Tuakiri single sign-on helps eTV service education sector

“You need local, on the ground expertise to draw on. Once Tuakiri came along and became its own national service, things very quickly started to work.”

eTV uses the Tuakiri Federation Service to help it deliver video and other content more efficiently to New Zealand education providers. eTV, the Education Television and Video Communications Trust, was established in 2010 as a not-for-profit to manage the development and distribution of off-air broadcast recordings services to schools, polytechnics, universities and other New Zealand education providers.

Tuakiri New Zealand Access Federation Inc. is a single sign-on access federation service delivering access federation through its central federation registry. This means it allows authentication and user attributes to cross organisational boundaries, simplifies user access and promotes better security of access. For example, instead of having to set up individual access for each new resource or service, services and resources are developed with a standard interface. Without Tuakiri’s federated access and single sign-on system, each of eTV’s members would need to have their staff and students account set up in eTV’s system and then have their profiles removed manually when they leave.

“We’re a content capture and delivery platform for videos,” says Gresham Bradley, the general manager of the eTV Trust. “There are a number of sections of those, the biggest is our TV recording service, with something in the order of 45 channels including free-to-air, selected Sky and international, foreign language and news channels.”

eTV selects programmes from these channels based on relevance to the educational sector, posting them on its website where they’re available to eTV members for viewing, downloading and embedding. Bradley likens it to an “online MySky box”. eTV also offers a Curriculum Collections section, launched in June 2013, which is a collection of short instructional videos explaining principles, demonstrating activities and ideas, delivered in five or 10-minute modules via eTV in subject curriculum-based channels.

“We assemble the maths channel, hundreds of videos explaining various aspects of mathematics,” says Bradley. “Then there’s the Library, where videos that have value in education but aren’t broadcast and aren’t curriculum-related can be posted by organisations that want schools to have them. The biggest example of this is Archives New Zealand’s historic film collection, with close on 300 New Zealand historic films all online, digitised and freely available for use by eTV members.”

eTV’s service offers members a number of content-related features, enabling a high degree of user interaction, such as being able to upload related materials to programmes, as well as links, comments and keywords. eTV offers in the region of 25,000 television programmes in total, dating back to 2008. It also recently introduced the capability for members to upload content to their own secure catalogue within the eTV system. This can then be accessed exclusively by staff and students. eTV also enables members to place all of the videotape content on their library shelves online.

Fast and reliable broadband are obviously prerequisites for eTV to operate these services effectively, says Bradley. “We started in a pretty miserable environment for most institutions. Schools tended to have appallingly bad broadband plans – expensive, slow, not enough capacity and not enough bandwidth to handle numerous simultaneous users.” eTV began its operations with download speeds equivalent to dial-up, ranging from 56Kbit/s to a top bit-rate of 256Kbit/s. “Everybody forgets how quickly video has progressed in online delivery. You Tube, obviously, led the way and we’ve continuously been able to respond to the ongoing improvements.”

The advantage of Tuakiri’s service capabilities to eTV’s members is that it allows role-based access to staff and students of their organisation. eTV’s inhouse personal log-in and single sign-on system has higher ongoing support demands; the larger the organisation, the more time and effort is required to ensure lists of students and staff are maintained. Students transfer to other schools or graduate and staff also move between institutions.

It’s vital for eTV to have accurate knowledge of staff members and students for each of its institutions because membership, reporting and tracking is by institution, not individuals. Tuakiri offers a true single sign-on access federation service that’s essentially management-free, says Bradley. “The central registry of staff and students is drawn on to enable authorisation and the passwords are the same as those used internally. If staff and students are logged in to the system, they automatically have access to eTV.”

eTV generates monthly analytic reports of its existing customers around use of content at various levels, says Bradley. “We look at the most-viewed pieces of content on the network – on the front page you can see the most-viewed updating – and we do a monthly summary of that, and that tells us how much a particular institution is using eTV. Our key performance indicators are around increasing the number of institutions subscribing to the service.” And, as a not-for-profit trust, eTV attempts to offer the best possible service at the lowest possible cost to all of its clients. “The only way we can do that is to have a very broad base of schools and educational institutions subscribing to us. That way, the revenue stream is spread across the sector; as opposed to charging a lot of money for any particular institution to have the service.”

eTV remains highly supportive of Tuakiri, says Bradley. “We’ve found Tuakiri to be great. Before it existed, sign-on was run through the Australian Access Federation, and that was fraught. They didn’t really have any idea how to service the New Zealand institutions because the universities were only just starting to adopt single sign-on. You need local, on the ground expertise to draw on. Once Tuakiri came along and became its own national service, things very quickly started to work.”

Bradley says the Tuakiri service is so simple to use, he wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to other organisations. “You don’t need to remember all these different passwords. The ability to define levels of access based on which department someone is in, what group they belong to, becomes seamless within a single sign-on system. Once you’ve logged into your internal system you don’t have to log in again to access other services.”

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