The National University of Singapore (NUS) recently achieved a single sign-on to Coursera, a Stanford-based educational technology company that provides free online learning.
With this achievement, NUS students will now be able to access specific online courses — conducted by either NUS or Coursera partners — that are hosted on Coursera using only one campus-wide login ID and password.
Previously, Coursera had to maintain separate and sensitive login credentials, such as login password, for authentication to restrict access to Massive Open Online Courses to specific user groups or individual users. This approach was inconvenient as it required Coursera to maintain a huge amount of login credentials across many institutional clients with specific needs for access controls. It also puts sensitive information like password at risk as they are transferred to Coursera.
To avoid this approach, NUS and Coursera worked together to achieve an integrated login that is secure. Tommy Hor, senior director of NUS Computer Centre, explained: "[By] leveraging Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) standard for web authentication, Federated Identity Access (FIA) across the two organisations is enabled. FIA enables authentication against the usernames and passwords issued by NUS to the students. Upon successful login, only essential information such as the username and email address is passed to Coursera for support purpose and usage statistics."
The infrastructure of this single sign-on is also scalable to support more NUS students taking online courses and to facilitate cross-institutional module credits for joint programmes with other institutions.
Currently, eight online courses for Returning Full-time National Servicemen on Coursera are using this single sign-on feature. NUS plans to roll out this feature to two online modules for NUS students in January 2014 too.
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