Universities need solid identity strategy to maximize student success

The identity and access management environment in higher education has always been a challenge, but as universities now weather the fiscal, public health and technological challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s an essential piece of student success.

“Education is a tough, tough challenge,” says Kelsey Nelson, senior manager of product marketing solutions at Okta, in a video interview. “They have the most complex population that they have to manage.”

At a university, one user can carry several identities, Nelson says. The user can be a student, but also a university employee — or even a student, faculty member and staff member all at the same time. University technology leaders need to build an identity and access management platform that replicates the way people exist on a campus — not one that necessarily makes sense in traditional technological terms.

“We want to make sure that whole ecosystem around the campus is really what we’re able to drive outcomes around,” Nelson says. “By laying that foundation and by taking some of those big weighty challenges around giving students access to the tools that they need, we can really start to personalize and deliver these better experiences.”

Being able to do that is especially important now as universities grapple with different learning environments, as well as increased fiscal challenges. For Nelson, that means taking the work that happened in the midst of the crisis response to the coronavirus pandemic and use those successes to transform service into the future.

In a new report from Educause that outlined the top IT issues higher education CIOs would face in 2021, the association found that transforming services was key to higher education innovation after the pandemic.

“The silver lining of the past few months has been that there’s been some incredible work done by technology leaders to help rethink and reform the landscape upon which we’re trying to achieve student outcomes,” Nelson says. “A look ahead into where this is all going — I think that what we’re hearing a lot from these leaders is how can we take the greatness of what we’ve accomplished to date, and really use that to start to transform how we deliver student outcomes.”