Single Sign On Snafus in the Classroom

(or why there’s more to the challenge than meets the eye)

We received the oddest of odd reports this morning. A group of students were using our platform and three of them were unable to login as themselves, repeatedly being logged in as other students in their school.

Nearly 6 months ago we added Google-based SSO to our platform for educators. Recently, we did the same for students.

A not-insubstantial number of school boards were also supplying their students with Google-backed email addresses/logins.

It was an easy decision. Kids were frustrated by yet another login.

Today’s issue indicates that there’s no panacea for the challenges that face educators in the modern-day classroom; one replete with incongruities and obstacles that belie our ideas of what daily classroom life is like with our quaint office spaces, low latency, high bandwidth connections and reliable connectivity.

Back to today’s case, sure, the school board had attempted to fight login-creep and we did the same.

So what’s the problem?

Wait for it…

The devices themselves were shared. Therein lies the rub.

Shared devices with a single user account. D’oh!

If Student A leaves his/her Google account signed in, the next student has to be enough of a troubleshooter to think that when they authenticate through Google, simply a red button that clicks them right through to the platform, if the browser was already authenticated they’re simply logged in. Furthermore, logging out of our platform doesn’t help as their SSO for Google, their whole Google-backed identity, remains active; further flustering both educator (who has 15 other students to tend to) and the student themselves; stress in these situations can sky-rocket in an instant.

I’m not writing today with a solution for the above case, and certainly not some kind of new proposal, but rather with an admission that each solution often presents a new problem, especially when it comes to facilitating simple ease-of-access to what could be potentially private, personal information. I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to have unfettered access to my school work.

In addition to that, I never cease to be humbled by the reality our educators face on a daily basis. It’s a minefield, one I hope is rewarding, but one for which I am not equipped to handle and can only stand back in awe and watch those souls that tackle the challenge with such heart and passion.