Can you imagine an edtech tool so supportive and effective teachers cheer when it arrives?
That’s the beauty of ClassLink—it’s technology that makes using other technology easier. For us, SSO has become a learning enabler when sometimes technology can be a learning variable.
That’s exactly what happened when Dr. Sheryl Abshire and her IT team at Calcasieu Parish School District rolled out Single Sign-On (SSO) technology in September 2017. Almost instantly, nearly 40,000 students and staff each received a single, unique password to use (and remember) for access to almost 3000 different applications and resources.
Abshire has been Calcasieu’s Chief Technology Officer for 21 years. Her extensive experience and many stellar accomplishments in edtech are staggering; just reading her LinkedIn profile will exhaust you. Drawing on her own knowledge and expertise, she strategically chose ClassLink’s SSO technology. She says it’s the final leg in the “three-legged stool of learning”: devices, infrastructure, and student access.
And now with SSO in place, Abshire says, “It’s take no prisoners; it’s no more excuses. Our kids have all three levels of access.”
EdSurge caught up with Abshire to learn why teachers are cheering for SSO, why she sees it as a key component of learning success and exactly what made this the “easiest implementation” she’s ever undertaken.
EdSurge: You have experience with so many types of edtech, why was it important for you to bring SSO to Calcasieu?
Sheryl Abshire: A lot of people think I’m all about technology. But my job and my prime objective are to support learning, and this technology supports learning.
Our District Technology Coordinator and software reports were telling me we had low software adoption and usage rates in many areas, and I just thought, ‘My God we’re paying all this money and we’re not getting the pick up on it.’
But more than that, we in public education have an opportunity to provide stellar educational experiences, create lifelong learners and future-proof students—all using technology.
Education opens up a myriad of doors for students—and technology supports that. It’s also a differentiator that helps ensure students are relevant in the job market today and in the future. That’s been my motivation.
And that’s the beauty of ClassLink—it’s technology that makes using other technology easier. For us, SSO has become a learning enabler when sometimes technology can be a learning variable.
How are teachers reacting to having this technology across the district?
Before SSO, teachers had 10 or 15 software programs, and every single one of them had a different login. When students forgot their passwords, the teacher had to go look them up.
It was frustrating for teachers. They have a rigorous learning pathway schedule and cannot lose time for tasks that should be automated for them. So what do they do? They give up.
That’s why—when we showed them SSO—teachers were so excited they were clapping!
What kinds of benefits are you seeing since you adopted SSO technology?
Since we adopted SSO, analytics tell us technology usage and adoption trends are up. But we’re also capturing more time to learn. Students open their laptop or iPad and they immediately know what to do. I’m not kidding you, within less than a minute, they’re on task.
They’re immediately into a learning space personalized for them. They have various software applications based on their learning needs. They don’t need to sign in to any of them because ClassLink is passing those credentials on the backend. So the time to task is instantaneous.
Even in our early learning classes, pre-school, kindergarten and first grade, we’re hearing rave reviews about the time it’s saving.
Now I know how much software is being used in my district school by school. I didn’t know that before. It’s like The Wizard of Oz; we’ve been able to peek behind the curtain.
Can you tell us more about how the technology supports learning?
Student access is the third leg of what I consider the three-legged stool of learning (the core components needed for learning with technology). We already had the other two legs; device capacity, and robust, reliable internet connections in every classroom.
For us, ClassLink was that last piece we so desperately needed. Our teachers are not burdened by the fact that students can’t log on. SSO increased the time for learning, and it’s increased the efficiency of lesson implementation in the classroom.
How difficult was it to implement this solution across your district?
I’m going to tell you something...it was painless. In the technology world, there aren’t many things that are painless, but this was pain-free because we did our research and chose the right technology.
We had a dedicated implementation specialist from ClassLink assigned to support implementation and professional development. Email questions were answered right away or within just a few hours. Our implementation specialist constantly calendared meetings to answer questions or provide training.
We’ve done tons of district-wide implementation—this is the easiest implementation we ever did. It took less than two months to roll out from start to finish.
And now I know the true total cost of ownership and total return on our investments because I know how much software is being used in my district school by school. I didn’t know that before. It’s like "The Wizard of Oz"; we’ve been able to peek behind the curtain.
Dr. Abshire’s Advice for Choosing and Implementing SSO Technology:
- Don’t wait to find a single sign-on solution for your district, do it ASAP. If you wait, you’re just disenfranchising students in your district.
- Ask plenty of questions. Talk to other districts using the technology about ease of implementation and features.
- Choose a provider that can help you personalize the applications available to students and classes through SSO. They should also work with the vendor community on your behalf to ensure the software you use works with SSO.
ClassLink offers additional resources for schools and districts considering the switch to SSO:
- Video: Impact of Single Sign-On as seen at the Texas K-12 CTO Clinic
- Guidebook: District Guide to Single Sign-On
- Case Study: Orange Unified School District Returns 2,500 Hours of Instructional Time with Single Sign-On
- More information: Track how often district resources are used with usage analytics