School IT admins don't want teachers - and especially students - to remember different usernames and passwords for each digital product they use. Admins want teachers and students to be able to sign in to any product the school uses with the credentials they already use for other platforms.
To match this need, edtech apps need to take a different approach to SSO. Just supporting 1 method of logging in teachers and students won't cut it. Developers will soon discover, supporting many schools means supporting many different SSO options.
Here are 6 reasons why you need to give schools multiple options for SSO.
1. Schools use a ton of different platforms...and in different ways.
To manage teachers and students, schools across the country use a variety of systems like:
- LMSs (e.g. Google Classroom, Moodle, Blackboard),
- SISs (e.g. PowerSchool, Skyward, Infinite Campus), and
- IDMs (e.g. Clever, Classlink).
No 1 vendor has a monopoly on any of these markets. So, many of the schools edtech companies will work with will very likely require different SSO integrations.
Keep in mind that edtech platforms also need to be able to handle different types of SSO logins from the same platform. For example, LMSs like Schoology and Canvas can be configured to authenticate users through another third-party service, like Google. Knowing how to deal with these situations is key to making sure that SSO integrations work properly for any school that wants to connect to an edtech platform.
2. SSO is the first step to developing deeper integrations.
Implementing SSO into third-party apps will open new possibilities that go beyond simply getting users signed in. Most LMSs provide integrations that allow external applications the ability to act on behalf of authenticated users. For example, say there are some teachers who can authenticate via their Schoology account. A third-party app could then use the Schoology API to retrieve a list of courses or to let users create assignments in Schoology from the app.
Just by supporting SSO across different platforms, edtech developers can be ahead of the game when schools come asking for deeper integrations down the road.
3. SSO protects student identities.
When implementing SSO, developers are no longer responsible for maintaining data such as passwords. While these companies are still on the hook for protecting student data, such as names and email addresses, the use of SSO cuts down on the amount of personally identifiable information (PII) needed to store.
Additionally, most LMSs support secure authentication protocols like OAuth 2. Since this is built into most SSO flows, developers can rely on the platforms that schools use to exchange teacher and student data securely.
In many cases, developers will have to work with school admins to allow teachers and students to enable SSO. Working alongside the admins can make them and teachers more comfortable with how each edtech company's product handles student data.
4. SSO makes onboarding easier.
Getting signed in initially is the place where developers will have the most user attrition. People are easily frustrated by complicated sign-on flows. Teachers don't want to waste valuable class time getting students signed into the app.
With SSO, teachers and students don't need to remember a new set of credentials. Furthermore, developers don't need users to fill in additional information upfront (e.g. name, role, profile picture, school, etc.) to set up an account.
5. SSO saves developers time.
Implementing multiple SSO options saves developers from several headaches down the road. If a developer chooses to create a sign-on flow, developers will have to write a secure username and password system. This will include developing tools to reset passwords and to ensure that passwords aren't easily broken. Developers also have to create admin tools so that whoever manages the school's accounts can reset passwords.
Instead of developing these tools, developers can use SSO to do all of the heavy lifting. Developers don't have to save passwords or develop methods to help admins reset passwords when the third-party app supports SSO. The user's main platform will control those aspects of user management. So developers can receive fewer ongoing support requests and they can spend more time focusing on product development.
Developing multiple SSO options will ensure that developers are prepared for any school that will need an SSO integration. Once these SSO options are properly implemented into an app, developers won't have to create new sign-on integrations for clients no matter which data platform they use.
6. It's what schools want!
Schools are tired of having to manage user accounts across different platforms. Teachers and students don't want to have to remember different sets of passwords and usernames each time they log into another app. These users are much more likely to use an app if they don't have to jump through hoops just to get online.
And lastly, SSO integration is a must-have for many school districts and is commonly requested in RFPs. Having an SSO integration pre-built will give edtech companies a leg up in convincing schools. For example, vendors working with Los Angeles USD have to support integration with Schoology, and Clever. If an edtech app already supports these data providers, then edtech companies will be a step closer to winning new contracts.
Bringing It All Together
Implementing different SSO solutions for teachers and students can keep edtech companies a step ahead of competitors. While actually developing the SSO integrations can be a challenge, it's certainly worthwhile to win over new clients that need them.
Read More on Single Sign-On
Here are other articles we’ve written on SSO to help you on your integration journey:
- Why You Shouldn’t Match Users by Email Address Where SSO IS Involved
- How to Implement Single Sign-On with Canvas
- How to Implement Single Sign-On With Schoology
- How to Implement SSO with D2L Brightspace
- How to Implement SSO for Google Classroom
Want to Learn More about Edlink?
If you're looking for a partner who can help guide you through developing LMS integrations (like these), then let’s introduce ourselves. We’re Edlink!