Preston’s College partners with Identity Experts to help implement Microsoft Identity Manager (MIM) and improve student experience as well as system and data security
In the increasingly competitive world of further education (FE), attracting and retaining students is key to survival and success. In particular, student experience is now recognised as a critical factor when a student initially chooses an FE establishment.
As a result, those organisations that can offer a more responsive service to their students have a greater likelihood of success.Preston’s College, based in Lancashire, aims to make its learners THE most employable.
This is achieved through providing learners with pre-advanced, advanced and Apprenticeship pathways with access to real work environments and relevant work experience alongside their qualifications.
The College also has a strong portfolio of Higher Education and CPD courses for adults and employers.To ensure learners have a professional working environment, the ICT team at Preston’s College play a critical role as Rick Giagnacovo, Assistant Head of ICT Services & Systems, explained:
“It is vital that when learners start their courses with us, we can give them immediate access to the resources they need to study and succeed. Similarly, when a learner completes their course, or enrols again, their access to resources is changed accordingly.”
“With so many learners studying at the College every year, managing the user accounts creates a large management overhead.”
Extending the scope of identity management
The College had been using a legacy system for a number of years to create user accounts in Microsoft Active Directory. This product consisted of custom scripts that were maintained internally. Although the system worked well it presented a number of problems, as Rick outlined.
“Support was getting increasingly difficult to obtain as it was not an industry standard product. Also, it was taking up more time to maintain the scripts internally.
“As a result we knew we had to look for a more modern solution that would not only provide us with a fix to our immediate problem, but also allow us to extend the scope of identity management to other functions across the College. In the end, there was only solution that met our criteria – Microsoft Identity Manager (MIM) – and so making the choice was easy.
“MIM would reduce the workload for IT and enable our learners to get access to the necessary resources more quickly. It also had the capability to handle more tasks in the future, so was the right choice for us.”
MIM and Office 365The College realised it would need an experienced partner to help it design and implement the system. After reviewing the alternatives, they chose Identity Experts as they had a lot of experience in helping academic institutions implement both MIM and Office 365.Identity Experts consultants initially met with Preston’s College staff to gain a full understanding of what they were looking to achieve with MIM, both initially and in the future.
This scoping enabled them to then fully manage the process of design and implementation of the system. Following on, they then trained Preston’s College IT staff in the use of the system, to enable them to maintain and update it themselves going forward. MIM was setup to utilise the College’s MIS system, Tribal EBS, as the primary source of identity data.
The information in Tribal EBS was then automatically provisioned in an Active Directory account for new starters, amendments and leavers. This ensures that any changes made in Tribal EBS are quickly reflected in the appropriate Active Directory accounts, maintaining responsive access and high security.
Coping with the impact of the GDPR
“Identity Experts staff have been great throughout the entire time we have worked with them,” said Rick. “They are knowledgeable, really engaged and responsive to our needs. On the odd occasion when we have had a problem they have been able to resolve all our issues and keep the system running.
“The benefits of the MIM system that we expected at the outset have been fully realised. This has given us the confidence to plan the next step of our identity management roadmap, adding staff accounts. With the introduction of the GDPR in 2018 we know that we have to improve security for all users, not just students. MIM will allow us to integrate the information in our HR system to achieve this, replacing the manual process we have in place currently.”
Further down the line, the College is planning to implement Microsoft Classroom, a single experience for managing all classes and assignment workflow for teachers and students.
“Identity management and MIM will play a key part in this,” concluded Rick. It will allow us to introduce these new technologies, like Microsoft Classroom, safe in the knowledge that our systems are secure and meeting our GDPR obligations, whilst at the same time improving student experience.