In the wake of the pandemic, it’s no secret that many industries have struggled to make the shift to digital platforms. Some industries managed to thrive, and some have adapted, accelerating their digital transformation timelines.
Higher Education is one of these industries that have taken a massive hit. Students in the run-up to their final years of university fear that the pandemic will have impacted their chances for employability and their route to graduation. So how can Universities ease the pressure? How can universities adapt and use technology to innovate and provide a world-class journey for their students, empowering them and setting them up for a future beyond the books? We recently joined forces with Identity Experts to tackle this hot topic and apply learnings and advancements in identity accessible to the Higher Education sector.
The issue of identity in educationThere is nothing simple about identity or identity systems when it comes to universities. Students move between the external boundary as a new student matriculating into the system, internal boundaries as they go through their courses and modules, and then finally back to external boundaries the day they graduate.
With modern technology setting the bar high for everything they experience today, students expect a seamless experience with services at their fingertips.
Some universities are still on legacy systems, and challenges such as the covid-19 pandemic can completely turn things upside down. However, the expectation is that with technology, universities can achieve much more now than was ever needed or thought to be required.
Administrators are burdened with time-consuming processes that are both frustrating for the internal team and the student…so there must be a better way, right? The answer is Yes. There absolutely is a better way. One that makes student identification easy. One that makes onboarding less cumbersome, reducing risks of forgery, human error, and data loss.
How are the systems currently set up?
- Let’s say that student information is held in system A – if we are lucky, this data is entirely accurate.
- This information is then added to system B. Sometimes this is automated, but at other times it’s a manual, spreadsheet-based process leaving room for human error. Can you imagine the impact a simple spelling mistake could have on whether an identity is verified? Imagine a typo standing in the way of a student getting a job. Data accuracy is crucial.
- Each time a student completes a course or module, a tick is added to the record system. Paper transcripts are issued as part of graduation, so the graduates have proof of their completed courses. Unfortunately, students can only leverage this proof after they graduate, limiting opportunities for them when applying for jobs.
You may be thinking that you now must rip out your entire system and rebuild from scratch; no, you don’t. You might be surprised with how far along the journey you are already. Having a robust existing foundation means that you are in an excellent position to move forward with decentralized technology.
Leading by example through innovative technology
Utilising the power of Azure Active Directory paired with Verifiable Credentials, administration and data processing is simpler by putting the ownership of identity data into the hands of students. For some universities, the entire onboarding process can take weeks. With Azure AD Verifiable Credentials, this is reduced down to 1 minute.
By implementing Verifiable Credentials, you are enhancing the student experience at every stage of their journey. Students can easily engage with a university and exchange data in a highly secure, tamper-proof, and user-friendly way.
How it works
Like Apple Wallet or Google Pay – students can carry their identity and other credentials in a digital wallet of their own, making their transition through university and into employment more fluid with their records readily available at their fingertips.
This is what the student journey looks like beyond digital badging. It can also incorporate tracking extracurricular activities and alternative learning, providing a complete digital transcript of their entire history and not just a PDF version. This means that students can share individual elements of their history on-demand without oversharing other unnecessary information.
Future employers can run checks to verify education credentials on a student digital transcript, vastly reducing onboarding costs and time. Azure AD Verifiable Credentials can transform how students carry their qualifications and transcripts through their entire student lifecycle and beyond.
The student experience has changed
With all the challenges that the industry has faced during the pandemic, what are student expectations now? Going forward, blended learning will be a crucial feature – how can students prove their transcripts to get their foot in the door into the employment market? Scanning and sending is not an option due to risks of forgery, tampering and loss of record. Simply put, there is a better way.
So, what does this better way look like?
When a student record is created, a digital transcript is also created for that student. Data from the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) updates the transcript as a student completes or passes each module/course.
During this process, the student can activate the Verifiable Credential feature using their Microsoft Authenticator App to access their digital transcript, maintained and constantly updated throughout their student journey.
Upon graduation, nothing really changes. They still have access to the digital transcript for life. From day one, their new employer can verify that all of their credentials match, making onboarding and induction a swifter process.
- The Issuer – the University
Universities configure themselves as issuers of verifiable credentials for students. The University then provides users with an easy sign-up route via a QR code or link on their website. Verifiable Credentials is a W3C standard ensuring long-term growth and accessibility.
- Verifier – an employer or assessor
An employer or assessor validates information about a student by using a Software Development Kit (SDK) to send a credential presentation request to the Microsoft Authenticator app. The request goes through Azure services and triggers a notification to be sent to the student requesting permission for verification.
- Holder – the student
The student receives their verifiable credentials in Microsoft Authenticator or other compatible wallets and can present them to an organization whenever requested.
The image below is an example from the Microsoft Authenticator app showing a request coming through to a user. You see the alert, the data that is being requested, and details on the history of requests so you can see who and when people had access to the record.
The student benefit: a digital transcript for life
- Reduces the risk of losing a paper-based transcript, no more having to carry around heaps of paperwork to prove qualifications and training
- Fully equips students to join the workforce with a simple way of verifying their credentials with just a tap of a screen
- No oversharing data – can control what, how, and with whom to share their data with
The business benefits of digital transcripts
- Ensures compatibility with future technology and innovations
- Reduces weeks’ worth of manual administration processes down to a minute
- Enhances employability for graduates through digital readiness
- It puts students in control of their data
- Cements a reputation as a forward-thinking establishment
- Minimises employer risk by preventing fraud and widening talent pools