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Campus Suite Blog

Why Schools are Choosing Clever SSO to Connect

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Posted by Eric Fulkert
Mar 11, 2016, 11:26:59 AM

Schools aren’t the only organizations these days searching for ways to securely and easily connect with key data. Single sign-on (SSO), that godsend that enables your users manage just one set of credentials to access all their apps, is simplifying how schools manage and protect their data. Enter Clever SSO.

Finding the right partner in SSO has been instrumental in our own product development here at Campus Suite. When we were creating our new, unified communications platform for schools, we wanted to make connecting to our system as easy as the tools themselves. After all, if you can’t make it easy for your audiences to connect – without compromising security, privacy and compliance issues – some aspect of your connectivity is going to suffer.

We had to overcome a technical connection hurdle: schools needed to be able to use their Student Information Systems (SIS) and authentication system with our new product offering.

Whether you’re a school or a business like ours that serves schools, being able to connect simply and securely with your audiences has a dramatic


Being able to connect simply and securely has a dramatic impact on the success of your communications.


 

impact on the success of your communications. If your staff is swamped by trying to manage the many apps used to run your school, or if your students and parents are stymied when trying to access the many apps, you're going to want to read on.

Make it easier to connect and engage

It’s one thing to truly engage with your school community with powerful dialogue, but in order to do that you have that technical connection that enables sharing of critical data.

As online communications channels for schools grow and become more important to school success, the ability to plug into a school’s communication ecosystem is critical.

We considered building our own connections with the many SIS and authentication systems on the market, but the time and cost was prohibitive. After a lot of research, enter a Clever solution.

Clever SSO takes the software applications a school or district uses (including Campus Suite, now), and connects them to the school’s SIS. The real beauty with Clever is how it simplifies data access for all involved – schools, app developers like us, and the users: staff, students and parents who all benefit from a centralized access to any software associated with the school.

When I say “better connect,” what we’re really talking about is both from a technical standpoint and from a content standpoint. The two go hand in hand – especially for a solution like Campus Suite.

From the data access standpoint, if you have trouble connecting technically with your customers (the school community), what’s the point of having great content across all your communications channels? Likewise, if you’ve got a great gateway to your systems, but lack an integrated flow of timely content, your school messages certainly aren’t resonating as they should.

Searching for ways to unify data in schools

We started looking for a way our customers could more readily use their SIS and authentication systems with our new platform. The need is to unify data in education. The schools that are unifying and sharing data are delivering a better educational experience.

We researched this important topic for more than a year, laying out all the challenges and risks for us and our customers.

One option was to build custom custom connectors for each SIS and authentication platform on the market. While it would accomplish our goal, this option would be too costly and time consuming.

After performing our due diligence – sitting down with school administrators, fellow app developers, IT and data specialists – we decided on a solution. Instead of building custom connectors, we partnered with Clever. Clever has a simple model. They provide a simple, secure, compliant connection with your SIS and login data.

Clever standardizes the connection to the many different platforms a school might run, offering a solution to the data-sharing challenge encountered by schools such as yours – and companies such as ours.

It also helps protect a school from exposure to software license breaches that might occur from someone in your district using some rogue or pirated software.

I found three key areas Clever helps us address before we ask a school to share student and teacher data...

1. Insure compliance with regulations

Compliance is a critical area for schools and student data. Schools who fail in compliance become news stories.

Student privacy, FERPA, and federal and state regulations require a legal diligence that protect schools at many levels. Teacher data, for example, requires employment and often union contract compliance. Superintendents and technology professionals lose jobs when such data issues are breached.

We all need to be mindful of what data is shared with whom. Clear compliance for a school is understanding what applications have access to what data. Every software connector to your SIS or login system is a risk. A school might connect multiple vendors to data and have no control or visibility in who is seeing that data. You might stop using an application, and forget to remove access to your data. The compliance challenge complicates how vendors and schools from connect education data. Our (Campus Suite's) challenge is providing a school a safe compliant way to work with us.

Clever allows a school to understand the exact data being shared with applications. A school can grant or revoke access to data in a simple web interface. Clever provides a standard for vendors to provide and follow compliance data. Clever removes the blind spot in data sharing and assures your school is in compliance with the important regulatory requirements.

2. Protect your school data

Security keeps unauthorized users (hackers) away from your data. The core concept of security is the "attack surface." An attack surface is the areas of an application or system that can be probed for weakness. Each new software package that you connect to your SIS or authentication system increases your attack surface.

As a software vendor, providing you with a connector brings extra responsibility. Campus Suite needs to test, monitor, and secure this connector. A hacker might find a weakness in an poorly built or unmaintained connector. The connector might have too many permissions to your data. The result is exposed student, teacher, and school data. Schools and vendors need to be mindful of security with every new data connection they make.

Clever provides a school with one connection that Clever supports. Clever provides a clear standard on security for connections to your SIS and authentication data. Clever gives vendors like Campus Suite a secure way to access your data. The result for a school is a decreased attack surface.

3. Make it easy for all

Data is only useful when you can actually use it. Connecting your roster, teacher, or login data needs to be simple. Complex connections that need heavy IT resources to setup and manage don't get setup. Time spent on logins and re-entering data is time stolen from education.

Most schools in the US need to provide minimally 180 days of instruction a year. If you can save a student or teacher 10 minutes a day, you gain 30 hours ( 1.25 days) of "real" education time. Corporate America knows this, and spends time and money saving employees time. As educators, we need to apply this principle to education.

Clever is simple for vendors and schools. Schools can use Clever’s free portal or the built-in support for popular existing systems such as Active Directory, Google Apps, and Office365. Browse the Clever marketplace to select the applications that use SIS and login data, then setup a new learning application with student and teacher data in three (3) clicks. Clever removes the IT burden to setup new and innovative solutions to education challenges. Vendors get data in a clean defined format.

Campus Suite uses Clever to make sure student and teacher data is consistent across all our clients. That allows us to focus on helping schools communicate, and not mapping names, addresses, and other data.

Clever SSO simplifies school connections

A successful school relies on great communications, so it’s important to give your students, staff, parents and entire school community ways to connect easily with each other. We chose to work with Clever because it helps us all connect, and it's the right decision for our Campus Suite clients.

It’s also a good fit because we both embrace the vision of making it easy for schools to share information. For securing data and simplifying sign-on, or sharing content more easily through websites, notifications, mobile apps and social media, we are each committed to simplifying communications in an increasingly complex world of online communications.

Clever’s mission of being a true resource for schools is consistent with Campus Suite expanding its offering to be more valuable to schools.

Clever does a better job than any provider could do when it comes to connecting and securing your data. If you have vendors who don't use Clever, audit their data access and security. We all have a legal responsibility to secure this data. Don't let data security be an afterthought, or your school might be the next headline.


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Posted by Eric Fulkert

Eric's background as a technical CEO with a big-picture focus brings the experience and vision that both gains the respect of technical audiences, and gets the attention of the progressive school leaders and administrators.

Topics: Communication School Districts Private schools Content management

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