Case Study: Lifeline for the help desk
Case Study: Lifeline for the help desk

Enabling students to reset their own passwords relieved IT staff – and network congestion – at a North Carolina college. Greg Masters reports.

Like most educational institutions, Cleveland Community College (CCC) has embraced technology to enhance learning in the classroom, register students and to track and provide grades and transcripts. However, while integrating technology to improve efficiency and engagement, the college – working from a variety of legacy installations – ended up with a number of different systems that required separate login credentials. During registration periods, the help desk would get several hundred student requests to reset passwords. And, though a team of five IT staff ensures that all technology is operational and maintained, as well as provides assistance with special projects on campus, the staff dedicated to the help desk was only available Monday through Thursday until 9 p.m. and Friday until 2 p.m., so a huge backlog of frustrated users could build up over the weekend.

“It was important for us to address the problem, not only for customer satisfaction and an improved user experience, but to maximize our limited IT resources and reduce help desk calls for resetting student passwords,” says Kyle Harmon, computer network specialist for CCC (left). “We really wanted to eliminate the need for multiple login credentials, but at the same time ensure a high level of security for online access for both staff and students.” 

The public college is situated in Shelby in Cleveland County, N.C., about 44 miles west of Charlotte, and employs more than 500 faculty and staff members offering continuing education to more than 4,000 students. It provides associate degrees, diploma and certificate programs, as well as other vocational and general courses.

CCC uses Office 365 for student email and Microsoft SharePoint as a portal where students can register for classes and view grades and transcripts. “We wanted to provide users with one identity for accessing all of the college's systems,” says Harmon. 

The task of identifying a solution that would meet the technology needs of the 50-year-old college fell to Harmon and his colleague at CCC, Network Specialist Chad Linder. They set about looking for an affordable system that was quick and easy to deploy, would enable self-service password reset and thus significantly reduce help desk calls to the IT team. 

After reviewing a number of possibilities they went with a tool from SecureAuth as their all-in-one solution. “We felt SecureAuth delivered the best self-services options for our students and employees,” says Harmon. “We also required a custom user-registration process that would not have been possible without the use of SecureAuth.” 

SecureAuth IdP is not so much a tool, but rather provides to an enterprise the tools to become its own identity provider (IdP), says Craig Lund, CEO at Irvine, Calif.-based SecureAuth. “The solution can integrate with a company's current infrastructure – including enterprise data stores, authentication protocols and access groups – accept any identity, authenticate internal and mobile users, and assert them into any network, web, cloud or mobile resource.”