Limited resources, skill sets, or federation experience often prevent smaller institutions from joining an identity federation. This is especially true for K-12 school districts and smaller higher education.

Internet2, The Quilt, and other regional Research and Education Network providers are trying to bridge this gap by exploring how to extend effective federated identity management (FIM) services to these communities.

Think of FIM in this instance as an ATM. Thousands of banks are federated with millions of users. The ATM card is the login, and the password is the Personal Identification Number (PIN) maintained by the user’s home institution, or bank. Other institutions give access to remote users based on trusting the login and password.

Many North Carolina institutions desire this kind of access to remote and protected web-based services. But, it has to be efficient, cost-effective, quick, secure, and user friendly. FIM technologies enable such access on the internet.

Education and technology leaders in eight states are collaborating with Internet2 to extend advanced trust and identity solutions used at the nation’s top universities to K-12 and community college students, faculty and staff as part of a set of pilots to help ease access to leading technology solutions.

North Carolina is being joined by Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin in the program.

Participating institutions will be able to use secure electronic credentials issued by their institutions to safely access a wide array of community and commercial educational resources. The nationwide pilots will draw on the experience of Internet2’s federated identity and access management framework, InCommon, which has been adopted by more than 500 universities, research labs, and commercial partners throughout the United States.

MCNC, the owner and operator of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN) along with other partners, will represent North Carolina in the pilot. Other participants include: Maryland Research and Education Network; Merit Network (Michigan); National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and IlliniCloud; Technical Partners of the Illinois Shared Learning Environment (ISLE); Nebraska Educational Service Unit Coordinating Council; OARnet (Ohio); Utah Education Network; and WiscNet (Wisconsin).

Internet2’s InCommon also allows for single sign-on capability (SSO), enabling an individual at a local K-12 school to access library databases, learning management systems, cloud applications, or other participating services as approved by the school without the worry of having to set up each student with individual, unmanaged accounts.

George Laskaris, CEO of New Jersey’s Higher Education Network, who serves on The Quilt Board of Directors, said the pilots are being conducted in partnership with the advanced regional networks supporting research and education.

“Our hope,” Laskaris explained, “is that this first round of pilots will provide important case studies and best practices that will help build secure trust frameworks for community colleges and K-12 schools as they ramp-up their access to outsourced services.”