The Four Main Challenges to Implementing Passwordless Authentication in the K-8 Classroom
In our first blog, Passwordless Authentication in Education, we outlined many of the current options available to school boards for passwordless authentication including; Microsoft Authenticator App, FIDO2 Security Keys, Windows Hello, Google Passkeys and Cloudwise COOL. Although there are many solutions available, the options for students are limited. IT Administrators are faced with many unique challenges when it comes to finding a passwordless solution for K-8 students. They need to find the balance between security and ease of usage, knowing that the youngest students in the board are still learning to read and write!
Challenge to Implementation #1: Cost
When considering the challenges of implementing passwordless authentication, the first obstacle to implementation is cost. We know school boards face increasing budget restraints and budgets that need to be spread across multiple areas and facets within each department. In terms of cyber security, authentication is one of many areas a board needs to invest in to improve their cyber security posture. When dealing with the tens of thousands of students in the majority of school boards in Ontario, boards are faced with difficult decisions on how to allocate their spending.
Purchasing devices with biometric recognition, or dedicated devices for each student are not feasible solutions. Likewise, purchasing a security key for each student is not a feasible solution as they are costly, have the potential to be lost or damaged, and are extremely expensive to replace.
For students, Cloudwise COOL Easy Login provides a simple, secure and cost effective solution to passwordless authentication. Boards only pay for the students who are using Easy Login. Teachers are able to print and reprint QR badges providing a quick and free way to help students access their accounts if their QR badge is lost or damaged. As an additional security feature, once a QR Badge has been reprinted, the old one no longer works!
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Challenge To Implementation #2: Change
As with anything new, there will always be resistance to the change itself. IT departments and staff get comfortable with the tools they currently use. Change takes time and investment in training for staff and students. If a school board is going to make a change, they need to be sure that the change can provide a real, lasting benefit.
COOL Easy Login was designed for teachers. Although we are an IT solution, we are a classroom solution first. COOL Easy Login is intuitive and easy to use, allowing even the youngest students to log in quickly and independently. We have heard from many teachers that they save anywhere from 10-15 minutes of teaching and learning time for their students while using Easy Login, compared to entering usernames and passwords. When teachers experience the time savings they acquire from their students signing in with Easy Login, they’ll wonder why they haven’t been using it the whole time! Included in Easy Login is the COOL Platform which provides a single sign-on to students’ Google and/or Microsoft accounts as well as to their connected Google and Microsoft applications. With the click of a button students are ready to start their learning! Teachers want students in their class using COOL Easy Login!
Additionally, Cloudwise COOL provides a seamless onboarding process for new school boards ensuring a pain free process. With Cloudwise, school boards have access to the COOL Portal for self-directed articles and instructional videos on how to use the COOL modules. School boards also have access to in person and virtual ‘train the trainer’ sessions to get their staff comfortable and ready to use COOL Easy Login. With multiple school boards in Ontario already using COOL Easy login, it is easy to hear first hand from fellow school boards how impactful this change has been.
Challenge to Implementation #3: Access To Devices
As we discussed in our first blog, many of the technologies that provide passwordless authentication require a specific device for the authentication to take place. This might be a cell phone, security key or a dedicated device with biometric recognition.
For authentication to student accounts, none of these make sense. The young age of the students, combined with the number of students in each board make these options neither cost effective nor age appropriate for student usage. School boards need a solution that allows for the sharing of devices between students, classes and grades within the school.
With Cloudwise COOL Easy Login, students only require the board managed device they are working with. They are prompted to scan a QR badge and/or enter a picture combination when they log into the device. This authenticates them onto their device, as well as their Google and/or Microsoft account as well as any connected educational apps. Students are able to share devices amongst grades and classes within the school and always have access to their accounts when needed.
Challenge to Implementation #4: Primary IDP and Organizational Unit
School board choice is essential. When choosing a passwordless option, the school boards we have spoken to have expressed the desire to remain in control of their Azure AD or Google Workspace environments and to be able to choose login methods for particular schools or grades. This is not possible for solutions which become the Primary IDP and who do not support the SSO profiles feature for setting different SSO providers per organizational unit. This is restrictive and poses a major challenge to implementation.
Cloudwise COOL supports the SSO OU assignment feature of Google Chrome and Workspace. This means, COOL Easy Login can be applied to specific organizational units while users can login with their Azure or AD credentials at home, on Windows devices or in schools or grades not using COOL Easy Login. Cloudwise does not make changes to a school board’s Azure, AD or Google Workspace environment, keeping the school board in control.
Our next blog in the series is on The Benefits of Implementing Passwordless Authentication in the K-8 Classroom. The blog will be released in two parts, exploring the specific classroom benefits as well as security benefits to implementing passwordless authentication in the K-8 classroom.
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