The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T +44 (0)1227 764000
Logins for Life
Logins for Life was a Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) funded project which looked at how current digital relationships between HEIs and their users could be improved to make them richer, easier to initiate and authenticate to and longer lasting - starting earlier and continuing beyond the study or employment period.
Resources provided by HEIs tend to be closely guarded and available only to members and then only during their period of study and/or employment. There are good reasons for protecting resources but if HEIs are interested in extending and widening their on-line relationships - something which most agree is necessary and mutually beneficial - early impressions formed by prospective students are important. Building relationships with this target group is equally important and it is beneficial for providers and prospective students if online relationships are created as early as possible - usually whilst the target group is still at school. There are also benefits to maintaining relationships with alumni - not just as a potential financial resource but also as mentors and as part of a scattered community which is passively and actively demonstrating the value of an education from that institution.
The project looked at how a relationship with the university could best be initiated and maintained from the point of view of the prospective student, bearing in mind that most members of this group would be looking at the offerings of many HEIs. We did not want to add to the proliferation of accounts and associated usernames and passwords and so looked at how a user’s existing digital identities could be used to self-authenticate at the HEI website. Obviously this is a contentious area and it is vital to strike the right balance between convenience for the user and the security of the University’s systems. In the early stages of a relationship with the University the target is not to give access to highly sensitive or confidential data – the purpose here is to establish a relationship quickly and conveniently which will give the user access to the information they need. Primarily this will be information on courses available but may also include access to forums and other information pages. The project proposes acceptance of Facebook, Twitter, Google, UK federation and OpenID credentials for self-authentication to the University’s website.
On becoming a member of the university it is of course necessary to give a higher level of access than could be offered in the preceding scenario and self-authentication needs to be augmented with formal methods of identification so that a full Kent IT account can be created. This is unavoidable. The School of Computing at the University of Kent have developed an application that allows a user to link an existing digital identity - perhaps the one they used to create an initial account with the University - to their Kent IT account once they have become a member of the university. This does not remove the need to provide their Kent IT credentials to access some protected resources but it does facilitate the use of other credentials - such as those of social networking applications - for access to some parts of the university’s systems. Many users access these applications several times a day and from mobile devices as well as desktops making the availability of low-level personal data - such as timetables or library data - easily obtainable
Main recommendations from the Logins for Life project
Introducing easier and speedier registration: by allowing visitors to the Kent website to register using their existing social networking or other credentials (eg Facebook, Google, OpenID).
Providing improved IT Services for alumni: by giving access after graduation, to an alumni email service, e-portfolio and personal development planning (PDP) software, contact update forms etc.
Building apps: for mobile devices and social networking sites to improve access to personalised Kent data (timetabling, library data etc).
Providing an account linking tool: which will allow a member of the University to link social networking and other third party sites to their Kent IT account, giving more convenient access to some personalised Kent data.
- Continue to provide alumni email
- Provide additional online resources for prospective students