Primers to help education leaders navigate interoperability and identity management

The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) today released two primers focused on emerging challenges facing K-12 education leaders – interoperability and identity management. The white papers are aimed at helping educators successfully navigate both issues, address related challenges and uncover benefits. CoSN’s new primer on interoperability – “Interoperability Standards for K-12 Education” – explores the technical challenges associated with integrating systems to seamlessly share data, content and services. The identity management primer, titled “Single Sign-On, Multiple Benefits: A Primer on K-12 Federated Identity and Access Management,” is aimed at defining what identity management is and how it can benefit K-12 schools.

“With the growing use of technology in education comes a whole slew of questions about how to manage data, content and access to information, applications and other online tools,” said CoSN CEO Keith Krueger, CAE. “It is critical for education decision-makers to understand the current standards and practices associated with interoperability and identity management, as well as ways to implement both to increase efficiency and collaboration, and ensure an economically sustainable IT future for our schools.”

As the authors of the interoperability primer point out, the usability of isolated K-12 data is becoming obsolete. With that trend comes an increasing need to integrate systems to ensure comprehensive, coherent database warehousing, generate sophisticated analytics and maximize cost efficiencies. The primer focuses on five key areas – content interoperability; data connectivity; data integration; identity management and portal interoperability – and presents information on current standards. The primer, which will be featured in the CoSN Compendium 2011, also outlines challenges and benefits associated with each and provides guidance to educators who are trying to determine if a given set of interoperability standards are worth adopting.

Identity management standards are addressed in the interoperability primer, but given the scope and magnitude of the issue, CoSN developed another primer focused solely on this topic. The identity management primer is aimed at answering key questions facing education leaders, including: What is federated identity and access management? How can federated identity and access management benefit K-12 schools?; and What unique challenges do K-12 schools face in managing user identities and access to online resources? The primer includes a firsthand glimpse into the potential of federated identity management based on the experiences of two chief technology officers for school districts in North Carolina, who recently made the transition from less coordinated identity management to federated identity management.

The full text of the identity management primer is available here. An executive summary of the interoperability primer is available here.