Schools, Google Apps, And One Login To Rule Them All

One of the problems that a lot of schools (and their families) face is login overload. I work at a elementary school and our parents have at least 3 accounts with us (but that gets up to 5-6 as their kids get older).

  1. Renweb - Student Information System
  2. FACTS - Tuition management
  3. Advanced Reader - reading comprehension program
  4. Artsonia (our Art teacher uploads artwork here)
  5. SpellingCity (a lot of our 3rd-5th classes use this)
  6. Google Apps (5th grade only)

When I go to education conferences and sit in on presentations that talk about "the 10 apps you must use" or the "5 best web 2.0" websites, I immediately think of the account management of these services. I’ve also noticed that a lot of teachers “try” something for a month or two (and create logins for their classes), but then usage fizzles. This creates a lot of work for students and the teacher will little impact on learning.

What we need is a turn key universal login system for the majority of services that schools use. This would be similar to OpenID, but built for schools. Is this going to happen? Not a chance. What has happened is that Google Apps has become a universal login system. A lot of the services we look at allow Google logins. If I am comparing 2 products for our school, the winner will likely be the one that supports a Google login. Active Directory is all but dead in the Post-PC world. The only thing you might use it for on iOS is WiFi login and maybe email (Exchange). I believe you’ll start to see WiFi vendors start supporting Google Apps as a login mechanisms in the near future (imagine tying Google Apps “orgs” to VLANs). One company has already built a hosted Radius server that works with Google Apps.

As our reliance on cloud services grows inside the school, we must do what we can to simplify the login problem for our families and faculty. Leveraging Google's authentication system (as a Google Apps school) is probably the best method so far.