a 21st century experience to learners and staff alike.”
Alongside supporting administrators to make changes to the system themselves, Jisc is also rolling out the service beyond academia, with a pilot in English public libraries, giving seamless access to top quality learning resources fit for a digital generation.